What You Should Know About Pain Management

Things Nurses Need to Know About Pain Management - BlogPain is a fairly common word in the medical field. As one of the common vital signs, pain is something nurses assess almost daily. While pain is one of the more subjective vitals, how nurses view pain can really affect nurse-patient relationships.

To help you navigate the subjective world of pain, we’ve put together a pain assessment and management guide for nurses.

Pain 101

Pain is the fifth vital sign. According to Nurse Labs, “vital signs are critical measurements of life functions. These vitals reflect overall health condition, disease progression and clues to recovery.”1

Because it is a vital sign, pain is something that should be addressed almost every time nurses come in contact with their patients.

“The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) mandated that pain assessment and documentation should be as automatic and prominent as taking blood pressure and respiratory rate.”1

How to assess pain.

Like we said earlier, pain is a highly subjective vital sign, which can make it difficult to assess at times.

Nursing Times reminds us “pain is not a simple sensation that can be easily assessed and measured. Nurses should be aware of the many factors that can influence the patient’s overall experience and expression of pain, and these should be considered during the assessment process.”2

When it comes to measuring pain there are many different routes nurses can takes. There are two major divisions in pain assessment tools: unidimensional and multidimensional. Unidimensional tools would be verbal scales or picture scales. Multidimensional tools would be a pain/comfort journal or the McGill pain questionnaire. For a longer list of pain assessment tools, click here.

Working with patients to manage pain.

Once pain is assessed, it’s important nurses take the right steps to properly help patients manage their pain. The American Pain Society outlines guidelines for pain management:

  • Recognize and treat pain promptly.
  • Involve patients and families in pain management plan.
  • Improve treatment patterns.
  • Reassess and adjust pain management plan as needed.
  • Monitor processes and outcomes of pain management.3

Each of these guidelines are extremely important in pain management. One of the main ways to have successful pain management is to communicate effectively with patients, families and the rest of the care team. Everyone must be on the same page and have the same understanding to have successful pain management.

Sometimes, the world of pain assessment and management can be hard to navigate, especially because it is not something you cannot measure directly with a thermometer or a blood pressure cuff. While pain is a subjective vital sign, it’s still a vital sign – which means it’s something that deserves your attention!

What method do you use to measure pain in patients? Tell us in the comments below!


  1. http://nurseslabs.com/pain-perplex-5-things-nurses-need-to-understand-about-pain-management/
  2. http://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/pain-management/assessment-of-pain/1861174.fullarticle
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/