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Pain scales

Pain scales are widely used to measure a patient’s pain intensity and type. There are many different scales available, including those for infants, children, adults and patients with difficulties communicating. Some are self-reporting and others observational.


Numerical rating scale

Perhaps the most widely known and used pain scale. Patients are asked to rate their pain on a scale of 0–10, where 0 is no pain and 10 is worst pain imaginable, either verbally or by placing a mark along a line.

Numerical rating scale

Visual Analogue Scale

This requires patients to indicate their current level of pain along a scale with ‘no pain’ at one end and ‘worst pain imaginable’ at the other.

  • Print or photocopy the above diagram at 100%, ensuring the lines are exactly 10cm in length
  • Fold at the dotted line
  • Do not show the patient the numbered side

Visual analogue scale

Brief Pain Inventory (BPI)

Used particularly for clinical trials, this questionnaire assesses patients’ pain severity and impact on daily living. It has been validated in many languages.

McGill Pain Questionnaire

The McGill Pain Questionnaire, also known as McGill pain index, is a scale of rating pain developed at McGill University by Melzack and Torgerson in 1971.


Wong-Baker faces rating scale

Six facial expressions along a numerical scale from 0–10.


Face Legs Arms Cry Consolability (FLACC) Scale

Used to assess pain for children 2 months to 7 years or patients who are unable to communicate their pain. The scale has 5 criteria, which are each assigned a score of 0, 1 or 2 to give a total score out of a possible 10.


In addition, the British Pain Society publishes a pain rating sheet in the following languages (external site):

  • English, Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese - Simplified, Chinese – Traditional, Greek, Gujurati, Hindi, Polish, Punjabi, Somali, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh

The sheet consists of questions relating to pain intensity, impact of pain and pain relief from treatment.

Date of preparation: September 2017; MINT/PAEU-17046

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