Should I Keep a Pain Journal and How Do I Get Started? – Jenny L. F. Andrus, MD

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

As an Interventional Pain Management Physician, one of the most important parts of my job is figuring out why my patients have pain and how and when their pain affects them. During our consultation, I ask a lot of questions about their pain. You would be surprised at the number of people who come in to see me who have trouble describing their pain. All they know is, it hurts and they want it to stop. However, to do my job effectively, I need to know as much about your pain as possible, so I can prescribe the most effective treatments.

That is where keeping a pain journal can come in handy; not only in helping your physician treat you, but also in learning ways that you can help to control your pain during normal activities. A pain journal can be kept in a blank notebook, in your laptop or I-pad; wherever you feel comfortable recording thoughts that pertain to your chronic pain. You can also find a template on–line at The American Pain Foundation’s website.

Some of the benefits of keeping a pain journal are:
1. You can accurately communicate your pain profile to your physician
2. You don’t have to remember everything, you have it written down
3. You can feel more in control of your situation
4. You can discover pain triggers that you may not have noticed
5. You can discover that certain activities help you to feel better
6. You can help your physician better diagnose your condition and more effectively treat your pain

You can just write whatever comes to mind about your pain, but here are some helpful suggestions:
1. Use a pain scale and be consistent. If you decide on using a scale of 1-10, make sure that is the scale you use every time you write about your pain.

2. Write the date and what time you are journaling.

3. Where does your pain occur on your body? Be specific.

4. When does your pain occur? At what time?
—Is it worse or better at particular times of day or night?

5. Does it vary in intensity?

6. What kind of pain is it? Can you describe it?
—Aching? Stabbing? Burning? Tingling?

7. Were you doing any particular activity that aggravated or caused your pain to worsen or change?

8. Are there things that I do that help me to feel better?
—A warm bath, A massage, Playing with my children, Interacting with pets, Talking with a spouse or friend, Reading, Watching TV, Using a heating pad, Gentle exercise

9. If you take medication, when and how much did you take? Do you feel better after taking it? How long does the feeling last? Do you have any side-effects?

10. Do you have good or better days? What did you do or do not do that might have contributed to less pain that day?

11. Write down what you eat and drink.

12. Write about how you feel emotionally and mentally each day. Do you feel depressed about your pain? Anxious? Lonely? Afraid? It is good to write about your feelings in your pain journal.

There is no right or wrong way to start a pain journal. You will find that it becomes easier the more you do it. You may be astonished at the information you will learn about your chronic pain, and it turn, may be able to help your physician treat you and relieve your pain.

Jenny L. F. Andrus, MD is a board-certified, Fellowship-Trained Interventional Pain Management Specialist at Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News, VA. To learn more about Dr. Andrus, go to To make an appointment, call 757-596-1900.