Pain Scores. Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Posted on in Clinical, News
Pain Scores. Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

We often will subjectively measure a patient’s pain level to capture what they are currently experiencing.  This can be achieved with obtaining different values including numerical, visual, or even with faces.  Gathering this information is important as it can help guide clinical decision making.  However, do pain scores really matter?

Sometimes we view the world as a glass half empty or half full.  In my opinion, pain often is viewed in a negative context, thus people seeing the world as half empty.  However, I would argue we should highlight the glass half full approach to help provide a more positive outlook.

Instead of using a pain score, we can ask an alternative question:

“How well do you feel from 0-100%?”

By doing this, we can establish a baseline of what the patient CAN do versus what they CANNOT.

We can dive a little deeper and look at specific tasks as well:

“How well do you feel you can walk from 0-100%?”

Changing up the delivery of the pain question can drastically change patient perceptions and belief systems towards their own respective rehabilitation process. I believe when the mindset is geared in a more positive outlook, this can help with improving motivation and overall self-efficacy.

I like to help show patients what they are capable of.  When an individual has an injury or is in pain, they can have difficulty seeing their own level of functionality. It is our job to help highlight the capabilities of our patients, so they have an opportunity to succeed.

It is important to keep in mind that individual patients may require specific strategies.  Clinicians may need to adapt and determine the most appropriate strategy that helps to yield the most positive clinical outcomes.

So next time you ask your patient about pain, is the glass half full or half empty?

Article Written By Eric Trauber, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT