Keeping a Pain Diary

by Karen Lee Richards, ChronicPainConnection Expert

You may have noticed that I sometimes recommend keeping a pain diary.  Basically a pain diary is a daily log that tracks your pain intensity as well as medications, therapies and other activities that may impact your pain.

The pain diary can be a very useful tool in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain.  There are a number of different reasons for keeping a pain diary:

  Diagnosis – Charting when and where your pain occurs, how badly it hurts and what makes the pain worse can help your doctor pinpoint the source of your problem.

  Treatment – A pain diary is an excellent way of tracking the effectiveness of a new medication or therapy.

  Triggers – A pain diary can help both you and your doctor identify activities and stressors that may trigger or increase your pain.

  Credibility – If you're willing to take the time and go to the trouble of charting your pain, your doctor will usually be more apt to take your pain seriously. 

It's not necessary, or even desirable, to keep a pain diary every day of your life from now on.  Once you have an accurate diagnosis and are established on a treatment plan that is working for you, you can set the pain diary aside.  You may want to try keeping it for a week every few months just to get a picture of your overall progress.  But if you develop new symptoms, start having an increase in pain or try a new medication or therapy, it would be a good idea to keep the diary again until the new issues are resolved. 

There are a variety of different formats that can be used when keeping a pain diary.  I have designed a Daily Pain Log that is easy to use and gives you a visual picture of your pain levels and the things that increase or decrease the intensity of your pain.  You can download and print it out here:  Daily Pain Log

Be sure to take your pain diary or pain log with you when you see your doctor. 

Using the Daily Pain Log

  Pain Level – Record your pain level at somewhat regular intervals throughout the day.  It's not necessary to record it every hour, but be sure you're not just noting it when your pain is at its worst.  It's important to see both the highs and lows for the day.  For each time that you are recording, put a dot on the chart to indicate the intensity of your pain on a scale of 0 – 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine.  For help in understanding the pain scale and descriptions of what the different numbers mean, read:  Using the Pain Scale Effectively  At the end of the day, connect the dots and you will have a graph of your pain levels for the day.

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