Influence and stability of pain scale anchors for an investigation of cold pressor pain tolerance.
Variable use of pain scale anchors may influence recalled pain ratings, rating consistency, and agreement between actual rating change and ratings of pain relief. This investigation examined change in events that represent maximal pain scale anchors. Participants (N = 68, 50% women) provided events for maximal anchors of 0 to 100 pain scales, and cold pressor pain was rated by using self-selected event/s and an investigator-provided event. Participants then were allowed to change their self-selected event/s. The revised event/s or original events were then used to rate a second cold pressor trial. Forty-one percent of participants changed event/s, and the new event/s was more likely to involve cold or heat, but the painfulness of events and the pain ratings of the second trial did not change. The cold pressor pain ratings were higher when rated on the basis of self-selected event/s than the investigator-provided event for intensity (mean = 80.13, SD = 19.30; mean = 60.81, SD = 27.45) and unpleasantness (mean = 80.84, SD = 19.07; mean = 59.07, SD = 27.53), which could be due to the submaximal painfulness of the investigator-provided event. Therefore, the width of numerical scales is stable with maximal events regardless of the actual events.This report identifies change in physical events that are used by participants to represent maximal pain scale anchors and suggests that the maximal nature of the events' painfulness is more important than variability in the actual events. We conclude that the numerical pain scales we used are understandable and stable, but we suggest that instructional sets for pain measurement may be improved by evaluation of the painfulness of events that respondents use to conceptualize maximal pain scale anchors.
Dannecker, EA; George, SZ; Robinson, ME
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