Measuring severity of pain/disability is useful  to monitor effectiveness for treatment. Main components of mesuring back-related disability are: pain evaluation, ambulation, sitting/standing, sleep disturbance, and back pain function.

Pain Evaluation

To plot out the causes and find oout what triggers the pain needs detailed data. Asking the patient to fill in their pain ratings at a regular time such as wake up, breakfast, lunch, evening meal and bedtime improves compliance.
All medications taken and the time they are taken should also be noted. For intermittent chronic pain syndromes, the onset and offset time of the pain, and its maximum pain score should be recorded. It is also useful to ask some of the pain sufferer to note activities and food and drink consumed in the 24 hours prior to the headache. Pain diaries can serve an important function in identifying food allergies, diurnal rhythms, external stressors and effectiveness of medication.


Getting the patient to do a timed 50 meters walk can act as a guide for physical therapy success. As they cope more effectively with pain the patients tend to decrease both their time and the number of their pain behaviors.


This is another useful method of following physical improvement, in low back pain patients. The number of times the patient can stand from a sitting position, preferably from a chair without arms, in two minutes is recorded. As physical function improves the number of repetitions the patient is able to perform increases and the number of pain behaviors decrease.

Sleep Disturbance

The National Sleep Foundation reports that 2/3 of chronic pain sufferers experience sleep problems. Difficulty in falling asleep, and number of awakenings because of pain and duration of sleep during a 24 hour period are all self report measures which should be asked. Improvements in sleep often correspond with improvements in pain and dysfunction. Early morning awakening may indicate significant depression.

Back Pain Function

The disability caused by back pain and progress with therapy can be assessed objectively by a number of measures.The dimensions measured in these instruments include pain, functional and pain-limiting activities. Below, a list of back-related scales used commonly.

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