Sometimes, the events of the day can be just a little too much. This is especially true for people with chronic pain. This is where pain journaling comes in.
A pain journal is a place to record your chronic pain symptoms and events of your daily life. For example, you might write about your persistent back pain that gets worse when you stand for several hours in a day.
Why Should You Start a Pain Journal?
If you’re dealing with chronic pain, you might also have a dedicated mental health professional. While services like this can do a lot of good, you may not be able to get daily care. Thankfully, pain journaling offers an alternative.
Keeping up a pain journal lets you get that daily outlet for your emotions. As you write, you will unpack the events of your day to process and work through them. As an added bonus, this can be a great tool when you go to the doctor’s office.
Remembering every detail of your pain can be a big challenge when pain becomes your “normal.” For that reason, tracking your symptoms in a pain journal can be a great way to explain your pain symptoms for your doctor.
How Do You Start a Pain Journal?
When starting a pain journal, you should try to journal every day (if possible) and include the following information:
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.
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. Make sure to include 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 pain medications like aspirin.
What Other Pain Remedies Did You Use?
Did you use a heating pad or muscle cream? Did you wear a brace or use crutches? List any/all of these at-home pain remedies, and note what did or didn’t work.
Did Your Pain Limit Your Activities?
Was there anything throughout the course of that day you didn’t accomplish as a result of the pain you experienced? Were you supposed to go grocery shopping? Did you call in sick to work? Write it all down.
Reflect on Your Day
Talk about your day as a whole. Was it an easy day or a rough day? How did you feel emotionally? Is there anything you didn’t mention that your doctor should know? This is essential in order to gauge your overall well-being. While you may have pain that rates at a 3 or 4, you may still feel like it was a difficult day. Let your doctor know how each day impacted your overall life.
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The team at Pain Resource updated this article with new information in October, 2019.