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Should I Keep a Pain Journal?

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Updated January 06, 2010

Question: Should I Keep a Pain Journal?
Answer: Keeping a pain journal is a worthwhile way to learn how best to manage your pain.

A pain journal is where you write down everything relating to your chronic pain -- what kind of pain you have, what level of pain you are experiencing, what you were doing when you were in pain and so on.

What exactly do you log in a pain journal? Everybody uses their journal differently, but most practitioners advise including the following:

  • Pain scale rating -- Most pain scales use the 0-10 rating system, with 0 representing no pain and 10 representing the worst imaginable pain. Your pain will usually fall somewhere in between.

  • Pain descriptor words -- Is your pain burning? Tingling? Pulsating? Using pain descriptor words in your journal can help you track changes and patterns in your pain quality. It can also help doctors pinpoint your type of pain.

  • Time of day -- Do you hurt more in the morning or the evening? How are your afternoons?

  • What you are doing when your pain begins -- Did you just get out of bed, or had you been sitting for awhile when your pain started? Write down how you feel after activities, such as walking the dog or playing with the kids, as well.

This information is useful both for you and your doctor. It can be turned to to help identify patterns of pain, such as time of day or level of stress, or pain triggers, such as certain activities. A pain journal can also show what doesn’t increase your pain, which can help you make better decisions about how you spend your day. At the very least, it can be a good reference when memory doesn't serve you (for example, if you're not sure how to answer when your doctor asks if your pain is worse after lunch).

Don’t feel restricted to the categories above. You can also include what you eat, what you drink and how you feel mentally when you are in pain.

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