Many doctors use a 0-to-10 pain scale. A 0 rating means you have nothing to discuss, 10 is off-the-charts, I-can't-stand-it agony. This can be a good starting point. But it has its limitations. One person's 8 can be another person's 4.
Using the LOCATES scale
We have a lot of words for pain. Use them with your doctor. Note the type of pain (burning, dull, sharp?) and the triggers (environment, activity). It's a lot to remember, and a pain diary is one solution. You can also use the LOCATES memory aid below, provided by the American Pain Foundation.
L: Location of the pain and whether it travels to other body parts.
O: Other associated symptoms such as nausea, numbness, or weakness.
C: Character of the pain, whether it's throbbing, sharp, dull, or burning.
A: Aggravating and alleviating factors. What makes the pain better or worse?
T: Timing of the pain, how long it lasts, is it constant or intermittent?
E: Environment where the pain occurs, for example, while working or at home.
S: Severity of the pain. Use a 0-to-10 pain scale from no pain to worst ever.
Bottom line: It's important to accurately express your pain to your doctor. Neither minimizing it because you don't want to bother the doctor nor exaggerating it because you're worried no one will take you seriously will help you get the targeted relief you need.
Watch an expert explain how doctors should talk to you about your pain: