Week 1: Understanding chronic pain

Week 4: Healthy thinking, healthy self

Week 5: Balancing your activity patterns

Week 6: Maintaining your gains and staying well

Keeping a pain diary

As mentioned above, keeping a pain diary is an effective way to monitor your pain and track changes in it over time. It can also help you identify patterns in your pain experience and inform your treatment plan. Pain diaries are also a common and helpful way of communicating your symptoms to your doctor and other health professionals. As such, becoming familiar with using a pain diary is a great first step on your recovery journey. 

Below, we guide you through the steps you need to take to complete your diary. We provide a pain diary template as part of your action plan this week. It is important to use this pain diary each day, especially when you’re first starting treatment. As you start to get your pain under control, you will not need to use so much.

How to use the pain diary:

  • Record the day, date and time in the relevant column
  • Describe your pain in terms of: 
  1. Where it is located
  2. How long it lasts
  3. What it feels like (e.g., stabbing, throbbing, dull ache etc.) 
  • Rate the intensity of your pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain possible)
  • Indicate any factors that may have made your pain worse (e.g., temperature, activity, stress etc.)
  • Indicate any factors that helped your pain or allowed you to get through the day (e.g., medication, distraction, stretching etc.)
  • Rate your overall mood from 0 (worst mood) and 10 (best mood)
  • Describe your activity level (low, moderate, high)
  • Describe how your pain affected your daily life (e.g., sleep, work, social life, exercise etc.) and note any other important information.

After a week or so of completing your diary, you may start to see some patterns emerging. For example, you may notice that your activity levels decline whilst your pain increases over the week. Or, you may notice that your pain is worse after busy days or intense bursts of activity. All of this information is helpful in forming a picture of your current situation. It can also give you ideas for how you might change your activity patterns and work towards your goals. Sometimes, you’ll need to collect a few weeks’ worth of data before you notice any patterns.