Living with Chronic Pain
The Benefits of Maintaining a Pain Journal
Because chronic pain is often unpredictable and complex, physicians sometimes have difficulty accessing, diagnosing and treating chronic pain. Maintaining a pain journal helps individuals with chronic pain take note of changes in the frequency, severity and triggers of their pain. This information not only helps individuals better manage their pain, it also provides important information to share with health care providers in order to receive the best care possible.
Keeping a pain journal
Individuals should write down pain symptoms in a journal or calendar every day. Not only is it important to keep track of when pain occurs, it is also important to note when pain is absent. When pain is felt, using a scale to rate the pain is helpful. Physicians usually use a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable. Describing pain in detail (how it feels, when it happens, where it happens, etc.) is important. It is also essential to note what emotions arise on a daily basis. When pain medication is needed and taken it should also be documented. If any activities are avoided because of pain (climbing stairs, sitting for prolonged periods, etc.), those should be noted as well.
Sharing a pain journal
Maintaining and sharing a pain journal with a health care professional provides an individual a sense of control over their condition. A pain journal helps both the individual and their doctor(s) recognize pain patterns and trends that would otherwise go unnoticed. The following can be better understood by keeping a pain journal:
- Proper timing of medication(s)
- Precise dosage(s) of medication(s)
- Triggers (food, emotions, activities, etc.)
- Emotional responses
- Effectiveness of treatment(s)
By sharing a pain journal with a health care provider, pain can be effectively tracked over time and treatments can be tailored to meet an individual’s needs.