Assessing pain

Video 7 of 28
3 min 5 sec
Want to watch this video? Sign up for the course or enter your email below to watch one free video.

Unlock This Video Now for FREE

This video is normally available to paying customers.
You may unlock this video for FREE. Enter your email address for instant access AND to receive ongoing updates and special discounts related to this topic.

Pain Assessment Techniques: Understanding and Application

Objective vs. Subjective Pain Assessment

Pain, a subjective sensation experienced by individuals, becomes objective when assessed by clinicians. Various pain assessment tools aid in this process, including the pain ladder and pain smiley faces.

Pain Severity Scale:

  • Typically measured on a scale of 0 to 10
  • Some variations: 0 to 3 or 0 to 5

Focus on Pain Quality:

Triaging clinicians prioritize identifying the type of pain (sharp, dull, spasmodic, crampy) and its characteristics (radiation) over solely assessing severity.

PQRST Mnemonic:

  • P - Provocative and Palliative: What worsens or alleviates the pain?
  • Q - Quality: Describing the nature of the pain (sharp, dull)
  • R - Radiation: Any pain spreading to other areas?
  • S - Severity: Numeric scale assessment
  • T - Timing: When did the pain begin?

Smiley Faces Technique:

Originally designed for children but applicable to adults, this technique utilises smiley faces corresponding to numerical pain values (0 to 10). Patients select a face that best represents their pain level, aiding in accurate assessment.


Understanding and employing various pain assessment techniques, such as the PQRST mnemonic and smiley faces, enhances clinical evaluation, leading to effective pain management.