Interpreting the meaning of pain severity scores

Pain Res Manag. 2002 Winter;7(4):192-8. doi: 10.1155/2002/971935.


Poor pain management practices are generally discussed in terms of barriers associated with the patient, clinician and/or health care organization. The impact of deficiencies in the tools that are used to measure pain are seldom addressed. Three factors are discussed that complicate the measurement of pain: the nature of pain, the lack of meaning associated with scores generated by pain scales, and treatment goals that lack specificity and are not linked to patients' pain scores. The major premise presented in the present article is that the utility of pain measurement is limited because health care professionals do not have a common understanding of the meaning of scores generated by pain measurement tools, especially within the acute care setting. To address this issue, approaches to establishing instrument validity need to be broadened to include the examination of the meaning and consequences of these measurements within a specific context. Substantive improvements in pain management are unlikely to occur until criteria are identified to link explicitly the scores generated by pain measurement tools to treatment goals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Severity of Illness Index