The measurement of clinical pain intensity: a comparison of six methods

Pain. 1986 Oct;27(1):117-126. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(86)90228-9.


The measurement of subjective pain intensity continues to be important to both researchers and clinicians. Although several scales are currently used to assess the intensity construct, it remains unclear which of these provides the most precise, replicable, and predictively valid measure. Five criteria for judging intensity scales have been considered in previous research: ease of administration of scoring; relative rates of incorrect responding; sensitivity as defined by the number of available response categories; sensitivity as defined by statistical power; and the magnitude of the relationship between each scale and a linear combination of pain intensity indices. In order to judge commonly used pain intensity measures, 75 chronic pain patients were asked to rate 4 kinds of pain (present, least, most, and average) using 6 scales. The utility and validity of the scales was judged using the criteria listed above. The results indicate that, for the present sample, the scales yield similar results in terms of the number of subjects who respond correctly to them and their predictive validity. However, when considering the remaining 3 criteria, the 101-point numerical rating scale appears to be the most practical index.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires