Are you aware that a revised definition of pain was announced in 2020?

In July 2020, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) announced a revised definition of pain, with more focus on the patient experience.


The new definition describes pain as, ‘An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage’.1 It was the result of a two-year process by a group of international expert consultants, the public and the IASP Council. 


The aim of the new definition is to change the way healthcare professionals (e.g. doctors and nurses) and patients understand, treat and communicate about pain. There is more focus on what a person with pain is experiencing, such as how it impacts their work life or psychological well-being, rather than how it can be physically assessed by others, such as mobility tests and X-ray. By acknowledging the ‘invisible’ nature of pain, a healthcare professional can treat based on how a person describes their pain.


The My Pain Questionnaire has been developed to help people communicate how they experience their pain symptoms to a healthcare professional, to support the assessment and diagnosis of pain.


IASP have produced an infographic summary of the revised definition, which can be found here.



2020 revised definition of pain