The acronym SOCRATES can be used as a systematic method of assessment to complaints of pain.
Site – Where is the pain located?
Onset – When did it start and how? Gradual, intermittent, rapid, etc.
Character – Describe the pain (stabbing, dull, tight, sore, etc.).
Radiation – Does the pain spread into other areas?
Associated symptoms – Nausea, vomiting, jaundice, etc.
Timing – Does it occur after specific activities or actions?
Exacerbating or relieving factors – What makes it worse? Breathing, moving, sitting, etc.
Surgical history – Previous surgeries or interventions?
Oxford American Handbook of Surgery
Edited by David L. Berger, MD with Greg McLatchie, Neil Borley, & Joanna Chikwe
Oxford University Press, 2009.