Why is pain challenging to measure?
Considered an alarm in the brain that a potentially harmful stimuli has caused damage to the body, pain is a sensation that differs from person to person at different times and under different circumstances and for different indications.
Because pain is subjective, it is not a simple symptom to understand or describe.
Useful characterization of pain depends on many factors: severity, duration, location on body (including internal and external), distribution and concentration of sensory nerves, and pain “quality” – which can be described using a wide range of numbering systems, specific words, visual scales, colors, images, or drawings.
Why is pain important to recognize and measure?
Because pain is a symptom of many diseases and conditions, it’s an important symptom to understand. To improve our understanding of pain, we need to improve how we measure it. With many debilitating characteristics, pain can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life due to its physical, emotional, social and cognitive effects. Short and long term effects on quality of life may include the inability to work or maintain employment, isolation from social interaction (which can contribute to depression), and a negative impact on a person’s overall health and behavior.
Understanding the different characteristics of pain can reveal clues that signal what is causing it. Measuring pain is an important exercise needed to understand the root causes and ultimately determine effective treatments for patients.