Pain is a major clinical problem that causes great suffering for the individual and incurs costs for society. Accurate assessment and evaluation of perceived pain is necessary for diagnosis, for choice of treatment, and for the evaluation of treatment efficacy. The assessment of an individual’s pain is a challenge since pain is a subjective, multidimensional experience, and assessment is based on the person’s own self-report. The results are often varied, possibly due to inter-individual variation, but also in relation to gender and aetiology.
A gold standard for pain assessment is still lacking, but rating scales, questionnaires, and methods derived from psychophysical concepts, such as threshold assessments and perceptual matching, are used. In the evaluation of pain and associated variables, both systematic and individual variation should be taken into account, as should pain-associated symptoms.
Recommendations for pain treatment should be based on the patient’s specific needs. Therefore, it is important to assess the level of perceived pain taking individual variation into account. The methods used should preferably have proved to be useful in randomised controlled trials, and analysis of pain assessment should consider its non-metric properties. In the future, the use of studies with a naturalistic protocol together with individual assessment of individual pain responses could increase the internal and external validity.
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