What does PQRST stand for in first aid?

PQRST is a really useful first aid mnemonic to use when assessing pain. At firstaidforfree.com we love our first aid mnemonics and we’ve tried to compile a list of the best first aid mnemonics around. In this blog post we’re going into more detail about PQRST and how to use it to assess pain as a first aider.

So PQRST is used to assess pain, but what does it stand for? 


What provokes the pain? Do certain activities / movements bring on the pain or make it worse?

eg: Shoulder pain which is worse on movement may indicate musculoskeletal damage. 


Quality is a rather odd word, don’t ask your patient what the quality of their pain is! 

Instead ask the patient to describe their pain. We want to know what type of pain they are experiencing, is it sharp? dull? a feeling of pressure? shooting? 

Radiation / region

Pain can ‘radiate’ which means it is experienced in another anatomical site. For example, cardiac chest pain can radiate to the jaw, back or arms. It is also useful to know the exact region the pain is located in. 


We want to know how much pain the patient is in! There are lots of pain scales used in clinical practice. A simple one is the 0 – 10 scale where the patient rates their pain out of 10 with a score of 10 being the “worse pain imaginable”.

There are scores available for children as well such as the Wong-Baker Faces rating scale (below)

Wong Baker Faces


Knowing the time course of the pain is important. Did it come on suddenly or over time? How long has the pain been going on for? Is it there all the time or does it come and go? 

Try to gain as much information about timing of pain as possible.


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John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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