Pain measurement in humans

Surgeon. 2004 Feb;2(1):15-27. doi: 10.1016/s1479-666x(04)80133-1.


Sound measurement, an essential component of any scientific discipline, remains a particular problem in pain research. The measurement of pain intensity, for example, is a difficult and often a subjective undertaking. This is of little surprise to clinicians and researchers, because it is well recognised that pain intensity, like other sensations and perceptions, is a private experience that displays considerable variability both across patients and within a patient across time. Nonetheless, pain measurement and discerning factors that may affect its measurement are important for diagnosis and to determine the effectiveness of treatment interventions. This article reviews the basic concepts, roles, instruments used, and factors affecting pain measurement. A variety of the most commonly used pain measurement instruments are evaluated for their advantages and disadvantages. The article aims to assist clinicians and researchers to select the pain measurement instruments that best serve their purposes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement / standards*
  • Pain, Intractable / diagnosis
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index