A casually dressed young man touches his lower back and hip to show where he feels pain

How to Put Pain Into Words

Describing pain involves more than rating it on a numerical scale.

To treat patients’ pain as effectively as possible, providers need the most accurate characterization of the pain that patients can provide. One common tool asks patients to rate their pain on a 0-to-10 scale.

“I use that approach, but I also ask patients to describe their pain and how it affects what matters to them,” says Eric Spears, DO, Inpatient Physiatrist at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and Outpatient Physiatrist at Prevea Health.

The more information you can provide when talking about pain with your provider, the better. Be sure to:

  • Describe pain in vivid terms, such as “burning” or “throbbing.”
  • Explain how pain makes you feel or keeps you from enjoying favorite activities.
  • Point to where pain seems to originate and, if it moves, anywhere else you feel it.
  • Discuss treatments you have tried and their effectiveness.
  • Identify when your pain is most intense.

Options for Relief

Most chronic pain has no cure, so managing it is the goal, and a variety of treatment options do not involve medication. Conservative management often begins with exercise, which can help heal damaged tissues and prompt the brain to release chemicals that reduce pain.

Other options include physical therapy, physiatry, heat and cold treatment, ultrasound therapy, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, pressure point massage, braces, yoga, and tai chi. Opioids are not an effective, long-term treatment for chronic pain, according to Dr. Spears.

 To find a physician who can help you bring pain under control, visit HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital or HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital and click on “Find a Health Care Provider.”

You may also be interested in “Inpatient Rehabilitation Opens the Door to the Future.”