Tool of the month: Evidence-based pain assessment resources

Nurse Leader Insider, June 29, 2009

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Nurses are patient advocates who play a lead role in helping manage and relieve their patients' pain. Pain assessment is a critical factor and is best performed using reliable and valid pain assessment scales and tools. Today there are several scales and tools nurses use in healthcare settings to assess both acute and chronic pain. Here are some examples of the ones that are most common.

Standard pain assessment tools: Unidimensional tools

Some of the earliest pain assessment tools are one-dimensional pain scales, which were designed to measure pain intensity alone. Examples of this type of scale include the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the Simple Descriptive Pain Intensity Scale, and the standard 0 to 10 Numeric Pain Intensity Scale.

A systematic review of 164 journal articles on pain indicates that single item ratings of pain intensity are valid and reliable measures of pain intensity.

Visual Analog Scale

VAS is a 100-millimeter line with "no pain" on one end and "pain as bad as it can be" at the other end. This scale is a very simple form of assessment. Patients are expected to mark on the line the amount of pain they are experiencing.

To read more, and for copies of the pain scales, access this resource in its entirety for free.

Also, don't forget you can check out more tools and articles in the Evidence-Based Resource Center and in our Tools Library on

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