How does your pain feel?

You know what ordinary pain feels like - the sharp pain of a cut, the throbbing pain of a headache, or the dull, aching pain of a bruise.

But the pain you feel is different from ordinary pain. It feels like a painful burning sensation, or painful cold, or a tingling sensation like electric shocks or crawling ants, or uncomfortable numbness. Light touch or pressure is unusually painful, so you find things like dressing, walking, or even just lying down uncomfortable.1,2.

Only you know how your pain feels. Therefore, it’s important that you pay attention to how it feels and write it down. Although it will be difficult to describe the pain, try to describe it as precisely as you can. Use words such as burning, shooting, stabbing, tingling, numb – or any other adjectives that can give your doctor a good idea of how your pain feels. 3,4

Clearly describing to your doctor will help him or her make the correct diagnosis and prescribe the best treatment for you

Know your pain: keep a pain diary 5

A pain diary is a daily record of the times when you feel pain. Show your pain diary to your doctor. It will help him or her determine what kind of pain you have. It will also help you and your doctor find out what makes your pain better or worse. When you are writing in your pain diary, take note of:

  • When you feel pain (be specific)
  • What the pain feels like (does it feel like one or more of the nerve pain descriptors)
  • How severe your pain is (using the pain scale below)
  • How long the pain lasts
  • What eases the pain
  • What makes the pain worse

Measure your pain: The pain scale 6

How severe is your pain right now? On the scale below – where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst possible pain you can imagine – rate the severity of your pain by sliding the slider into the appropriate position. Record your score in your pain diary.

Recording your pain severity over a period of time before you visit the doctor and showing your pain diary to your doctor will help your doctor determine what kind of pain you have and how to treat it.




  1. Cruccu G, Truini A. Tools for assessing neuropathic pain. PLoS Medicine. 2009;6(4):e1000045.
  2. Painful diabetic neuropathy. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Diabetic neuropathy. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016.
  4. Marchettini P et al. Painful peripheral neuropathies. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2006; 4(3):175-81.
  5. American Cancer Society. Daily pain diary. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016.
  6. National Initiative of Pain Control. Pain assessment scales. Available at: Accessed 25 January, 2016. 
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