What to Keep in Your Pain Diary

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  1. Your pain level.
    Keep track of: where your pain falls on a scale of 0 to 10. If 0 is no pain at all and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine, decide where your pain falls. Mark down what number you hit during different parts of the day. This will help your doctor look for patterns that might help him or her better target your treatment. For instance, if your pain tends to spike in the evening and you take your medication in the morning, your medication may not be lasting long enough and you may need to take smaller doses more often.
  2. What medication you took and its effect.
    Keep track of: how much medication you are taking, when you take it, whether it provides you any relief, and if you experience any side effects. This information will give your doctor an understanding of the magnitude of your pain and help him or her decide whether you need to try a new medication or switch from over-the-counter drugs to prescription meds. Finally, your doctor can make sure that you are not combining medications that could have a bad interaction.
  3. Other treatments you tried.
    Keep track of: any non-drug therapies that you use to control the pain and whether they help. Did your back feel better or worse after your yoga class? Were you headache-free on a day you visited the acupuncturist? Did taking five minutes at the end of your day to relax and release tension help you sleep with a little less pain? This kind of information will help you see what really lessens your pain and help your doctor get closer to the source of it.
  4. Anything else that relieved pain or made it worse.
    Keep track of: any big changes that seemed to impact your pain. Did driving for four hours to your in-laws cause your sciatica to flare? When you were in meetings all day and not at your desk, did your lower back feel better than normal? Did those two glasses of red wine precede one of your worst migraines ever? Noticing the small changes in your daily routine that have big impacts on your pain can help you make choices to keep the pain in check.
  5. Moments you are grateful for.
    Keep track of: pain-free moments too. Keeping a pain diary can help you and your doctor create a plan to reduce pain and make you more comfortable. But focusing too much on your pain can inadvertently worsen it. Try to set aside a specific time a few times a week, so that you don't spend every day obsessing about it. And remember to mark down a few good moments to remind you to stay in touch with all the other parts of your life too.
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Last Updated: April 15, 2008

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