Instructions detailing the use of the numeric rating scale (NRS) to assess pain intensity for persons able to self report:

Purpose: To assess pain intensity in persons who are able to self report.1

When to use:Physical Therapy

  • At initial intake/admission to services
  • For an older adult in pain, assess at least every 8 hours an older adult in pain
  • Any time a change in pain status is reported
  • One hour following a pain intervention to assess effectiveness
  • For older adults residing in long term health care settings, assessments should be completed at each quarterly review

How to use: Ask individual to point to the number on the Numeric Rating Scale that best represents the intensity of their pain NOW.

Documentation: Document/record all scores in a location that is readily accessible by others on the health care team.

Note: To use as a pocket guide, print the NRS and directions document front to back on card stock paper to create two tools. Cut to size and laminate for increased durability.

1 Self-report of pain is defined as the ability to indicate presence and/or severity of pain verbally, in writing, or by other means such as finger span, pointing, head movement, or blinking eyes to answer yes or no questions.

PDF iconNRS Instruction - PDF Version