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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.

Self-reporting - adult

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.



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.



Brief Pain Inventory

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. See also Glossary.



Self-reporting - children

Wong-Baker faces rating scale

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

Observational – child

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 2015; MINT/PAEU-14003

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