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I’m a married 31 year-old who has been diagnosed with fibromylagia for 12 years. I am on a quest to raise awareness and help others by sharing information and staying positive. Read more
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Pain Rating Scales

I remember the first time I saw the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale. It was the year 2000, my freshmen year at college, and I had to go to the student health clinic. The nurse asked me what level of pain I was in and pointed to the handy face chart. At that time I thought FACES was a great idea, but I had no idea how much it would eventually help me.

Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale

© 1983 Wong-Baker FACES™ Foundation. Used with permission.

It only took a few years of living in chronic pain to realize that typical verbal, “rate your pain from 1-10″ scales were skewed for me. When you’re constantly living in moderate to severe pain you start considering moderate pain as low (for you) pain. In your mind you start perceiving a 2 or 3 pain level as being your personal 0 or 1 level – since you are never without pain. On the other side of things you’ve probably had some experience where your pain was a 9 or a 10, which most people haven’t really experienced. This also effects how you think of a pain scale because you truly know how bad those 9 and 10 pain levels can be and are more apt to rate your pain lower than that.

This is why I think FACES is so helpful – all you have to do is look at the facial expressions to figure out which emotional feeling of pain matches the pain that you’re in. It’s funny, because FACES is meant to be used by anybody over the age of 3 – including young kids that don’t have all the language skills to describe their pain. In a way, our pain language skills have become less accurate due to the constant amount of pain we’re in. Now when I’m asked to rate my pain I catch myself sometimes looking for FACES to help me answer the question. Many of my current doctor’s offices don’t have them. If you think having one helps you out, consider taking a picture of it on your phone (so you can pull it up) or printing it out and keeping it in the notebook you take to doctor appointments.

What are your experiences with pain scales?


Comment from Karen
Time May 3, 2012 at 10:23 am

Personally, I like the pain scale that Ally had on one of her posts on Hyperbole and a Half. Check out that one sometime…it’s VERY realistic! ;)
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Felicia Fibro Reply:

That one is pretty funny


Comment from RevRuby
Time May 3, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I know my interpretation is skewed, and thankfully so does my dr. But the worst part for me is after having had 4 kids, 2 completely natural and hellacious births with no pain meds (the other 2 were medicated) I know that nothing fibro throws at me is like that. I guess that’s why I over do it so much. Nothing is stopping me cause nothing is a 9. At least not til I have another child.
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Comment from Dave
Time August 30, 2013 at 6:31 am

My mom has fibro, my brother may have it, and I probably do too but i’m working on getting a diagnosis of something.

You’re spot on about the skewed pain scale. My 0-1 would be a 4 on this face scale, and my normal day of 3-4 would be a 6 on this face scale.

Haven’t hit 10 on the face scale yet as i’m only 26 but after a long day, whether it’s been a physical day or a mental day, it’s 8 on this face scale and don’t anybody bother me until tomorrow or i’m gonna be grumpy.


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