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Learning About a Pain Diary

What is a pain diary?

When you have pain, you may not be able to sleep. You may have trouble thinking. Pain can make it hard for you to do your day-to-day activities, such as go to work.

A pain diary is a written record that helps you keep track of when you have pain, how bad it is, and whether your treatment is helping. Keeping a diary gives you clues about your pain—when it happens, what causes it, and what makes it better or worse.

How do you use a pain diary?

Use the pain diary to write down the time and date of your pain episodes.

The diary helps you identify the type of pain you have by using a pain scale. The pain scale starts at 0 and ends at 10. In this scale, 0 is no pain, and 10 is the worst pain you've ever known. For example, if you have a "2" on the scale, your pain may be minor with sharp pain now and then, but it doesn't impact your ability to do things. If you have an "8" on the scale, you may have very strong pain that makes it hard to do anything.

The diary also helps you track:

  • Any pain medicine you take and how much.
  • Side effects of your pain medicine.
  • Anything you did, ate, or drank that might have made the pain better.
  • Anything you did, ate, or drank that might have made the pain worse.

What are the benefits of using a pain diary?

Used over time, a pain diary can help you and your doctor understand the kinds of things that make your pain better or worse.

Here are some things to think about while you are using your pain diary:

  • Where is the pain located? Is it throbbing, sharp, tingling, shooting, or burning? Is it constant, or does it come and go?
  • Does the pain change at different times of day? When?
  • Does the pain get worse before or after meals?
  • Does the pain get better or worse with activity? What kind of activity?
  • Does the pain keep you from falling asleep at night? Does pain wake you up in the night?

How long do you keep a pain diary?

Your doctor will have you track your pain using the diary for a week or more. Then the two of you will meet to talk about what you have written in the diary. Your doctor may adjust pain medicine or suggest other treatments to try. After these changes are made, you may use the pain diary for another week, or longer if your doctor suggests, to track your pain and whether the new treatment is helping.

The diary is a tool that can help you and your doctor find out what works best to manage pain. You will use it as long as you both find it helpful.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.