Living with Chronic Pain

The Benefits of Journaling


Chronic pain often causes feelings of frustration, anxiety, depression and isolation. Journaling is a great way to keep track of chronic pain symptoms, emotions, triggers and experiences. While a pain journal is helpful to share with health care professionals, mood or emotional journaling helps release negative thoughts. Journaling helps individuals with chronic pain identify stress triggers and specific activities that may trigger heightened pain episodes.

Mood journal

Mood journaling often helps reduce anxiety and depression by providing an outlet to release feelings and emotions. Trends can be recognized and triggers avoided. Learning healthy coping mechanisms and self-care can decrease stress responses to negative emotions, resulting in lower levels of pain.

Tips for mood journaling
  • Write regularly and honestly.
  • Find a quiet and relaxing place to write about emotions and frustrations.
  • Include positive experiences and feelings, too.
  • Limit journaling time to 20 minutes per day.
  • Keep the journal near the bed or another convenient location.
  • Use a computer or tablet if writing by hand is difficult.
  • Record feelings and thoughts while trying to identify the root of the issue.
  • Journal at the end of the day.

Mood journaling can help individuals take control of thoughts and worries and put them in perspective. Negative moods should not be the only focus; positive moods should also be included. Positive gratitude statements help retrain the brain to positive self-talk. Reflection upon a mood journal can provide reassurance that things are improving or can indicate that things are worsening and help is needed.

Pain journal

Pain journals often contain important insight. A pain journal provides valuable information concerning an individual’s specific chronic pain condition which can help health care providers individualize a pain management plan. Pain journaling can also help individuals gain a sense of control over their chronic pain condition.

Tips for pain journaling
  • Use the 0-10 rating system in daily entries.
  • Use descriptive words of the pain experienced, such as burning, pulsating, throbbing, aching or tingling.
  • Record the time of day heightened pain occurs.
  • Note external factors, such as cooler temperatures or rain.
  • Include the location of pain.
  • List any non-medical therapies used to control pain, such as a warm shower, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy or exercise, and the effectiveness of these treatments.
  • Include medication schedules and any side effects experienced.
  • Document the duration, frequency and intensity of pain episodes.
  • Note eating and drinking habits and their effect on pain levels.
  • Include any experienced emotions in the journal.
  • Note if pain interrupted daily activities, such as walking, sleeping, exercising or working.

It is important to note that journaling does not need to be done every time pain is felt; this can become overwhelming and tiresome and should be avoided. It can also increase pain awareness, unintentionally increasing pain levels.

The PainScale app includes features that can be used for both types of journaling. The “note” feature can be used to write, take pictures, and video or audio record anything an individual would like to document. PainScale also offers a pain log and a food log.

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