• Pretto Physiotherapy

Pain - How do I describe what I'm feeling?

Pain is not always easy to explain as it is a subjective experience that is different from one person to the next. Its primary purpose is to let our brain know that there is a threat to our tissues and to avoid the current situation in order to prevent damage. The problem can come in when this communication gets lost in translation and misinterpreted by the brain , potentially causing chronic, persistent pain.


There are many things that shape each person’s experience of pain, including the following:


· Degree of injury

· Previous experiences

· Genetic predispositions

· General stress and emotions


Due to pain being so subjective and experienced so differently, it can be quite confusing when it comes to explaining your pain to someone else. This process is important to us as physios as we need to understand the problem in order to effectively treat it. With this in mind, we have tried to bring a few validated pain scales together to assist you with communicating your pain to us.


Types of pain can often be described as:

· Sharp

· Dull

· Ache

· Burning


The next thing that is important to report is the intensity of the pain as not all pains are created equal. The image below is what we use at the practice to assist our patients in effectively communicating this to us. We have used the images on the left to assist us with children trying to explain pain. The descriptions on the right help to compare the level of pain to how it is affecting daily activities and the colours correspond to the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) where pain is rated out of 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you could possibly have.




When you are able to effectively communicate what your pain feels like, your physiotherapist will be able to better diagnose what is causing it in order to treat it more effectively.

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