Pain rating scales

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 20 Jan 2020

There are a number of pain rating scales used by clinicians and researchers to gauge the severity of patients' pain. Commonly used methods:

  • pain numeric rating scale (NRS/NPRS)
  • visual analog scale (VAS)
  • verbal rating scale (VRS)
  • faces pain scale-revised (FPS-R)

The pain numeric rating scale (NRS), a.k.a. numeric pain rating scale (NPRS), employs an 11-point scale, ranging from '0' for no pain, to '10' for the worst pain imaginable.

The visual analog scale (VAS) is a line, horizontal or vertical, usually 10 cm in length, with 'no pain' written at one end and 'worst possible pain' written at the other end. Patients are asked to mark on the line where they think the severity of their pain would be. 

The verbal rating scale (VRS), a.k.a. verbal pain score (VPS) or verbal descriptor scale (VDS), uses written questions, with descriptors as answers, for patients to indicate which of them applies to their pain.

The faces pain scale-revised (FPS-R) uses pictures of faces showing expressions of increasing discomfort. It is ideal for younger children, poor readers and the cognitively-impaired. 

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