Assessing pain (VAS)

The Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) measures pain intensity. The VAS consists of a 10cm line, with two end points representing 0 (‘no pain’) and 10 (‘pain as bad as it could possibly be’).

Ask the patient to rate their current level of pain by placing a mark on the line. Use a ruler to measure the distance in centimetres from the ‘no pain marker’ (or zero) to the current pain mark. This provides a pain intensity score out of 10; for example, 6 out of 10 (or 6/10).

Recommended action

Provide more concerted treatment or consider earlier referral to a clinician with expertise in the management of whiplash for patients with high pain intensity – e.g. pain greater than 5 out of 10 on the VAS (P1, page 19 guidelines).

Scott, J. and E. Huskisson, Graphic representation of pain. Pain, 1976. 2(2): p. 175-184.