In 2019, a journal article showed that keeping a pain diary (or pain journal) can help with managing chronic (more than 12 weeks), non cancer pain. They categorized the effects into 4 subsets: improved patient pain recognition and understanding; improves provider and patient communication/support; it served as a channel to relieve negative thoughts; or no change at all (either they felt it didn’t work or didn’t use it at all).
The article itself goes into a little more detail of each category subset, but if you don’t want to read the article, here’s what I gathered from it.
Pain pattern recognition and understanding is important. Often times, pain can feel unpredictable, making it hard to figure out what makes you feel better and worse. We all live busy lives and we may not even have the time to keep track of how the pain behaves. But when keeping track of of your pain, the triggers and relieving factors, it helps you understand your pain more and puts you in the driver’s seat of your recovery.
Provider <-> patient communication is key. You and your provider won’t know what is helping if we can’t keep track of how you are feeling. The diary provides an opportunity to be as descriptive of the pain as possible. An example is a patient telling me that the pain is no longer in their leg/buttock, but their back is hurting a lot more. Someone may interpret this as the pain is getting worse, but with the centralization phenomenon, this is the exact opposite. When working with our clients in person, online, or even through the Sciatica Protocol, we ask clients how they are feeling on a daily basis. This provides us useful information on how to take the next steps. Also, it is important to feel seen and heard.
You need an outlet for your negative thoughts and emotions. I currently use exercise and physical activity as a way to deal with my stresses and tough emotions. When you are in pain it may feel like you can’t exercise or move because the thought itself might create pain. Without an outlet, those thoughts can boil and simmer in your head/heart. The very act of having these feelings get stronger and stronger can actually intensify your pain. So this provides an opportunity to release those thoughts/feelings out into the world, or at least onto a piece of paper/note.
Doesn’t help at all. In order for anything to work, you need to believe it will be. It is also important to take action. So if the work or activity isn’t done, of course it won’t work. Now, not every solution is going to help for everyone, and this journal is just another tool for recovery.
So how can you tell if you could benefit from a journal like this? If you feel like you are missing out on any of the three (of the 4) subsets listed above, then a pain journal/diary could be helpful in getting control of your pain. But the question is, how can you start a journal? Here’s a simple step by step process:
1) Find a piece of paper, or start a new note on your phone
2) Date the journal entry for today
3) Describe how you are feeling today. Describe your symptoms as much as possible. When did it start? When did it end? What were the events leading up to the event, what happened during it? What did you do to make it feel better?
4) Describe what you did yesterday (if the note started in the morning); describe what you did today (if you are starting the note at night)
5) Describe any action steps that you may have taken to improve your recovery; describe any triggers
6) Write down any other words or thoughts that you have. (This is unique to you and you don’t need to share it with anyone, so have at it).
Keep this diary to yourself so that you have an outlet to share your thoughts and feelings. You aren’t in this alone and you definitely do not need to hold all this inside you.
Another really great thing about the Sciatica Protocol is that you get a chance to keep track of your progress on a daily basis. We will reach out to you daily to see how you are doing and provide an action plan for you to complete during the day. If you want to check it out, here’s the link.