In the Workers’ Compensation System, Doctors and Medical Evaluators ask Injured Workers to fill out various scales and questionnaires. One of these scales is the Visual Analog Pain Scale (VAPS.)

Scales and questionnaires can impact an Injured Worker’s ability to get treatment and disability payments. Therefore, Injured Worker should understand how to answer them properly.

This article will discuss the Visual Analog Pain Scale(VAPS), how the VAPS is administered, how VAPS is to be answered, how VAPS is graded, and how VAPS can be used within the workers’ compensation setting.

What is VAPS? What Is it Designed to Measure?

The Visual Analog Pain Scale is “a unidimensional measure of pain intensity, which is utilized in diverse adult populations.”  Measure of adult pain: Visual Analog Scale for Pain (VAS Pain), Numeric Rating Scale for Pain (NRS Pain), McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ), Chronic Pain Grade Scale (CPGS), Short Form-36 Bodily Pain Scale (SF-36 BPS), and Measure of Intermittent and Constant Osteoarthritis Pain (ICOAP) Gillian A. Hawker, Samra Mian, Tetyana Kendzerska Melissa French 07 November 2011 https: //

The VAPS is intended to explore the issue of pain.

What Does VAPS Look Like?

The VAP Scale can be set up either horizontally or vertically. Supra.

This is an example of a scale:    0 “no pain”   |————————————————–| 100 “worst imaginable pain.”

How Many Questions Are There in VAPS?

One. It is the simple answering of one’s pain level.  This is done by marking a spot on the spectrum to describe the pain. Supra.  The spot can be measured and assigned a number.  See below.  Some scales allow for the patient to assign a number.

How is the Score Interpreted?

“A higher score indicates greater pain intensity. Based on the distribution of pain VAS scores in post surgical patients (knee replacement, hysterectomy, or laparoscopic myomectomy) who described there postoperative pain intensity as none, mild, moderate, or severe, the following cut points on the pain VAS have been recommended: no pain (0-4mm), mild pain (5-44mm), moderate pain (45-74 mm) , and severe pain (75-100 mm) ” Supra.

Why Are These Terms important?

In workers’ compensation, the evaluators look at pain. Pain is often characterized by the terms of slight, moderate or severe.

The definitions for slight, moderate and severe are different in the field of industrial medicine. California used to use them to assign permanent disability.  In order to do so, they defined the terms.  The 1997 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule defined the terms as follows: “Pain is not always disabling. It becomes disabling when its degree affects function. Regulations define four degrees of subjective pain – minimal, slight, moderate and severe. By definition, minimal (mild) pain is not disabling because it causes no handicap in the activity precipitating the pain. However, slight, moderate and severe pain reflect increasingly greater degrees of handicap on work activity, and are ratable factors of disability.” P.1-7.  While these terms are no longer used for permanent disability purposes, they are frequently documented in medical reports.

Pain’s nature and extent, in certain circumstances, can be a factor in assessing whole person impairment. Whole person impairment is then translated into permanent disability.

How Can Testing Impact Injured Workers’ Claims?

Testing creates credibility issues.  When an Injured Worker provides a 100 score, it means either that they are in severe pain, they are exaggerating, or that they are making a cry for help.  In cases with minor injuries, high scores will impact the credibility of the pain reporting.

Also, an injured Worker may wish to ask how the question should be answered. Pain level when medicated or pain level during a certain period of time, i.e. this moment or this week, are legitimate questions.

What Is the Problem with this VAP Scale?

Pain assessments can be confounded with respect to an individual’s “pain reference.”

Some individuals have never experienced severe pain in their life.  For women who have experienced childbirth and for those who have passed a kidney stone, their pain references, however, can be in the severe range.  Thus, an individual’s past medical conditions is important to review as a reference.

It is quite conceivable that they have experienced pain in the 90s up to 100.   Some individuals also have strong pain tolerances.  A 70 to them would be a 95 to others Thus, these individual’s reporting may only be relevant when compared to other  assigned scores provided on different dates of evaluation or treatment.

How Should an Injured Worker Answer the VAPS?

An Injured Worker should make their best effort to accurately describe their pain.

If there is any confusion concerning how to answer or mark the scale, you should clarify with the evaluator. For instance, you could be a 50 on medications and a 70 without.  Thus, it is important that the doctor or evaluator understand your reason for assigning a particular level of pain.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

9.3Edward Jay Singer
Edward Jay SingerReviewsout of 22 reviews