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Pain Scale Chart - 1 to 10 Levels

  • Synopsis: Published: 2016-05-20 (Rev. 2016-11-02) - Pain scale diagram and chart including explanation of each of the one to ten classified pain levels. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Ian Langtree at Disabled World.

Definition: Pain

Pain is defined as a feeling triggered in the nervous system. Pain may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. Pain is mediated by specific nerve fibers that carry the pain impulses to the brain where their conscious appreciation may be modified by many factors. Pain can be helpful in diagnosing a problem. Without pain, you might seriously hurt yourself without knowing it, or you might not realize you have a medical problem that needs treatment. Once you take care of the problem, pain usually goes away. However, sometimes pain goes on for weeks, months or even years. This is called chronic pain. Sometimes chronic pain is due to an ongoing cause, such as cancer or arthritis.

Types of Pain Include:

Main Document

One of the hardest things about chronic pain is that only you know how bad the pain feels. There are no tests that reveal how much you are suffering. There is often no outward signs showing how much a person is in pain.

A pain scale measures a persons pain intensity, and are based on self-report, observational (behavioral), or physiological data. Various pain scales are available for neonates, infants, children, adolescents, adults, seniors, and persons whose communication is impaired. Pain assessments are often regarded as "the 5th Vital Sign."

Universal pain screening is an increasingly common practice, largely because of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requirement that accredited hospitals and clinics must routinely assess all patients for pain. Pain screening is intended to improve the quality of pain management by systematically identifying patients with pain in clinical settings.

The basic pain scale chart below provides some examples of the various levels that define the 0 to 10 pain scale.

Comparative 0 - 10 Pain Scale
Printable Pain Scale Chart
Printable Pain Scale Chart

No Pain
No Pain
No pain at all, you feel perfectly normal.
Minor Pain Levels
Minor pain levels generally do not interfere with most day to day activities. Able to adapt to pain psychologically and with medication or devices such as cushions.
Very Mild
Very light barely noticeable pain, like a mosquito bite or a poison ivy itch. Most of the time you never think about the pain.
Minor pain, like lightly pinching the fold of skin between the thumb and first finger with the other hand, using the fingernails. People can react differently to this self-test.
Very noticeable pain, like an accidental cut, a blow to the nose causing a bloody nose, or a doctor giving you an injection. The pain is not so strong that you cannot get used to it. Eventually, most of the time you don't notice the pain, as you have adapted to it.
Moderate Pain Levels
Moderate pain levels interfere with many daily activities. These pain levels usually require some lifestyle changes but you can remain independent, however, you are unable to adapt to the pain.
Strong, deep pain, like an average toothache, the initial pain from a bee sting, or minor trauma to part of the body, such as stubbing your toe real hard. So strong you notice the pain all the time and cannot completely adapt. This pain level can be simulated by pinching the fold of skin between the thumb and first finger with the other hand, using the fingernails, and squeezing real hard. Note how the simulated pain is initially piercing but becomes dull after that.
Very Distressing
Strong, deep, piercing pain, such as a sprained ankle when you stand on it wrong or mild back pain. Not only do you notice the pain all the time, you are now so preoccupied with managing it that you normal lifestyle is curtailed. Temporary personality disorders are frequent.
Intense Pain
Strong, deep, piercing pain so strong it seems to partially dominate your senses, causing you to think somewhat unclearly. At this point you begin to have trouble holding a job or maintaining normal social relationships. Comparable to a bad non-migraine headache combined with several bee stings, or a bad back pain
Severe Pain Levels
Severe pain levels mean you are unable to engage in your normal activities. The patient is considered disabled and unable to function independently.
Very Intense Pain
Same as 6 except the pain completely dominates your senses, causing you to think unclearly about half the time. At this point you are effectively disabled and frequently cannot live alone. Comparable to an average migraine headache.
Horrible Pain
Pain so intense you can no longer think clearly at all, and have often undergone severe personality change if the pain has been present for a long time. Suicide is frequently contemplated and sometimes tried. Comparable to childbirth or a real bad migraine headache.
Pain so intense you cannot tolerate it and demand pain killers or surgery, no matter what the side effects or risk. If this doesn't work, suicide is frequent since there is no more joy in life whatsoever. Comparable to throat cancer.
Unimaginable Pain
Pain so intense you will go unconscious shortly. Most people have never experienced this level of pain. Those who have suffered a severe accident, such as a crushed hand, and lost consciousness as a result of the pain and not blood loss, have experienced level 10.


  1. When is Surgery Appropriate for Chronic Back Pain - MCPR, LLC
  2. High-frequency Electrical Stimulation to Spinal Cord Eases Chronic Pain - Case Western Reserve University
  3. Children & Pain: Overview of Pediatric Pain - Thomas C. Weiss

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