How to keep a pain diary
Chronic pain conditions are often hard to diagnose. Your symptoms may come and go, and you might be struggling to explain what you’re feeling. It can all be very frustrating.
A pain diary could help you and your doctor figure out what’s going on.
Showing your doctor a comprehensive diary of your pain levels and any lifestyle changes that might be affecting your pain can help your doctor spot triggers for a flare-up or understand what’s working (and what needs tweaking).
And if you’re trying a new medication, changing your lifestyle or trying alternative therapies, keeping a pain diary will help you track what therapies are most effective.
How to use a basic pain diary
Recording every twinge could become far too time-consuming. Instead, most doctors suggest you make three entries into your diary around the same time each day. Each entry should contain:
- The date and time
- Where you felt the pain (be specific)
- Where on the pain scale your pain lies
- How long the pain lasted, and whether it stopped you from doing an activity
- What you were doing before the pain started
- What, if anything, helped relieve your pain
- Any lifestyle or emotional factors that might have affected your pain
- Any changes to the timing, dosage or type of medication you’re using
It’s important to be consistent when keeping your diary to give your doctor the full picture. You should always rate your pain and make an entry – even if you’re busy or not in much pain that day.
Describing your pain
Using vague terms will make it hard for your doctor to get to the bottom of things. Try using specific and descriptive words, like ‘stabbing’, ‘throbbing’, ‘burning’, ‘tingling’, ‘pulsating’, ‘shooting’, ‘pounding’ and ‘aching’, to help your doctor understand what type of pain you might be experiencing.
Using a pain scale can also help you measure and track your pain. There are lots of different types of scales, so find one that makes sense for you. The more often you log your pain scale entries, the more you’ll get used to the idea of measuring your pain in this way.
Lifestyle factors to record in your pain diary
So many factors can influence your pain or contribute to a flare-up, so consider these when you’re recording information in your pain dairy:
- Your diet
- How much sleep you’re getting, and the quality of your sleep
- How positive or stressed you are
- What exercise you’ve been doing, and how active you are on a daily basis
- Any alternative therapies you’re been trying, like massage, meditation, acupuncture or any herbal supplements you’ve been trying
Use an app
Apps can make tracking your pain a lot easier, as they do most of the organizing for you. Apps designed for chronic pain sufferers are popular with lots of people. Pain apps are great for helping you log all the right information, and many can even spot patterns – although there is no replacement for a doctor’s opinion.
Pain and your mood are also closely related. If you’re interested in tracking your mood and learning to be more self-aware about your emotions, a mood app could help.
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