In the 1990s, the American Pain Society, a nonprofit organization of medical professionals with the stated goal of reducing pain-related suffering by advocating for changes in public policy, started pushing for pain to be treated as a “vital sign”—meaning that a person’s subjective assessment of their pain would be considered on even footing with heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing rate, four of the most meaningful measurements in all of medicine. By the 2000s, many electronic medical records reported pain scores next to the patients’ objectively measured vital signs.
“Pain Is a Problem. Opioids Are Not the Answer. How Did American Medicine Decide They Were?” at