Pain – The 5th Vital Sign Measures by ECG Electrodes
Pain is one of the greatest epidemics in this country. Did you know that a third of adults have either chronic or acute pain at present? This is according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. This is nothing new, because prescription painkiller abuse has also long been a problem. Pain is indicative of an underlying condition. For instance, when a heart arrhythmia is measured with ECG electrodes, then it is likely that people will require some form of pain medication, as well as treatment for their underlying condition.
Understanding Pain Measured by ECG Electrodes
When you go to hospital, the first thing medical staff will do is measure your vital signs with different medical tools. These tools are incredibly important, telling doctors and nurses what someone’s blood pressure is, their temperature, their heartbeat rate, and their blood oxygenation. It even tells them whether someone is conscious or not. What it doesn’t tell them, however, is whether or not someone is in pain, but pain is an incredibly important measure.
The VA Hospital has started to look into what pain is, defining it as the ‘5th vital sign’, Currently there are only four vital signs, being respiratory rate, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. These measures are objective and exact. Pain, by contrast, is not an objective measure, but rather a personal and therefore subjective, experience. However, although it is subjective, it tells professionals a lot, which is why it is now being accepted as a vital sign. Additionally, some objective measures are known to always be accompanied by pain, such as issues picked up by ECG machines.
Currently, hospitals use the scale of 1 to 10 measurement to describe pain, or sad to happy faces for children. However, the guidelines for pain management were set up towards the end of the 1990s, and they haven’t really improved the situation very much. Consider that the US Food and Drug Administration approved OxyContin in 1995. That year, there were 800,000 prescriptions. By 2002, there were six million. And those numbers aren’t dropping.
Pain management doctors have earned a poor reputation. They have been held responsible for the tremendous rise in illegal prescription drug use, street crime, the black market, and the increasing need for rehab treatment facilities. In reality, however, the vast majority of physicians truly believe that they are delivering compassionate care, and they constantly have to balance the subjective experience of their patients with the objective measurements of their other vital signs. Doctors have taken the Hippocratic oath, meaning that they will not let anyone suffer unnecessarily. While there certainly have been some doctors who have purposefully prescribed unnecessary pain medication, they are few and far between.
There is, by now, a significant body of evidence to demonstrate too many painkillers are being prescribed. This is why doctors are now urged to take two measurements: the objective measurements of vital signs and the subjective measurement of personal experience. Put together, they should be able to determine whether the pain truly is bad enough for painkillers to be prescribed.