- Rate your pain on the pain scale at different times of the day.
- Indicate whether your pain interrupts daily activities like walking, working, or sleeping.
- Note what meds you took, when you took them, how much relief they provided, and for how long.
- Describe other treatments you may have tried (yoga, herbal remedies, nonprescription drugs), and whether they provided any relief.
- Note any side effects of pain medicine.
- Keep track of anything that makes the pain improve (better when you are sitting instead of standing, better after a hot shower, etc.)
You may notice some unusual connections. The stress of making dinner in the evening may cause that stabbing pain to return, or an argument with your daughter may make your back hurt more than usual.
Cooper does warn, however, of the danger of focusing so much on your pain that you obsessively fill in an entry every hour of the day. "That can backfire," she says, because "we all know that focusing on something that's bothering us will make it worse."
The not-for-profit American Pain Foundation has an excellent pain notebook that you can download for free. Also check out our print-and-carry list of what to keep in your pain diary.