Patient Information Resources

Centre for Orthopaedics
Suite 10-33/34/35 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore, 329563, Singapore
Ph: (65) 6684 5828
Fax: (65) 6684 5829

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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I took an on-line survey that was supposed to help a well-known pain clinic understand my pain and help design a special pain management program just for me. The test took all of 90 seconds. How can they possibly have enough information to know what I need?

That's a good and very valid question. Pain is a difficult thing to measure. There's no lab test that can put it into an absolute number like a white blood cell count. Yet with 50 million chronic pain sufferers in the United States alone, there's got to be a better way to measure pain than the visual analog scale (VAS). Using this scale, patients assign a number from zero to 10 to rate their pain (zero is no pain, 10 is the worst pain). This is so subjective, even the patients can't tell if a rating of three today is better or worse than yesterday's three. Efforts are being made by pain researchers to develop an interactive, intuitive computer program that will help quantify (put into numbers) variable describing and defining pain (e.g., location, intensity, duration). There is also a need for some kind of chronic pain assessment tool that can measure improvement in pain levels. Being able to measure improvement would help researchers identify which treatment approaches are working best. Researchers from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment have teamed up with the QualityMetric Incorporated company to develop a computerized prototype of an adaptive test for chronic pain. The computer program was set up so that the computer chose the next question for each person taking the survey based on the answer given to the first question. The program allowed the computer to select the next question to ask each person depending on the answer (and score) for the previous question. The first question was always, How much pain have you had during the past four weeks? A study using this method showed that by using a computerized adaptive program (i.e., one that responded based on the answer given to the previous question), it is possible to conduct a complete pain assessment in 90 seconds using between two and seven questions. When compared with answers given to the full 45-item survey, the information gathered was the same! This type of tool with a short survey length helps reduce the burden placed on patients who are already in pain. If the survey you took was based on the evidence presented by this research group from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, Denmark then you can be rest assured that the tool is valid and accurate. They will be doing further studies to make sure the results are reliable when using the survey with a wide range of people. If you have the contact information for the center performing the assessment on you, you might want to pose this question as you presented it to us and find out more about the source and validity of the materials they are using.


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