The measurement of clinical pain intensity: a comparison of six methods

Mark P. Jensen, Paul Karoly, Sanford Braver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2313 Scopus citations


The measurement of subjective pain intensity continues to be important to both researchers and clinicians. Although several scales are currently used to assess the intensity construct, it remains unclear which of these provides the most precise, replicable, and predictively valid measure. Five criteria for judging intensity scales have been considered in previous research: (a) ease of administration of scoring; (b) relative rates of incorrect responding; (c) sensitivity as defined by the number of available response categories; (d) sensitivity as defined by statistical power; and (e) the magnitude of the relationship between each scale and a linear combination of pain intensity indices. In order to judge commonly used pain intensity measures, 75 chronic pain patients were asked to rate 4 kinds of pain (present, least, most, and average) using 6 scales. The utility and validity of the scales was judged using the criteria listed above. The results indicate that, for the present sample, the scales yield similar results in terms of the number of subjects who respond correctly to them and their predictive validity. However, when considering the remaining 3 criteria, the 101-point numerical rating scale appears to be the most practical index.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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