Can Animations Accurately Measure Pain Levels?

Can Animations Accurately Measure Pain Levels?

By Staff.

A team of researchers developed a mobile app called “Painimation” to improve communication about pain between doctors and patients.  The app has the potential to assess and monitor pain better than any previously used measurement tools, the researchers noted.  Their study findings were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on August 6, 2018.

“Currently, our only available tools for patients to communicate their pain is to either give them 0 to 10 scales or a selection of words and phrases to describe their pain, methods that have been used for more than 50 years,” said lead author Charles Jonassaint, Ph.D., M.H.Sc., assistant professor of medicine, social work and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh. “Many pain patients will say their pain can’t be measured on the 0-to-10 scale and that it is too challenging to describe their pain using words. As a result, their pain is misunderstood and patients in pain may be prescribed more opioids without always knowing whether they are needed or if they are working.”

Painimation is an electronic assessment tool that uses animations to assess pain quality, type and location. Patients are first provided with a selection of animations that they can use to describe the severity of their pain. These animations can then be increased or decreased in speed, color saturation, focus and size to accurately match their pain experience. Patients can also label their pain on a human body, allowing them to identify where and how much of their body is affected by pain.

“By using animations, we have the potential to more quickly and accurately understand a person’s pain experience, and, more importantly, provide treatments that work and stop those that don’t,” Jonassaint said.

Jonassaint led a multidisciplinary team that included psychiatrists, technology designers and anesthesiologists as they examined 202 patients with chronic pain. The patients used Painimation to characterize the quality and intensity of their pain, alongside the completion of the McGill Pain Questionnaire and the PainDETECT questionnaire, the current standards for assessing pain.

Study results showed that more than 80 percent of patients found the app to be enjoyable, and they would use the app to communicate their pain with their medical care providers. Also, Painimation was completed more quickly than either the McGill or PainDETECT questionnaires, and provided just as much or more information about the type and cause of pain.

“We believe using animations to measure pain can allow patients to not only describe pain sensations in a similar manner to how they experience them, but minimize potential barriers to pain assessment because the effects of language and literacy are taken out of the equation,” Jonassaint said. “Further, we can decrease the burden of long, detailed pain assessments while collecting pertinent information on each patient’s pain experience through an easy to administer, novel and engaging medium.”

“Painimation gives patients an opportunity to describe their pain to physicians in ways not possible with conventional pain rating scales,” said Ajay Wasan, M.D., M.Sc., vice chair of pain medicine and anesthesiology at UPMC. “While much development works remains to be done, these early results are very encouraging to the push for better ways to describe the pain experience.”

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Authored by: Staff

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Instead of treating us the way we should be treated (what ever works for your condition) they are coming up with all this hocus pocus voodoo [edit], I’m surprised they haven’t thrown the kitchen sink at us yet. Some doctors seem to be loving this new system, they are running us through like cattle spending about 5 minutes with each patient after sitting in the waiting room for 5 hours. With PM doctors in short supply there is nothing you can do, and the last thing you want to do is piss off the doctor by saying anything about the long wait.
I’m so sick of this #*!!$&^# will anything ever change, I hate being treated like a criminal and a drug addict After 15 years of CRPS/RSD, I believe that we are being discriminated against and I do believe there are laws against it.

Rita A Kimbel

I’m in for trying this, the 1-10 scale is frustrating when you have neurogenic intractable pain. I always have write to explain. so this will help give a more descriptive answer. Things change daily with me, depends on nothing but activity, stress, weather, position,whatever.
Note, after a force off no titration of oxycontin 80 mg, last year, I spent time suffering on 27mg. Xtampza. I asked for an increase, My doctor agreed to raising millegrams to 36 and I feel like I’m getting my life back. Pain is acceptable,to me,unless I can’t put my hands in water, today I can put my hands in water. It’s been a horrible time for us all, but keep up the fight if you are still suffering, it seems the abuse deterrent oxycodone is working for me now and the insurance company is allowing.


Ridiculous, like a 🙂 could describe something is serious as pain that our government has decided is going to kill us due to a fake shortage of medication of their own making

Sue B

I have been to over 75 “doctors” here in Roanoke VA, and I’ve yet to find anyone who even cares that I have zero quality of life, chronic pain, nonstop symptoms, and a multitude of progressive, degenerative, incurable illnesses. I think the painamation could be useful for some patients, providing they find someone who cares enough to do their job!

In office observations can also verify patient with rapid metabolism of opioids who only get a short duration of relief by drawing blood at the 2 he mark then every hour til plasma levels drop out of therapeutic range. Oxycodone only last 3 hrs in many patients while most get 4-6 hrs of analgesia. Physicians unwilling to accommodate these patients should recommend black seed oil to slow the metabolism of opioids as long as acetaminophen is not being used as black seed oil will increase levels of that and other hepatotoxic drugs. Turmeric is a weaker inhibitor that also can protect the liver if hepatotoxic drugs are being used.

Thermography can be very useful for confirmation of some types of pain where a difference in temperature is expected. But all patients deserve the benefit of doubt until otherwise indicated. More physicians, especially pain management should incrementally dose patients in office(where observation is possible) over the course of several hours on their first visit to determine proper titration. If patient states dosage insufficient have patient return for periodic dosage titration and observations over the course of an entire day. Observations can confirm lack of intoxication and justify upward titration and if intoxication is observed downward titration until effective non intoxicating dose is reached. This may take several visits but insures relief without intoxication. And shows responsibility and compassion on part of physicians.

Kelli Davidson

I like it very much!


What’s the difference what our “pain experience” is! Nobody’s going to help us anyways.

Maureen M.

It would be interesting for us to see how this app works when it’s available.
Although, I, for one, have a doctor who truly doesn’t care what kind of pain I’m in and shows no interest in helping me feel any better :-(.
He does give me a pain med script but refuses to discuss making any positive changes when I try to explain that I am not properly medicated and suffering for it. Thanks to the CDC. Pain doc’s now have their heads in the sand.

A number, or a animated face….what we need is good old fashioned communication. A physician to sit across from their patient and be engaged in the conversation. For whatever time is allotted to that patient, the physician needs to be ‘In the Now’ with total focus on the patient’s dialogue. If you have ever suffered from pain, especially severe pain, it is relatively easy to describe your pain. Furthermore, you can converse about the severity, the length and duration of the pain etc. Just my humble opinion.

“…patients in pain may be prescribed more opioids without always knowing whether they are needed or if they are working.”

I’m sorry, but what freaking planet is the author of this piece living on? The idea of a patient being “prescribed more opioids. . .whether they are needed” is beyond absurd in this age of anti-opioid hysteria. Patients who absolutely & without question need opioids & have been using them effectively & responsibly for years are having them ripped away for no sane reason. They’re being told to use OTCs (which don’t work & do cause gastric bleeding & liver destruction), to use dire & largely ineffective medicines like gabapentin & Lyrica, to seek “alternative therapies” (which are almost never covered & rarely do much), and to either just “deal with it” or flat out that they’re lying.

I’ve seen several articles about how we need a better pain assessment than the old 1-10 scale, but the entire discussion is moot when every single pain patient knows damned well that no matter how they describe it or what animations they come up with, the pain is not going to be effectively treated (at best) or the patient will be scorned, abused, berated, and deemed a criminal (at worst).

Until the DEA, politicians, & lobbyist groups who make millions off of the anti-addiction hysteria stop encouraging the torture of pain patients and start going after the real “opioid problem” -i.e. illegal heroin, syn-fen, & cocaine- people might as well stop wasting time and money coming up with ‘better ways to describe pain’ because physicians aren’t going to do anything substantive about it anyway.


I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, anything that will help pain patients is a good thing. But sometimes it seems like today’s technology is taking over. It’s really important to have a good open relationship with your doctor. Being able to relate to another human being exactly how you feel is key to that relationship. I’ve had to describe my pain in detail to many medical professionals many times over the years. I think a good doctor can tell if a patient is being truthful about their pain.People who are genuinely in pain have a look in their eyes that conveys their suffering even if they otherwise look physically fine. But some doctors don’t even look you in the eyes. So if this animation can help better articulate their pain and suffering then I’m all for it.

Alessio Ventura

I have a history of severe injuries and failed surgeries. When a physician asks for a pain level assessment on a scale from 1-10, if I provide a number, the physician then makes a subjective assessment as to what the pain level actually is.

For example, if I say “5”, some physicians have claimed that I should be able to get by with a 5 without treatment.

In reality, when I make such self assessments, the number is meaningless. I’d rather say something like, “I don’t really know the scale very well. All I can tell you is that my mind is preoccupied with the pain sensation. I need to read the same sentence 4-5 times in a book or paper at work before I comprehend it. My eyes bounce all over a room and can’t focus on a subject, person, or object. I see my mind as a CPU and it is pegged at 99% utilization just processing pain signals.” Where does this fall on tne scale? Don’t know. I told one doctor that my pain was a “10” and he said, “Impossible, you would be screaming”.

So, we need a new method for representing the way a patient’s brain interprets pain signalling.


No pain assessment tool will accurately show the level of pain ..haha..until humans are taken out of the equation. I am afraid that is on the horizon..

When I was younger and undergoing all my spine operations, they would ask: Is your pain controlled well? Out of fear they would take away or lower dosage I marked “not well.” Was dosage lowered or raised?

People have all sorts of valid or not-valid reasons for answering as they do. But it makes these interviews non-valid it seems. And for someone else to answer for you obfuscates things even more.


Perspnally I feel that the smiley face thing is more decptive than the one to ten scale. Why not just use the pain scale used by most people in online chronic pain forums? The McGill scale covers everything from scrapes, cuts and burns up through childbirth an CRPS. It is far more accurate.

Alessio Ventura

In theory pain is signal processing. Simplistically speaking, signals are transmitted to the brain from the source of pain, and the brain then interprets these signals as “pain”.

Therefore, there is going to be wide variance on the interpretation of pain by each individual’s brain. A device to accurately measure the pain actually “experienced” by the individual therefore must include that individual’s signal processing algorithm for “pain”, which is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible to do.