Perceived Pain Scale

What Is the Pain Scale?

The pain scale or what some physios would call the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), is a scale that is used to try and understand the level of pain that someone is in. The scale is intended as something that you would rate yourself on a scale of 0-10 with 0 = no pain at all and 10 = worst pain. 

I'm not sure how to scale myself?

As mentioned above, this is individual to everyone but as a guide, this is how we would often explain the different levels of pain.  

  • 0= no pain  
  • 1-3= mild discomfort 
  • 4-5= mild pain  
  • 6-7 = stronger/sharper pain but able to perform the activity 
  • 8-9= very strong/sharp pain and continued activity difficult/impossible 

But everyone's will be different?

Of course, this is absolutely true. When your physiotherapist is asking you this question it is with two aims. Firstly, it helps to make clearer the level of pain that you are experiencing as words like ‘agony’, ‘very’ and ‘extremely’ are open to interpretation. Secondly, it is to provide a level that we can then monitor over the course of your treatment. Each time we ask you about the pain you are experiencing, we can compare it against the previously recorded score to ensure that we are moving in the right direction. The pain scale is never used on its own to determine the success of treatment, but it provides a useful marker of your progress.  

How is it used in the exercise programmes?

As you perform rehabilitation exercises to help with the recovery from your condition a certain level of pain is normally expected. This is either due to the stage of the condition or the fact that we are deliberately trying to make the painful structures stringer. It is vital to understand that this is not a bad thing and does not mean that you are making your condition worse.  

The aim of using the scale for each of the programmes is to provide you with an indication of the level of pain that we would expect for your condition when performing this specific programme. It does not mean that you must experience that level of pain and it’s fine to experience no pain. However, if you find that you are exceeding the recommended maximum, then you should consider reducing the number of repetitions you are doing, trying an earlier programme or seeking further advice from your physiotherapist.