PQRST Pain Assessment Method
Since pain is subjective, self-report is considered the Gold Standard and most accurate measure of pain. The PQRST method of assessing pain is a valuable tool to accurately describe, assess and document a patient’s pain. The method also aids in the selection of appropriate pain medication and evaluating the response to treatment.
Nurses can help patients more accurately report their pain by using these very specific PQRST assessment questions:
P = Provocation/Palliation
What were you doing when the pain started? What caused it? What makes it better or worse? What seems to trigger it? Stress? Position? Certain activities?
What relieves it? Medications, massage, heat/cold, changing position, being active, resting?
What aggravates it? Movement, bending, lying down, walking, standing?
Q = Quality/Quantity
What does it feel like? Use words to describe the pain such as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning, crushing, throbbing, nauseating, shooting, twisting or stretching.
R = Region/Radiation
Where is the pain located? Does the pain radiate? Where? Does it feel like it travels/moves around? Did it start elsewhere and is now localized to one spot?
S = Severity Scale
How severe is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being the worst pain ever? Does it interfere with activities? How bad is it at its worst? Does it force you to sit down, lie down, slow down? How long does an episode last?
T = Timing
When/at what time did the pain start? How long did it last? How often does it occur: hourly? daily? weekly? monthly? Is it sudden or gradual? What were you doing when you first experienced it? When do you usually experience it: daytime? night? early morning? Are you ever awakened by it? Does it lead to anything else? Is it accompanied by other signs and symptoms? Does it ever occur before, during or after meals? Does it occur seasonally?
In addition to facilitating accurate pain assessment, careful and complete documentation demonstrates that you are taking all the proper steps to ensure that your patients receive the highest quality pain management. It is important to document the following:
- Patient’s understanding of the pain scale. Describe the patient’s ability to assess pain level using the 0-10 pain scale.
- Patient satisfaction with pain level with current treatment modality. Ask the patient what his or her pain level was prior to taking pain medication and after taking pain medication. If the patient’s pain level is not acceptable, what interventions were taken?
- Timely re-assessment following any intervention and response to treatment. Quote the patient’s response.
- Communication with the physician. Always report any change in condition.
- Patient education provided and the patient’s response to learning. Don’t write “patient understands” without a supportive evaluation such as patient can verbalize, demonstrate, describe, etc.