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Ouch It Hurts! How to Recognize Your Migraine Pain Level

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Jan 31, 2014 7:00:00 AM
Migraine Pain LevelBeing able to rate and describe the intensity and characteristics of pain during a headache episode is an important part of life for those who suffer from migraines. By quantifying the intensity of migraine episodes along with situational factors, physicians can formulate treatment plans, track the effectiveness of their intervention and make important decisions related to the health and well-being of their patients. 

Health care professionals in the United States who specialize in the treatment of pain often use scales maintained by the American Headache Association, the American Chronic Pain Association and the International Pudendal Neuropathy Association. The comparative pain scale published by the latter health association is often used in the treatment of migraines. Patients rate the pain associated with their migraine episodes on a scale from 0 to 10. Here are the descriptions of each value on the scale:
  • 0 – Complete absence of pain; this is the most ideal level.
  • 1 – This is more a matter of slight discomfort than pain; it is similar to getting bit by a mosquito at the beach.
  • 2 – At this level, pain is noticeable but very minor and can be easily forgotten.
  • 3 – This is sharp but manageable pain that does not last for too long.
  • 4 – The difference between levels three and four is the level of distress. Toothaches are often rated at this level.
  • 5 – An example of pain at this level would be an ankle sprain that hurts each time a step is taken. 
  • 6 – Some of the worst tension headaches are graded at this level, which involves the feeling of a painful force piercing the body.
  • 7 – This is where migraine and cluster headaches typically start. Very intense pain at this level is often debilitating to the point of not allowing patients to think clearly. 
  • 8 – Women who have experienced childbirth know all about this extremely intense pain, which may lead to personality disorder if it goes on untreated. 
  • 9 – Throat cancer is one of the most unbearable disease conditions that can befall a person, and it is often rated at this pain level.
  • 10 – At this level, the pain is so overwhelming that people lose consciousness or go in and out of shock.

Migraine sufferers often rate their episodes at seven on the comparative scale above. The intensity of their pain can be exacerbated by strong feelings of nausea and be rated at eight or nine. Few patients manage to stay conscious long enough to describe the feeling of pain rated at 10 on the comparative scale. 

Another self-reporting instrument is the neuropathic pain scale, which also ranges from 0 to 10 and adds pain descriptors such as levels of sharpness, itchiness and warmth. This scale also differentiates between constant, background, flaring, and occasional pain.

*Image courtesy of

migraine diary

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