The importance of cuing in the recall of pain

Jacqueline McKechnie, Eric E. Brodie

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


BackgroundPoorly managed pain is a problem of ‘major clinical significance’ (Sloman et al, 2005, p126). Therefore, educating allied health professionals to assess and treat pain adequately has to be of utmost importance, particularly for those who have a role in managing pain.
AimsThe aims were to ascertain if providing cues improves recall of previously experienced pain events and if those experiencing pain at the time of rating, recall more pain events with higher mean pain intensity, than those who have no pain.
MethodsAn experimental design was implemented where 100 females and 45 males with mean age 40.66 years (105 with no pain; 40 experiencing pain at time of study) reported pain events and their intensity, firstly without any cue, then cued by a list of common pain events.

OutcomesANOVA demonstrated significantly more pains were recalled when cued (5.06±.26) than free recall (2.78±.23) [F(1,137)=53.38,p<.001]; those in pain recalled significantly more pains (4.66±.44) than those without pain (3.38±.25) [F(1,137)=9.88,p=.002] and significantly greater mean pain intensity was recalled when cued for those experiencing pain (49.86±1.8) compared to those not in pain (39.75±1.25) at the time of rating {t=-2.85, df131, p =.012}. Cuing significantly increased the recall of pain events. This has important implications in the health setting. Allowing free recall may lead to significantly fewer painful events being recalled than when cues are provided. The experience of pain itself may act as a cue to stimulate recall of painful events. Eich et al (1985) found that patients experiencing higher levels of current pain, over-estimated recalled pain. Participants experiencing pain in this study, may have imagined the recalled pain to be more severe than was actually experienced. To improve accuracy of recall, it is suggested that specific and meaningful cues be provided to patients to help stimulate accurate recall of pain.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • pain
  • recall
  • cuing
  • pain management
  • health professionals
  • health professionals education


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