Pain Assessment Tools

Essay by longrn May 2005

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Pain Assessment Tools

Pain is a major health problem in this country and is the most common symptom that prompts a patient to seek health care. Pain tells a person something is wrong. At its worst, pain makes the person's life miserable decreases the ability to function normally. For some, pain decreases his/her desire to live. Pain differs among individual patients, even those who appear to have identical injuries or illnesses. There are two types of pain, acute and chronic:

Acute pain, for the most part, results from disease, inflammation, or injury to tissues. This type of pain generally comes on suddenly, for example, after trauma or surgery, and may be accompanied by anxiety or emotional distress. The cause of acute pain can usually be diagnosed and treated, and the pain is self-limiting, that is, it is confined to a given period of time and severity. In some rare instances, it can become chronic.

Chronic pain is widely believed to represent disease itself. It can be made much worse by environmental and psychological factors. Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time than acute pain and is resistant to most medical treatments. It can--and often does--cause severe problems for patients (MedicineNet, 2003)

What does this mean to nurses? Providers need to develop diagnostic and therapeutic ways to manage pain. The primary goal should be focused towards getting the patient to function comfortably and perform activities of daily living. Two tools appear in the forefront in many pain management guidelines. These two tools are the Wong Baker Face Scale and the Numeric Pain Intensity Scale.

The Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has now made the assessment and management of pain a standard of care. Pain has become the "Fifth Vital Sign". JCAHO feels the...