107 Measuring Pain

Based on research by Kerns, R.D., Turk, D.C., & Rudy, T.E.. Adapted by Juanita N Baker, Ph.D..

How do we measure psychological factors not observable by others?  Only when psychologists figure out how to measure something, can they begin to do research on and understand it.

Whether arthritis, fibromyalgia, or low back pain, chronic pain takes a toll in the pain itself as well as associated disability, emotional distress, lost productivity and high medical costs.

Over the last quarter century, researchers have found that pain is as individual as the people who have it, and that subjective assessments of pain do not necessarily match the degree of actual bodily damage.

That realization came in part after psychologists and medical researchers published the 1985 West Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory. This pioneering assessment has patients report on many key aspects of their pain, including its severity, interference with daily life activities, their mood, and feeling control over their life. The inventory included observations from people close to the patient. Validated through strong relationships with other standardized measures, the inventory helped open the door to research on the cognitive and behavioral aspects of pain. Better measures help us know which treatment is effective.

Measuring and controlling pain is now well within psychology science.  So if you have chronic pain, to manage it, work with a medical and psychology team.


Kerns, R.D., Turk, D.C., & Rudy, T.E. (1985). The West Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory (WHYMPI). Pain, 23, 345-56.

Turk, D., & Melzack, R. (2001). Handbook of Pain Assessment. New York: Guilford Press

For more details see:


American Psychological Association, July 7, 2006
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