A study was undertaken to investigate if the concepts pain, ache and hurt differ from each other in intensity and quality and to identify discriminating semantic correlates for each of these concepts. Forty-one nurses with different backgrounds in nursing and 12 patients with chronic pain syndrome were included in the study. The methods used were a questionnaire, the visual analogue scale (VAS) and the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ).
There was a statistically significant difference in the intensity of the words pain, ache and hurt on both the VAS and the MPQ. Pain was shown to have the highest intensity, followed by ache with hurt having the lowest. Semantic correlates consisting of sensory and affective words which best discriminate between the concepts pain, ache and hurt were identified. Semantic correlates for pain were: cutting, crushing, tearing, sharp, dreadful, killing, torturing and suffocating: for ache were: aching, pulling, gnawing, irritating, annoying, troublesome, exhausting, unbearable and terrifying; for hurt were: pricking, pinching, stinging, sore, fearful, unhappy.