The Descriptor Differential Scale: applying psychophysical principles to clinical pain assessment

Pain. 1988 Dec;35(3):279-288. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(88)90138-8.


The Descriptor Differential Scale (DDS) applies psychophysical principles to clinical pain assessment. It contains 12 descriptor items for each pain dimension assessed. For each item, subjects indicate if their pain either is equal in magnitude to that implied by the anchoring descriptor, or how much greater or lesser on a 10-point graphic scale. The method permits collection of multiple responses, reducing scaling error, and assess both pain magnitude and scaling consistency. Ninety-one patients completed the sensory intensity and unpleasantness forms of the DDS at both 1 and 2 h after surgical extraction of a lower third molar. Results show that the DDS satisfies standard psychometric criteria for reliability, objectivity and item homogeneity. The coefficients found satisfy standard psychometric criteria and improve after elimination of inconsistent profiles.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Psychophysics*
  • Tooth Extraction