Thursday, May 9, 2013

What are the Advantages of Keeping a Pain Journal to Document Your Chronic Pain Symptoms?

Doctor writing down notes in your chartMost people with a chronic illness will need to see a variety of doctors on a regular basis.  This is important not only for your continued care but it is a way for your doctor to really get to know you and your case.  When you go to see any doctor, make sure that you are honest and tell them everything that is going on with you when it comes to your illness.  In fact, I like writing down things so that I make sure that my doctors knows about it.  Often times in the heat of the moment, you forget to mention something important to your doctor.  Having it written down keeps you from forgetting to tell your doctor important information.  Some people find it helpful to keep a journal and write down daily synopsis of their daily activities, especially, when it comes to increased pain or new symptoms.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only and the opinions reflected in this post are my own.  Your opinions may differ from my opinions.

A journal can be useful for several purposes and can be used to help your doctor to determine your pain triggers.  When you are adding entries to your journal make sure that you include the following items:
  • Type of activity that you were doing - Be as descriptive as possible.
  • Rate your pain - Use the pain scale that you often see in your doctors office to rate your level of pain.
  • Use descriptive words to describe your pain -  Jot down if your pain comes and goes, feels like pins and needles, muscles spasms, or constant.  
  • Location of the pain- Describe the exact location of your pain, especially, if it isn't always in the same spot.
  • Note the Time of Day - Writing down the time of day will help your doctor determine when your are most like to see a spike in your pain levels.  Of course, it is possible that your pain varies on a daily basis but your doctor is looking for specific times during the day when you see a consistent spike in pain.
  • Treatment - Write down what you did to help reduce your pain.  ie - take pain meds, if you used ice or a heating pad, did you have to lay down,  or take a break, massage.
When you go to your doctors appointments, make sure that you take your pain journal with you.  If you keep your pain journal on the computer, you should print out a copy and give it to your doctor.  Make sure that you sign it and put a date on it so that it shows the date that you gave it to your doctor.  This can help prove any deterioration of your health or allow your doctor to see when any new symptoms began.  A journal also allows you to communicate with your doctor beyond what you tell him during an office visit (often the visits only last a short amount of time).

Keep a Copy of all Important Medical Documents in a File Folder

I have found that it is important for me to carry around frequent medical documents so that I can easily bring them to all of my doctor's appointments and meetings.  I bought one of those plastic file folders to sort my documents so that I can easily find things.  It is nice to be able to pull out a document and hand it over to a doctor so that he can view it or make a copy of it for your medical chart.  For example, I went to a state doctor and I had a copy of the doctors report in my folder.  I was able to quickly pull this document out and allow the doctor's office to make a copy for my doctor to read over and  file into my chart.  It is also great for taking on job interviews or meeting with people who are helping you look for jobs as well.

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Example of the file folder that I purchased to keep my medical documents in.