Many of the first pain assessment tools were developed for assessing experimentally induced pain, chronic pain, or oncology pain (Jensen, 2011). The multidimensional scales were extensions of the one-dimensional scales. The multidimensional tools were developed to assess more complex pain and included measurements of mood and psychological elements. Today, there is a wide variety of valid and reliable pain assessment tools. More recently, because The Joint Commission required that all patients have their pain assessed and adequately treated, tools for assessing pain in special populations, such as the cognitively impaired, nonverbal patients, and infants, have been developed.
One-dimensional pain assessment tools are limited to assessing the single element of pain intensity. They are most helpful for determining if pain medication or a pain intervention is reducing the intensity of the pain. Although these tools seem very simple and the information obtained is limited, there is definitely a place for these tools in pain assessment. In a review of 164 journal articles on pain assessment, single item ratings of pain intensity were reported as valid and reliable indicators of pain intensity (Ackley et al., 2008). As an indication of efficacy, Farrar et al. (2001) determined that a 2-point or 30% reduction in pain intensity on the NRS is a clinically significant change.
Visual Analog Scale (VAS)
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