Which Scale Should I Use?

Verbal descriptor scales are quick and simple and lend themselves to the more elderly patient population. However, the choices are limited when compared to numerical rating scales and changes in intensity are not so easily identified.

Numerical rating scales on the other hand offer a wider choice and avoid imprecise descriptive terms. They do require more concentration and coordination. Decent eyesight is also needed for the visual analogue scale.

Further considerations

Do you select a scale for individual patients, or have a one-for-all scale with whom all members of the team are familiar?

And what about children; in particular young children? There is no easy answer – you will cover more of this later in this session.

Do also note that the rest pain score may not be the same as when your patient moves, for example the patient with a fractured neck of femur who needs an x-ray, the patient with fractured ribs who needs to cough or the patient with a fractured clavicle who needs to dress and undress.