Measuring Beyond the Pain Scale

By Frank McGillin.

As part of Pain Awareness Month, NeuroMetrix Chief Commercial Officer Frank McGillin has written a series on chronic pain. We are republishing his comments on the Pain Scale. The other contributions can be found here.

NeuroMetrix Chief Commercial Officer, Frank McGillin

At one point or another, you may have been asked to rate your level of pain so others can better understand the impact of your condition. A “five or six” might be teetering on the need for more medication, but tolerable, and an “eight or nine” could be in the danger zone of unbearable- but those numbers may mean something very different over time as your chronic pain condition changes.

While using this scale is certainly important when conveying levels of pain to your doctor, it is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to determining how your pain changes over time and with the use of different treatment options. Pain intensity and relief cannot be measured in one dimension, on a zero to ten scale. Pain is personal and whether relief comes in the form of a lower number on the “pain scale” or reducing the number of times someone wakes throughout the course of the night, the measurement of success varies.

Our recent survey, fielded by BackerNation, highlights how those who report living with chronic back pain measure pain levels and relief. The results revealed that those living with chronic pain ultimately weigh factors related to their quality of life more heavily than pain reduction.

  • More than half of respondents (58 percent) said they believe a treatment is most successful if it enables them to increase physical activity or improves quality of their sleep, weighing quality of life more heavily than just pain reduction alone.
  • More than a third (37 percent) noted that general mood improvements are also a critical indicator of treatment success, versus the 26 percent who believe a success treatment will cure their pain forever.

Because chronic pain is such a complex biopsychosocial condition — involving the interaction of biological, psychological and social factors — the way a treatment can impact ones quality of life is just as, if not more important to how it impacts the overall level of pain.

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