Helpful Tips for Desribing Pain

Patient in Hospital Bed Holds Hands With Woman

Pain can have a severe impact on someone’s quality of life.

It can affect mood, sleep and interfere with daily activities. Pain is very subjective, and it is important to recognize that no two people experience pain in the same way. This section will provide helpful tips on getting a loved one to describe their level of pain.

What is pain?

According to the International Association of the Study of Pain, it is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.”


Describing pain

It is essential to describe the level of pain to a nurse so they may accurately be able to manage comfort levels. Below are some helpful ways to gain insight on what kind of pain and the level of pain your loved one is experiencing.  

Ask questions related to the type of pain.

  • Where is the pain located?
  • When did it begin?
  • What does it feel like?
  • Is it continuous, or does it occur on and off?
  • Does it stay in one area, or does it move around?
  • Is it mild or severe?
  • Which best describes the pain: (e.g., shooting, burning, stabbing, aching, etc.)

Use a pain scale to gauge the level of pain.

Below are two commonly used pain scales. 

  • Scale 1: On a scale from 1 to 10, 0 being no pain and 10 being unbearable pain, how do you feel?
  • Scale 2: Which face describes how you are feeling?

If your loved ones’ pain can not be managed at home and they are experiencing uncontrolled symptoms, they may need to be evaluated for a different level of care.

Keep track 

You should also keep track of how they are feeling to have an idea of progressions or regression of the pain.

Keep Track of How You Feel

You should also keep track of how you feel in order to be able to have an idea of progressions or regression of the pain.