chapter  18
22 Pages

Self-Report of Pain: Issues and Opportunities

ByFrancis J. Keefe

What is the most common manifestation of pain? Verbal descriptions of pain are among the most frequent and important pain-related behaviors. In the clinical setting, self-reports of pain are considered to be one of the primary means of understanding another’s pain experience. In this context, selfreports of pain can have very important consequences. Individuals who can reliably and accurately describe their pain experience are much more likely to obtain rapid and effective treatment. Those who, because of language or physical limitations, are unable to report on their pain, in contrast, may have great difficulty in obtaining pain relief. Consider, for example, a young American woman who, during a recent visit to Brazil, had a fish bone caught in her throat and was unable to communicate her pain and distress verbally. Her gestures and attempts to talk were incomprehensible to both friends and health professionals and the resulting delay in treatment left her with scar tissue and persistent swallowing difficulties.