Medical responders often use mnemonics to help them perform various parts of their job, like assessing patients and diagnosing problems. SOCRATES for pain assessment is one of these medical mnemonics.

The SOCRATES acronym works as an effective and easy way to remember the questions that you need to ask a patient who is in pain.

What does the SOCRATES first aid acronym stand for?

With this quick and easy to understand table from Wikipedia, you can see the meaning of every letter!

LetterAspectExample Questions
SSiteWhere is the pain? Or the maximal site of the pain.
OOnsetWhen did the pain start, and was it sudden or gradual? Include also whether it is progressive or regressive.
CCharacterWhat is the pain like? An ache? Stabbing?
RRadiationDoes the pain radiate anywhere?
AAssociationsAny other signs or symptoms associated with the pain?
TTime courseDoes the pain follow any pattern?
EExacerbating / relieving factorsDoes anything change the pain?
SSeverityHow bad is the pain?

Why do responders use this mnemonic?

Emergency responders of all kinds – whether they’re nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc – will be encountering people in pain very regularly. So, the SOCRATES mnemonic is very useful for them.

It helps to evaluate the kind of pain that the person they’re treating is dealing with. Once they understand their patient’s pain, they can formulate a plan for treating it properly.

Are there any drawbacks to the SOCRATES first-aid acronym?

It has been criticized for only focusing on the physical effects of pain, overlooking the social and emotional aspects of it.