A pain scale is typically a visual method that allows you to systematically track your pain, its intensity, and other symptoms. They’re often based on cartoons or numbers. These scales can be self-reported verbal rating scales, as in you explain your pain symptoms according to the measurement given. They can also be judged by behavioral or observation (especially in the case of kids or people who are unable to speak). Pain scales are an excellent way to better share how you’re feeling with your doctor. They can help you get a better diagnosis and treatment for your pain. Here’s 15 of our favorite pain scales, with advice at the end for finding the best one for you to use.

What is a pain scale? 

Pain assessments and scales are the best way to communicate with your doctor what you’re feeling and how bad your pain is. And they can track your pain day over day, especially when used in combination with a pain diary app or journal. They can be a scale from one to ten, with ten being the worst pain imaginable and one being no pain at all. These scales can also rely on visual indicators or facial expressions to judge pain. Or, they can be personalized interpretations of how pain affects you in your life, always there in your pocket with a pain app like PainScale.

But, as always, pain is subjective. You have to find a pain measurement that works for you, consistently and easily. Seddon R. Savage, MD, incoming president of the American Pain Society and an adjunct associate professor of anesthesiology at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H. explains how to conceptualize the top of your pain measurement.

“I ask people to remember the worst pain they’ve ever experienced in their lives. It might be a kidney stone or childbirth. That level of pain becomes the benchmark to which we compare the current pain… I also ask people to show me on the pain scale what an acceptable level would be. The fact is that we probably can’t bring chronic pain down to zero. But we can aim for a level that still allows you a good quality of life.”

We’ve pulled together a list of 15 of our favorite pain scales to help you get started. The right one will be very accessible and will just “fit.” It will make sense to you and how you experience pain. Remember, a pain assessment scale is just a tool and it must work for its user. If a one to ten scale doesn’t help you explain your pain, a color scale for pain or facial scale might.

Types of pain scales

There are many types of pain scales, including:

  • 1-10 pain scales
  • Faces pain scales, typically the Wong-Baker FACES® pain rating scale
  • Global pain scale
  • Visual analog pain scale
  • McGill pain scale
  • Mankoski pain scale
  • Color scales for pain
  • Pediatric pain scales
  • CPOT pain scale
  • Patient-created personalized pain scales

We’ll cover each of those in more detail in this post.