Writing a pain journal can help your doctor understand your pain and provide the best treatment.
Seeing a doctor is the first step toward living life without pain. You may be on medications or other treatments, and they may be falling short. If this is the case, it is likely your doctor doesn’t fully understand when you are experiencing pain, how it is occurring, and to what degree it is affecting you. There is only so much that can be expressed in a few minutes at the office, and it’s nearly impossible to cover your life’s daily ailments in those few minutes. Your doctor may suggest that you keep a pain journal, or you can take the initiative on your own. This may help your doctor figure out what is causing your pain and when it is most likely to bother you. Only when you record what you do everyday and how your pain affects you will your doctor be in the best position to treat you. That being said, be vigilant in jotting down the right information at the right times.
Knowing how to keep an effective journal is crucial to moving forward in your treatment, but your doctor may not explain it completely. In following these guidelines you can be confident that you are showing your pain who’s the boss.
Buy a new notebook
Use it just for pain entries, no shopping lists
Take about 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to write everything down
Try not to get obsessed with your pain
Bring your journal to every doctor appointment
Include each of these items everyday:
What did you do? Write about what you did that day and note the duration of each activity. If you exercised, describe what exercises you did. This can help to localize your pain. If you were at work, describe your duties. Were you at your desk all day, or were you lifting boxes? This can help to pinpoint occupational hazards that might be attributing to your discomfort. Were you sitting on the couch watching TV for half the day?
When did you feel pain? For each activity you took part in, note if you felt any pain. Some things you do will cause pain, and some things won’t. Your doctor needs to know which activities give you the most trouble.
Rate your pain. You get this question whenever you go to the doctor or hospital, so chances are, you know how to rate your pain. Use the pain scale for each entry. Don’t leave out how you felt when you woke up in the morning and throughout the night.
Describe the pain. After rating your pain, be more specific. Where was the pain on your body? Was it throbbing? Stabbing? Dull? How long did the pain last? Did your next activity help or make it worse?
Talk about your medications. When you felt the pain, did you take any medication? What did you take? When did you take it, and how much? Did it make you feel better, and if so, how much pain did it relieve? What side effects did you notice? Include over the counter medications like aspirin or cough syrup.