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OCTOBER 30, 2010     More: ONLINE POLL 

Fancier, yes. Better? You be the judge

Wong-Baker Pain ScaleThe standard Wong-Baker Pain Rating Scale in my doctor's office looks like this: simple smiley/frowny faces, In smiley face yellow.

It seems that not everyone seems is happy with this approach. They've tried to improve the chart by adding color, 3-D effects, and other graphic trimmings.

Take a look at a couple of "new, improved" pain scales below, and let me know if you think they are easier to read or more understandable than the original.

3D version of Wong-Baker NewPain Rating ScaleIn this version the yellow faces have shading and shadows to give them a 3D look.

Rather than being at the same height, they are placed higher and higher based on their 0-10 rating.

Color bars below the scale combine with words to explain the faces.

Notice that instead of labels like "Hurts a little bit" and "Hurts more", the words have been changed to "Mild Symptoms," "Moderate Symptoms," etc.

Wong-Baker Pain scale variation - colorsThis version adds more words to describe the pain and the facial expressions.

It also colors the faces and the number bar above to indicate pain levels. Note that the colors, except for red, differ from those used in the chart above.

Better or worse?

You've seen two variations on the original that add more visual design elements. Do they make the chart easier to use or understand? Keep in mind that the primary purpose of the chart is to give the patient a way to describe his/her pain to the doctor.

Vote for your favorite in this highly unscientific poll:

Which pain chart is best?
   The original
   The 3D look
   The multi-color look

StatPac Online Survey

A little history

I originally wrote about the Wong-Baker pain chart after a visit to my doctor in February 2008. Since then—to my complete surprise—the article has been by far the most popular of more than 1,000 pages on this site. In fact it's gotten nearly three times the pageviews of the second-place page (which includes an Etch-A-Sketch portrait of LeBron James).


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