The average painstik measures three 'ujmey in length, which comes out to slightly more than one meter. When activated, the painstik delivers a jolt of electricity from its tip which is powerful enough to cause severe pain to Klingons, Humans and members of many other humanoid species. (ST reference: Klingon for the Galactic Traveler; SkyBox trading card S32)
The painstik is part of a Klingon expression which stresses the importance of adhering to the particulars of any procedure, regardless of how painful it may be: 'oy'naQ Dalo'be'chugh not nenghep lop puq. ("If you don't use the painstik, the child will never celebrate his Age of Ascension."). (ST reference: The Klingon Way)
Painstiks played an important role in the Rite of Ascension ceremony, in which a Klingon who has reached the age of 13 begins the process to become a warrior. In this ceremony, the youth will walk between two rows of Klingons, who will each strike the youth with painstiks. At the 10th anniversary of a Klingon's participation in the Rite of Ascension, a similar ceremony takes place. (TNG episodes: "Firstborn", "The Icarus Factor")
After the death of a Chancellor of the High Council of the Klingon Empire, the Sonchi ceremony is held to verify the chancellor's death. In this ceremony, the deceased is struck by the Arbiter of Succession and the two strongest candidates to succeed the deceased Chancellor. Since the pain inflicted by such a device is such that it's guaranteed to provoke a reaction, a lack of reaction is considered to be a sign of death. If the deceased does not respond, the declaration of Sonchi, or He is Dead is then given. (TNG episode: "Reunion")
- TNG episode: "The Icarus Factor"
- TNG episode: "Reunion"
- ST reference: The Klingon Dictionary
- TNG episode: "Parallels" (referenced only)
- TNG episode: "Firstborn" (referenced only)
- ST reference: The Klingon Way
- TNG novel: Kahless (referenced only)
- ST reference: Klingon for the Galactic Traveler
- VOY episode: "Day of Honor"
- VOY episode: "Night" (referenced only)
- VOY episode: "Course: Oblivion" (referenced only)
- ENT episode: "Judgment"
- TLE novel: The Art of the Impossible
- VAN novel: Reap the Whirlwind (referenced only)
- KE novel: A Burning House
- VAN novel: Precipice
- ST novella: The Unhappy Ones