Journaling: Keeping a Pain Journal

Many people with back pain are typically taking multiple medications at a time and are suffering from the psychological effects of their condition. By psychological effects, we mean that people are affected by the pain and disability related to their condition, on multiple levels. Chronic pain is a distressing condition that may cloud the optimism of a person and their ability to carry about their daily lives. If you are a person who has suffered from a chronic pain condition you will understand a couple of things. Pain is depressing. The effects of pain can be depressing. When your body is in pain, it pervades all the things that you do as you try to work, play, and interact with your family. Chronic pain may also make everyday chores and interactions not only uncomfortable, but also difficult to do at all without causing you to experience significant physical distress. In other words, pain can be disabling.

Being sick has its psychological and physical effects. For these experiences, you may feel like you are in need of someone that you can talk to about your problem. You may or not have a good support system in your friends to confide to about your experiences. You know that there are doctors out there to deal with disease and psychologists/psychiatrists out there to deal with diseases of the mind, but who is out there for me to deal with my experiences trying to manage chronic pain? Perhaps an outlet for the physical and emotional effects of your chronic pain condition may be keeping a pain journal. This outlet may help you to express the grief and frustration that you have as you try to manage your condition with one back pain treatment after another.

Keeping a pain journal may be a good way to record your thoughts, activities, and behaviors as you live your life, make lifestyle changes, and try different activities to try and make your body stronger and more flexible. Perhaps by keeping a detailed journal, you will be notice certain patterns in your life that led to your orthopedic condition getting better or worse. Perhaps the life or health factors were directly related to certain treatments that you started or stopped. Perhaps you noticed that after you lost a pet or loved one, your pain symptoms increased (possibly indicating that your pain levels may be modified by your emotional experiences). Perhaps you notice from your journal entries that your pain began to feel worse from certain gym exercises. Perhaps you noticed that your pain began to feel better when you began certain outdoor sports. When you are in the moment of experience the worst types of pain symptoms, it may be hard to differentiate between the types of things you are doing that are working for your treatment program and the types of things you are doing that is working against you and making things worse.

Keeping a pain journal may allow you to chart your pain levels, treatment changes, and lifestyle changes across time. You may be able to build a pain journal using traditional media - such as pen and notebook - or in electronic form - such as in a laptop or tablet. It doesn't really matter what type of media you use as long as you are able to enter data in an organized way, and retrieve it relatively easily.

Keeping a pain journal is one way that you may use to treat or manage your pain. The contents of your pain journal may be very organized, in terms of specific treatments you are using, your type of diet, the type of medications your taking, and what nutritional supplements that you are using as complementary therapies. Or your pain journal may consist of daily freestyle entries telling you how your day went and how you're feeling at that moment. The most important factor in your journaling is finding a program and lifestyle that allows you to get stronger and better.

Though there isn't a universal list of set factors that you will be required to list in your journal, here are some specific daily entries that you should make to be able to accurately gage your progress levels and what has caused you to feel better or worse.
  • You should write in your journal daily, or at least on a regular basis.
  • You should write about what type of pain you have. You should write about where the pain is and what specific types of symptoms you are having.
  • You should comment on what level of pain you are experiencing. In terms of severity, you may label your pain levels as either mild, moderate, severe, or no pain at all. You may describe your pain levels on a 0 to 10 scale, with zero being no pain at all to ten being the worst possible severity of pain.
  • You may describe what you were doing when you were in pain. Did the pain ramp itself up during certain work related movements, at certain times of day, or during certain back pain treatments?