If pain is so individual, how can doctors tell if something is seriously wrong or not?
As difficult as it is to quantify pain, there have been many attempts at different types of questionnaires to do just that. Doctors are aware that what might be annoying for one person may be excruciating for another. The important issue is to remember that neither person is right or wrong in his or her interpretation of pain.
After doing the regular physical tests to ensure that anything that can be treated is, doctors can do different evaluations of how pain is affecting the patient.
If a patient's pain is affecting the quality of life, keeping him or her from working or participating in daily activities, this needs to be addressed, regardless if other people may not experience the same level of pain with the same injury or illness.
Using questionnaires that assess pain intensity, frequency, location, and its effect on a patient's life is the first step to better understanding how to help the patient.
Urs Muller et al. A Pain assessment scale for population-based studies: Development and validation of the Pain Module of the Standard Evaluation Questionnaire. In Pain. May 2008. Vol. 136. No. 1-2. Pp. 72-74.
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