Fax: 540-901-2599


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The Importance of Pain Assessment

In the medical field, pain assessment is defined as a process that physicians conduct to assist with creating a diagnosis by detecting and evaluating pain symptoms described by patients, with the idea that by assessing pain, physicians are able to understand the patient’s condition more so that they can come up with a treatment plan, should an issue that warrants one be detected.

With that, it is believed that a thorough and accurate pain assessment is the key to good and effective pain management practices. This first step creates what can be perceived as a domino effect. When a provider properly evaluates pain, then the best treatment plan can be created, then effective pain management care can be delivered, and then finally, the patient can experience pain relief. 

While it makes sense, assessing pain is often an undervalued and rushed step. No one is to blame, since it is understandable to want to focus on the end result – the alleviation from all the symptoms. But did you know that this automatic desire to rush is what actually often leads to unsuccessful treatments? In fact, one research study discovered that one of the primary issues that inhibits chronic pain patients from obtaining good control of their pain, and therefore, lasting relief, is the lack of pain assessment (Anderson, Mendoza, & Valeroo, 2000). Yet again, another piece of information that supports the claim of how important pain assessment is to optimal pain management care. The question though is, how does one perform a highly effective assessment of a patient’s pain?

There are objective and standard ways of assessing pain, which providers are trained to perform. Through their years of educational and practical experiences, they are aware of these approaches and without a doubt, are able to conduct it thoroughly. So, why then do certain patients still end up unable to receive the correct treatment or management plan for their pain issues due to poor assessment? 

According to this research study, not only should pain assessment be regular, ongoing, individualized, and documented, providers must also have the ability to focus on and understand the patient. Meaning, providers must show empathy towards their patients, listen carefully to their story, and do their best to understand what their patients are experiencing. This can best be done by utilizing empathy. Through empathic understanding, providers are then able to separate patients from their problems, thus allowing them to perceive their patients as people in need of help and support, instead of merely individuals composed of symptoms that need to be treated. Ultimately, such approach leads to a positive pain management outcome.  

Overall, not only is pain assessment important, it is also crucial that providers take the time to listen to their patients while evaluating their pain. It is not always enough to just ask if one is in pain or not and then assign a numerical value to that pain (i.e. from a scale of 1-10, how much in pain are you). Part of a proper and effective assessment of pain is giving patients the opportunity to tell their story and discuss their experiences openly. For instance, it is important for a provider to know and understand not only the location and duration of a patient’s pain, but also the various factors (if any) that either alleviate or further aggravate it. There are also instances wherein it is important for providers to seek how patients perceive pain and the potential treatments for it, if a provider is to come up with the best treatment and management plan. After all, stories are able to teach, validate, and offer reflection, which then molds how patients are cared for and how their issues are managed in the long run. 

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