There are a multitude of methods to measure a patient’s pain level. Most use a sliding scale to quantify one’s pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (the worse imaginable pain).
- 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
Of the above-mentioned pain scales, the most often used include a visual of facial expressions (such as, the Wong-Baker FACES) in which patients point to a face that depicts their degree of discomfort.
Although these pain scales are relatively effective, they are subjective in that they rely on a patient’s perception of pain, with the resulting built-in flaws. In other words, one person’s pain level of “5” is different from another person’s perception of what a pain level of “5” may be.
Researchers are now working on a prototype for a blood test that could measure the severity of pain without the subjective nature of patient self-reporting or physicians relying on clinical observations of the pain a patient may be experiencing.
New research indicates that there are identifiable biomarkers in a patient’s blood to objectively determine how severe a person’s pain level is. A biomarker is basically a measurable substance in an organism that indicates a specific phenomenon. The biomarkers in this case help researchers identify compounds in blood to quantify pain intensity. Thus, a more accurate and effective pain treatment regimen could be initiated.
Much of the present opioid epidemic/crisis has been contributed to the over-prescribing of addictive medications, without the close monitoring of when to discontinue pain meds in a timely manner. As a patient begins to experience less pain, less addictive pain medication options could be substituted with equal pain-relief effectiveness. Biomarkers could identify when that appropriate time is.
Study experts are discovering also that biomarkers in blood can objectively direct researchers to match a patient’s current pain experience with specific analgesic drugs to control pain.
Treating pain more effectively without using strong, addictive medications or decreasing the use of addictive drugs when pain is beginning to recede will be a medical breakthrough. Treating pain intelligently with the right medication at the right time could provide a much-needed change from the current overuse of opioid medications and lessen the potential of drug addiction.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!