How to Keep Track of Chronic Pain

April 16, 2021

keeping track of chronic painChronic pain can be tricky, partly because there are so many factors that might make it better or worse. Stress, lack of sleep, what you eat, or even the weather may have an impact. But if you don’t pay attention to these things and keep track of what happens when, you probably won’t be able to utilize this information in a way that can actually help you and your chronic pain. 

So how can you keep up with it all? With a pain journal! This log is a way you can track the everyday things that have an impact on your pain. When you understand what makes your pain worse, you can begin to work on ways to make it better. 

How to Keep Track of Chronic Pain

Whether you’ve been battling chronic pain for years or you’re just beginning to deal with it, a pain journal can help you document what you are feeling from day to day. Your pain journal is where you write down everything relating to your chronic pain, including what kind of pain you have, what level of pain you are experiencing, what you were doing when you were in pain, and more.

This information is useful for you but also for your doctor. It can help us greatly at Southside Pain Specialists by allowing us to identify patterns of pain, such as time of day or level of stress, or pain triggers from certain activities. It can also be a helpful tool when you can’t remember exactly what happened at certain times or on certain days. It’s a great reference in many ways. 

While everyone will use their pain journal a little differently, here are some things we advise our patients to keep track of, daily, if possible. 

  • Pain scale rating — Most pain scales use the 0-10 rating system, with 0 representing no pain and 10 representing the worst imaginable pain. Your pain will usually fall somewhere in between.
  • Descriptive words for your pain — Consider using words such as burning, tingling, throbbing, aching, or pulsating. This will help you keep track of any changes you may experience, and it can help us as your doctors, pinpoint what type of pain you are experiencing. 
  • Time of day —  Do you hurt more in the morning or the evening? What about in the afternoon or late at night?
  • What you are doing — If you start to hurt as soon as you get out of bed or when you stand up after sitting for a long period of time, that’s important to note. Or maybe you had been exercising or overusing certain muscles. Write down how you feel after activities, such as walking the dog or playing with the kids.
  • Elements that might make pain worse — This may include environmental factors, such as the weather. Is your pain worse when it’s raining or very cold?
  • What you eat and drink — Foods and beverages may contribute to or worsen pain. Especially if you feel really bad or if you feel really good, make notes of what you ate and drank on those days. You may find patterns you want to repeat or avoid.
  • Your mood — Your mental state can also play a big part. Are you depressed, anxious, tired, stressed? Your pain could be triggering those feelings, so working with a mental health professional may be advisable. 

For some people, using a journal or notebook works the best. They write observations down with pen and paper. For others, a pain tracker app may work better. Here are several suggestions from the U.S. Pain Foundation.

Remember that with any option you choose, don’t turn it into a chore. You don’t have to make a note every time you feel pain. That could be an overwhelming and stressful task, which will defeat the purpose. It often works to aim for one to three entries per day, around the same time for each. Maybe morning, noon, and bedtime, for example. Once you have established a pain journal, be sure to bring it to appointments so that your doctor can also benefit from your hard work.

Start your pain management journey by scheduling an appointment at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.