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"I am Not a Number"

Understanding and improving pain assessment mandates in healthcare 

Kathryn Schopmeyer DPT, CPE, CSCS, at the 2019 San Diego Pain Summit conference.

If you have ever been a patient, you have likely heard the question, “How would you rate your pain on a scale of 0-10?”. While pain assessment is an important aspect of quality healthcare, the practice of measuring pain using a numeric scale has become so pervasive that it now holds little value to people with chronic or persistent pain.

Pain education and practice is evolving quickly, yet clinicians and health sector workers still, almost reflexively, include this in nearly every patient/client encounter, despite the fact that it may be meaningless—and even burdensome—to those living with persistent pain.

What is the history of this practice? Why do we treat pain like a vital sign? How do we change this habit and forge meaningful communication between patient and provider without losing the important pieces of assessing someone’s pain?

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