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How Doctors Measure Pain

In my recent blog on identifying pain, I promised a follow-up on measuring pain. This is a challenge for many practitioners, because only the person with the pain can actually feel it, and every individual perceives pain differently. Unfortunately, there is no widely-accepted device that can measure pain accurately. When you’re not feeling well, a thermometer can quickly read your temperature. If you have hypertension, your blood pressure can be checked at a medical office, pharmacy, or even at home. Pain is not so cut and dried.

Communication is vital

If you schedule an appointment to have a pain issue diagnosed, take a moment to make a detailed list before you go, including:

  • When you first felt the pain
  • The affected body area
  • The characteristics of the pain– throbbing, acute, vague, etc.
  • What triggers it/what relieves it
  • Symptoms other than the pain
  • And any other information that could be relevant.

Also, keep track of your pain in a diary or journal, and bring it along too. This will give your doctor a better understanding of your pain so he or she can diagnose and treat it.

Pain scales help

Some healthcare professionals use pain scales to assess current pain and whether any medications you might be taking are helping. There are different pain scales for infants, children, adults and patients with difficulties communicating.

A pain scale usually includes a range of choices to help express different intensities. It might feature numerals or illustrations of pained faces, from smiling to crying. For example, “How bad is your pain right now on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain ever?”

There are also tests that some doctors administer to get a better picture of a patient’s pain by identifying its cause:

  • X-rays produce images of the body’s internal structures and can detect broken bones and joint problems
  • Electrodiagnostic procedures, like electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, and evoked potential (EP) studies, can show which muscles or nerves are affected by weakness or pain
  • Imaging, especially Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), provides pictures of the body’s structures and tissues. Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses magnetic fields and radio waves to differentiate between healthy and abnormal tissue
  • A neurologic exam can test a patient’s movement, reflexes, sensation, balance and coordination, and reveal a nerve problem.

The aim of all these tools is to assess your pain as accurately as possible so your doctor can diagnose your condition and recommend a pain management solution that works best for you – such as Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, Stem Cell Therapy, Facet Joint Injections, Shoulder Injections, Epidural Steroids, Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks, Spinal Cord Stimulation, and others.

 At New Jersey Pain Care Specialists, we offer a variety of interventional and minimally-invasive procedures to help relieve painful conditions. If you’re experiencing acute or chronic  pain that hasn’t been responding to home care and over-the-counter medication, contact us today to find out more about an expert evaluation. Dr. Harris Bram and his elite staff  will devote the necessary time make you feel comfortable and confident that you’re in experienced and caring hands. 



About The Author

Dr. Harris Bram, MD, DABPM

Dr. Harris Bram, MD, DABPM

Dr. Harris Bram is an Interventional Pain Management Specialist in New Jersey. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. His postgraduate training in anesthesia was performed at Hahnemann University Hospital, where he sub-specialized in cardiac anesthesia. He completed his pain management fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.

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