gaugePain Measurement
As always, new links are marked for about one month with a small flashing bulb:blinking bulb

The accurate quantification of pain has been a goal of physicians since the profession had its roots in ancient Greece. The most troublesome aspect of such studies is the wide disparity with which each individual experiences pain, not only basic responsiveness of pain nerve receptors, but the diverse emotional reaction to pain.

In fact, the emotional involvement with intense pain is an important interpersonal variable, and much of the action of some analgesics (particularly the opioids) is based on their ability to remove the patient, psychologically, from the pain experience. Patients often describe the experience with words like "It definitely hurts less, but I feel detached from the remaining pain - it doesn't seem to bother me as much".

The organization of this section is fairly intuitive. We start with collections of pain assessment tools, published by an organization that may or may not have a financial relationship with the vendors of the product they're selling. When detected, these are noted.

Following this is a series of assessment instruments used by hospitals, private physicians, and many other healthcare providers. I hope this gives you a good feel for what's currently available and how reliable it is.

Collections of Pain Assessment Instruments
Site (& link)
Agency for Health Care Policy and Research
The source is actually part of DHHS, and this authoritative, well-referenced book is available at no cost. Although it concentrates on cancer pain, we all know how applicable much pain-fighting technology is to CRPS/RSD.
"Several assessment tools are developed that are valid in many languages, such as the McGill series, "Brief Pain Inventory", etc."
Depression and associated pain is at least as prevalent in CRPS as in cancer, and this research article has lots of excellent information and even more references - nearly 100 for a paper that's maybe five pages long!
"Pain scales and checklists offered in this section are useful for clinically assessing how intensely patients are feeling pain and for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments at different points in time."
A very good piece from the site which features the six most common rating scales, including graphics that show what each test looks like. Included is the McGill scale as well as several less-known scales. Very valuable!
"numerous clinical and research tools addressing quality of life, pain, psychosocial assessment, medical staff knowledge and attitudes, brief pain surveys, palliative care and needs assessments from various sources."
Articles/Sites on Using Pain Scales
"On my rehabilitation unit, we use pain scales every day. The one we use the most often is the numerical pain rating scale (the NRS), likely for it's convenience. It's easy to ask someone to pick a number, and then to write it down for later reference. Provided, of course, that you remember to write it down! "
"When you have chronic pain, it’s easy to become jaded about using a pain scale. You’re asked to rate your pain every time you see your doctor. You fill out pain questionnaire after pain questionnaire. You are asked to assign words to your pain, again and again. Eventually you may wonder: how is this helping?"
Which Pain Scale is Best? "When I was in occupational therapy school, we learned to divide pain scales into two types: quantitative and qualitative. In other words, those you can use to measure pain, and those that describe pain, respectively. Both have advantages and disadvantages."
Pain Assessment Tools
An fMRI-Based Neurologic Signature of Physical Pain Many authors, 2013 Published in NEJM, the first objective measurement of one's pain, as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). More research is needed, but this could revolutionize pain treatment, especially for nonverbal patients, including nonhuman animals.
Pain, Heat, and Emotion
with Functional MRI
Jaillard and Ropper, 2013 A generally supportive editorial concerning the new fMRI technique outlined in the paper above.
First Objective Measure of Pain Discovered in Brain Scan Patterns Science News A very good, easily-understandable article on the fMRI technique described in the two above scientific papers. Topic sentence: "The findings, published on April 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine, may lead to the development of reliable methods doctors can use to objectively quantify a patient's pain."
Brief Pain Inventory
(Short Form)
Pain Research Group A short, 10-question form for a quick pain assessment
Initial Pain Assessment Tool McCaffery and
Beebe, 1989
A short assessment form used by healthcare providers during an initial consultation.
Pain Distress Scales Acute Pain Management Guideline Panel, 1992 Several small, simple scales to measure pain intensity; these preceded the McGill and other more sophisticated tests.
Memorial Pain
Assessment Card
Fishman, Pasternak, Wallenstein,
et al., 1987
A small card that can be folded for easy carrying, used to keep track of your pain, moods, relief, etc.
Pain experience history Hester and
Barcus, 1986
Two forms of questions used to assess a child's pain - one consists of questions to the child, the other to a parent.
Eland Color Scale:
Directions for Use
McCaffery and
Beebe, 1989
A unique approach to pain measurement meant for children, in which different colors serve to illustrate the degree of pain.
Poker Chip Tool
Instruction Sheet
painresearch. A model for measuring children's pain, using poker chips to quantify pain levels.
Word-Graphic Rating Scale Savedra, Tesler, Holzemer, et al., 1989 [updated 1992] a graphical precursor to the McGill-type inventories, but with no numbers.
Pain Affect Faces Scale Patt, 1993 For children, a series of nine faces that show increasing pain discomfort.
Pain management log painresearch. A form for tracking your pain throughout a day, week, etc.
Flow sheet for pain management documentation McCaffery and
Beebe, 1989
A form used when trying different analgesics for a pain patient; includes spaces to include day, time, pain level, side effects, etc.
Randall Chronic Pain Scale Includes examples, instructions, etc.
Pain Scale for Professionals a redesigned scale, based on the familiar McGill 10-point scale. It is explained here.
Symptom Checklist-90-RevisedTM (SCL-90-R) "The Symptom Checklist-90-R (SCL-90-R) instrument helps evaluate a broad range of psychological problems and symptoms of psychopathology. The instrument is also useful in measuring patient progress or treatment outcomes."
Pathophysiology of Pain
and Pain Assessment A 12-page summary on how pain operates in the body and how it is measured.
Pain Assessment
& Management Much more advanced than the resource above, this 31-page document explains pain measurement and management, complete with study questions.
Comparative Pain Scale for CAM Providers unknown Similar to other McGill-based pain scales, but this one uses a word description for each level of pain, making it easier to use for those unaccustomed to using scales like this.
Review of Unidimensional Pain Assessment Tools A 20-page presentation, formatted as a series of slides, of the many types of pain measurement methods available.

Examples of McGill pain scales

Here's a selection of a few McGill pain scales from various sources. To see the full-sized images, just click an image below.

Hey, want to know your BMI (body-mass index)? RSD itself can cause weight gain/loss, and many of the drugs commonly used for the illness are notorious for causing fluctuations in body weight. This small utility, hosted by the New York Times, requests only your height and weight, then explains what the numbers mean.

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