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How to Know If Pain Is Diminishing Your Quality of Life

April 25, 2023

Chronic pain is a curious thing. It can be completely debilitating to one person while only mildly inconvenient to another. Yet chronic pain always has the potential to diminish a person's quality of life. How would a person know? By applying what pain medicine physicians refer to as the Quality of Life Scale for pain.

If you've never dealt with chronic pain for an extended amount of time, you might be wondering how a person could not know that their pain was diminishing quality of life. That is understandable. But here's the deal: a person living with chronic pain for long enough can actually get used to it. You can get used to a “new normal” to the point of forgetting what life used to be like.

Getting used to that new normal could make it more difficult for a chronic pain patient to decide whether the pain was diminishing quality of life. It is almost as though the patient doesn't know any better. In this case, the patient’s reference point for quality of life is skewed.

How the Scale Actually Works

The Quality of Life Scale was originally developed by the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA). It was designed as a number-based scale that could be used as a reference point by pain management doctors and their patients. From the doctor's perspective, the scale provides a baseline for measuring future pain.

To fully understand how pain affects your quality of life, a doctor would want to know how your pain influences:

  • your ability to work
  • your ability to exercise
  • your ability to do daily tasks
  • our ability and willingness to socialize
  • your daily mood(s).

If a pain management doctor wanted to apply the Quality of Life Scale to your situation, you could expect to be asked certain questions. You could expect to be asked to rate your pain in relation to the things listed above. Your rating would be on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being non-functional and 10 being normal.

You Can Do It at Home

It is generally a good idea to work with a pain management doctor to track your pain and how it impacts your daily life. A pain management doctor is a qualified medical provider who specializes in pain. All of that said, you can utilize the scale at home, by yourself.

Just rate the five things listed above on a scale of 0-10. The numbers you choose when first using the scale make up your baseline. They are your starting point. Future ratings are compared to this baseline to see how you're doing.

Now, there are two things to pay attention to:

  • Current Numbers – You must decide whether your current numbers constitute a poor quality of life. If the numbers are closer to 0 than 10, they are telling you that your quality of life isn't as good as it could be.
  • Future Changes – As you rate your pain in the future, pay attention to any change in the numbers. Higher ratings suggest that your quality of life is improving. Lower ratings suggest just the opposite.

One of the unfortunate things about treating chronic pain is that we have no diagnostic test to measure it. Pain management physicians need to rely on the Quality of Life Scale to understand where patients are. The good news is that you can use the scale to see for yourself how you're doing. If you are concerned that pain is diminishing your quality of life, we invite you to visit us at KindlyMD.

By KindlyMD
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