Comparative reliability and validity of chronic pain intensity measures

Pain. 1999 Nov;83(2):157-62. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3959(99)00101-3.


Reliable and valid measures of pain are essential for conducting research on chronic pain. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to compare the reliability and validity of several measures of pain intensity. One hundred twenty-three patients with chronic pain were administered telephone interview versions of 0-10 scales of current, worst, least and average pain, immediately prior to beginning a multidisciplinary treatment program. The measures were administered again to these subjects 2 weeks (n=108), 1 month (n=106) and 2 months (n=105) after the end of treatment. The validity (defined as ability to detect changes in pain intensity over the course of treatment up to the 2-month follow-up assessment) and reliability (defined as stability over time in the 2 months after treatment) of these four measures and of composite combinations of these measures were examined. Contrary to prediction, the composite measures did not show a statistically significant superiority to the individual ratings in terms of their ability to detect change in pain intensity from pre-treatment to various points after treatment. The composite scores did, however, show greater stability than did the individual ratings after treatment. The practical conclusions of this study are; (1), individual 0-10 pain intensity ratings have sufficient psychometric strengths to be used in chronic pain research, especially research that involves group comparison designs with relatively large sample sizes, but, (2), composites of 0-10 ratings may be more useful when maximal reliability is necessary, (e.g. in studies with relatively small sample sizes, or in clinical settings where monitoring of changes in pain intensity in individuals is needed).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chronic Disease
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Psychotherapy
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics