Why Keep a Pain Journal

pain journal, lynn webster md, the painful truth

“Julie” mentioned that her doctor advised her to keep a pain journal, and she wanted some direction. She loves to write, but she wasn’t sure how to approach the task. Also, she was concerned that dwelling on her pain might make it worse. Wasn’t the goal to distract herself from the pain rather than to think (and write) about it?

Here’s my advice for Julie:

  • First, yes, I do think it’s a good idea to keep a pain journal. That will let you observe patterns of what seems to make pain worse/better so you can modify your activities accordingly.
  • Journaling also allows you to observe changes over time. This is a way to document your pain history as it occurs.

History taking is the most useful diagnostic tool in medicine. It is better than a physical exam and, in most cases, it is superior to any lab or image testing. You are the best provider of your history.

  • It would be ideal to record pain and activity throughout the day in your pain journal, but often, that is too burdensome. Record what you can.
  • Writing in a pain journal can be cathartic. Treat your pain journal as if it were a confidante. Share your feelings with the character.
  • You can write about the pain, and acknowledge the negative, but don’t dwell on that alone. Look for what is positive, and write about that, too.

Be honest with the “character” and with yourself. In that way, your pain journal can be useful in helping you to find resilience.

And it may just give your doctor answers he or she can’t get in any other way.


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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD


  1. Kimberly on February 13, 2016 at 1:41 am

    This whole controversy makes me sick! There has to be away to weed out drug seekers from Chronic pain suffers, they just don’t seem to care, its only the difference between having a life or not. They took my life away from me, I am of no use to anyone and I’m only 56. I was a Photographer and fine artist before my accident. Stuck with inoperable spine problems, that only get worse, I’ll never be better. I tried every thing out there, Everything pain management ask of me, many out of pocket technics. I’m not a good candidate for any of them. I would love to give each and every anti-medication advocate my pain for ONE day, it would put them to their knees!

    • David on March 12, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      Can’t agree more. I’m so tired of the pain, and I drive big rig in the mountian bush country. I can’t do pain killers. Already fight sleep. Some times I just wish I never woke up again. At the end of the day just crawling out of my semi truck nearly brings me to tears. Just damn tired of the non stop pain. Just tried hemp oil, and made me so ill. I can get anything I want for pain, just sick of med and how my body reacts to them.

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