So you have had this really bad stomach pain since yesterday and you decide to go and see a doctor.

During your assessment questions that may be asked regarding your pain include:

  • How long have you had it?
  • Where exactly is it?
  • Does it go (or radiate) anywhere else?
  • Is it constant or does it come and go?
  • What activities make the pain worse or improve it?
  • Does the pain interfere with what you are doing?
  • Is there anything that triggers the pain?
  • How would you describe the pain?

This last question is often difficult for people to answer on the spot.
It’s not exactly sharp, and it’s not exactly dull….so how do you describe it?
Descriptions such as “It just hurts” or “its a really bad pain” are often used as people struggle to convey what they are feeling.

Pain is a completely subjective experience and it is important to be able to help healthcare providers understand that experience.

Here then is a list of some more specific descriptive words you can choose from to describe it:

Aching. Cramping. Boring. Drilling. Dull. Annoying. Gnawing. Heavy. Hot. Burning. Sharp. Shooting. Stabbing. Tenderness. Throbbing. Exhausting. Flickering. Prickling. Scalding. Terrifying. Tearing. Mild. Nauseating. Pounding. Radiating. Tightness. Agonizing. Pulsing. Tugging. Penetrating. Stretching. Itchy. Intermittent. Freezing. Cutting.

You may choose other words or comparisons to describe your pain. There are no wrong answers here, but it is helpful to try to describe it in as much detail as you can.

Your pain intensity.

The other thing that the doctor will want to try to understand is the intensity of your pain. You could think of this ranging through mild, moderate, severe to intense.

One tool that healthcare professionals use to help measure this intensity over time is known as the Numerical Rating Scale.

You are asked to rate your pain from zero (no pain), to ten (worst possible pain).
The scale can also be presented as a visual aid (known as the Visual Analogue Scale)

So using this scale you can say something like: “right now my pain is 3 out of ten. But last night after dinner it was 7. And before I took those painkillers today it was an 8.”

These rating scales are made fun of quite a bit:

  • “My pain is 11 out of ten!”
  • Or my pain is 100 out of 10!”.
  • Or 10 out of 10 pain is like stepping on Lego!”

Even so, it remains a valid and very useful tool to help assess your pain level and the effectiveness of any treatments. So it is important to try to use it as accurately as you can.

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