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H
ealth Hint #41
 

How to Describe Your Pain -- And Get Relief

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine, DonR. Powell PhD

Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer



Pain is a useful tool--one you wouldn't want to be without. It lets you know when a tooth is infected, a leg is broken, or you've touched something hot enough to burn your skin. But sometimes the fact that you're in pain isn't enough to help your doctor determine what's wrong. You have to explain what kind of pain you have--throbbing or sharp, constant or intermittent, mild or intense.

Keeping a pain diary or journal can help identify the causes of difficult-to-explain pain or measure improvement if you're being treated for a painful condition. Record the following kinds of information.

When did you first notice the pain?
How often do you feel pain, and when does it occur?
Do you associate the pain with some activity?
Does it move from one spot to another?
How long does pain last?
Does aspirin relieve the pain?
What do you do to try to relieve the pain? Does it work?
Is the pain associated with any other symptoms (like nausea or fatigue)?

To describe your pain more precisely, consult the table below, which gives some terms useful for describing pain and a scale to rate its intensity.

Rate Your Pain

Instruction: Using the Pain Intensity Scale, assign a number to each term that best describes your pain and its intensity.
PAIN INTENSITY SCALE: Mild 1, Uncomfortable: 2, Distressing: 3, Horrible: 4
__Aching __Penetrating __Splitting
__Agonizing __Piercing __Squeezing
__Annoying __Pinching __Stabbing
__Beating __Pounding __Stinging
__Burning __Pressing __Suffocating
__Cramping __Pricking __Taut
__Crushing __Pulsing __Tearing
__Cutting __Radiating __Tender
__Dull __Scalding __Throbbing
__Gnawing __Sharp __Tight
__Hurting __Shooting __Tingling
__Intense __Sore __Wrenching
__Nagging    

Source: Adapted from "The McGill Questionnaire," by Ronald Melzack, Ph.D., published with permission in "How to Talk to Your Doctor about Acute Pain" (Wilmington, Del.: Du Pont Pharmaceuticals, 1987).

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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.