What does SOCRATES stand for in first aid?

SOCRATES is a mnemonic which can be used by first aiders and healthcare professionals to assess pain

Pain is a complex symptom with lots of different dimensions and characteristics. Asking about and documenting a casualty’s pain can provide important clues to the underlying cause of the pain. 

SOCRATES is a good mnemonic for remembering the different questions to ask when presented with a casualty in pain.

In this first aid blog post we’ll go through each component of SOCRATES and provide some example questions which you can ask. 

Site

“where is the pain?” “can you point with one finger where the pain is?”

Establishing the exact site of the pain is important. This can sometimes be difficult! It is important however as “chest pain” or “back pain” are examples of poor pain description as these could mean different things to different people! 

Onset

SOCRATES first aid“when did the pain start?” “did it start suddenly?”

If the pain is intermittent try to establish the time when the pain started for the first time and how often the pain comes and goes.

Character

 “can you describe the pain to me?”

People may use a number of words to describe their pain: Ache, stabbing, sharp, crushing, burning etc.

Radiation

“does the pain move anywhere?”

If the pain is moving to another part of the body, where is this and is it constant?

Associated features

“apart from the pain, have you noticed any other symptoms or problems?”

Are there any associated signs/symptoms e.g. inability to weight bear or vomiting?

Time course

“since your pain started, has it been getting better, worse or staying the same?” 

How does the pain change or not over time? 

Exacerbating or Alleviating Factors

“does anything make the pain better or worse?”

Some pains may be improved or worsened with different positions?

Severity

“on a scale of 0-10 how bad is the pain with 10 being the worst pain imaginable?”

A pain score is intended to judge the severity of the pain that is being experienced. All patients with pain should have a pain score undertaken.

For adults and children who can understand, a simple scoring system is best starting from 0 for no pain to 10 which indicates the worst pain imaginable. The trend in the score is more valuable than the absolute value and the score should be repeated after any treatment. 

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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