With the new year just around the corner, now might be as good a time as any for chronic pain sufferers to start keeping a pain diary.
Pain is not always easy to talk about. It can often be misunderstood by friends and family. Because the pain is an invisible entity, it can be hard to describe it to someone who does not face your pain on a daily basis. A pain diary is used to create a picture of the pain, making it easier to understand and also helping to uncover useful information that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Pain is often described as a number ranging from the least amount of pain, to the worst pain. These numbers are used to create a picture or a map of the pain. A pain diary uses the same concept, giving as much detail to the pain as possible to create a larger, more descriptive picture of the once invisible pain.
A pain diary can help by allowing you to see and understand your pain patterns and triggers. Over time you can observe which medications and therapies offer you the most pain relief. You can also see how your environment around you affects your pain. Changes in season, amount of natural daylight and even stressful situations can all be pain triggers that go unnoticed because of our busy lifestyles. Diet and activity can also be factors affecting your pain. By using a pain diary, you will begin to notice the patterns and triggers that you maybe hadn’t noticed before, allowing you to make changes to better manage your chronic pain.
Another important benefit of keeping a pain diary is that you are better equipped to communicate with your doctor because you have now become an expert in your own pain. You can offer your doctor vital information about your pain that you may not have had before, maximizing your treatment plan and your overall pain management.
Keeping a pain diary does not need to be complicated. These are the key points that should be included in your log:
- The date and timeline
- What activities have you been doing since your last diary entry?
- What were you doing when the pain started?
- Where exactly on your body did you feel the pain?
- How often did you feel the pain or for how long did the pain last?
- How intense was the pain from 1- mild to 10- severe?
- Did the pain stop you from doing an activity? (walking, cooking, working, sleeping)
- What medication did you take and at what time? Did they give you any relief?
- Was there anything else that you did that helped with the pain?
- What emotions were you dealing with when the pain started? How did you feel after the pain eased?
Use these questions and try to keep your entries as frequent as possible to get the full benefit of a pain diary. With time, you will start to better understand your pain and you will be better equipped to manage it.