Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. The simplest example is placing your hand on a fire, instantly the painful sensation goes to your brain and your reflexes remove your hand from the flame. Pain can be described using a lot of different adjectives. The way you describe your pain, and its location can tell you a lot about the type of pain and what could be causing it. For example, sharp, shooting pain down the legs to the toes may indicate peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage. But chronic lower back pain may be due to muscle damage. It’s very important when discussing your pain with your doctor to use words that accurately describe your pain, as different types of pain are treated differently.
Nurses like to use the PQRST assessment to cover all facets of a patient's pain.
P- Provokes. What causes the pain? And is there anything that you notice, that makes the pain better or worse? You may notice that your pain only comes on during cold weather, but weather gloves or keeping your hands warm reduces the pain. Eating may cause your pain in your stomach, but sipping on fluid or sitting upright makes the pain fade away.
Q- Quality. The quality of pain looks at how you would describe it. This has been briefly discussed above. Words that can be used are burning, shooting, dull, cramp, stabbing, sharp and crushing. Don’t let anyone else try and tell you what your pain should feel like, only you feel it, so people may be able to provide helpful words, but don’t let me sway you.
R- Radiates. Pain can be in one place, or it can be in many places. Sometimes, pain can be experienced in another part of your body, when caused somewhere completely different. Commonly, heart attacks are known for causing pain in the jaw or the left arm, even though the pain is being caused to the heart. Right shoulder tip pain can be caused by gallbladder problems. Additionally, pain that is pinpoint versus radiating can also mean different things. So it is important to identify if you can point exactly to where your pain is or if it’s in a more generalised location.
S- Severity. Normally, nurses and other healthcare professionals like to use the pain scale to understand the severity of your pain. There are many different types of pain scales available, but the most popular is a numbered scale, 1 to 10, rating your pain, with 10 being the most pain you have ever experienced in your life, and 1 being pain-free.
T-Time. How long have you been in pain for? And if the pain comes and goes in waves, how long does it last? Also is there anything you know you did which could have caused the pain. And if so, how long ago was it?