The Remarkable Benefits of Keeping A Pain Diary for Chronic Pain

An older woman working on her laptop and tablet at a desk while enjoying a coffee.

If you have chronic pain, you’ve likely been advised to start a pain diary. But, what is a pain diary and why start one? 

This article will explore the purpose and undeniable benefits of keeping track of your pain experience via a diary or log. 

What is a pain diary?

A pain diary is a self-reported record of your pain experience. Some folks jot it down in a notebook, while others prefer to use an electronic tracker. There are many pain tracking apps available on app stores. 

This image shows a woman sitting crossed legged holding a notebook in her lap. She is starting a diary to track chronic pain

Written logs are great for recording only the info you’re interested in. Conversely, pain tracking apps are excellent for analyzing your data and allowing for quick, easy, entries.

Your doctor may ask you to start a pain diary to help them get a better understanding of your pain between appointments. Or, you may want to start one for your own personal self-management. 

Benefits of keeping a pain diary

Recording your pain experience has several benefits. Once you have multiple consistent entries, you may start to notice patterns in your pain. 

These patterns can tell you a lot about your pain, which can help you and your doctor make informed decisions about your pain care. 

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Some benefits include: 

  • Improved communication with your doctor 
  • Better understanding of pain triggers or pain relievers 
  • Feedback for how you are responding to a treatment or medications 
  • An improved sense of control over your pain management 
  • Better understanding the impact of pain on your mental health and quality of life 
  • More accurate information of what is happening between appointments
A doctor and patient sit in a medical exam room and discuss while looking at a phone together. They are talking about what the patient's chronic pain diary is showing.

With the information recorded in your pain diary, your healthcare provider can make better judgments into how to best approach treatment options. Further, this information can more accurately relay what has happened between appointments. It reduces the recall bias of having to describe how you’ve been since the last visit.

Additionally, you may better understand what self-management practices help or hurt you, giving you a greater sense of control over your pain. This information can make you feel more empowered to engage in your pain care. 

What to record in your pain diary

What you find valuable to record will depend on your own unique situation. You and your doctor may only be interested in a few variables that are relevant to your case. However, as pain is so multidimensional, recording several factors may be helpful and informative. 

Here are a few common factors that pain patients record: 

  • Pain intensity 
  • Pain quality 
  • Frequency and duration of pain 
  • Pain location 
  • Activity level 
  • Sleep quality 
  • Medication use 
  • Impact on daily life 
  • Side effects of treatments 
  • What helped? 
  • What made it worse? 

It is recommended to choose one or two times during the day to record this information. Over-recording may skew the data and/or create excessive awareness of your pain. 


Keeping a pain diary can help you uncover information about your chronic pain. You may find it helps you feel empowered to manage your pain. Further, the act of working together with your doctor to address your pain can help you make shared decisions together, improving your doctor-patient relationship.

Do you keep a pain diary? What do you find the most useful to record? Let us know in the comments.


Beauclair, M. (2022). Pain Diary: The Write Way to Improve Your Pain Management. Practical Pain Management. Retrieved from: here 

Devan, H., Farmery, D., Peebles, F., et al. (2019). Evaluation of self-management support functions in apps for people with persistent pain – systematic review. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 7(2). DOI: 

Dougherty, S. (2021). How keeping a pain diary can help release pain. Lin. Retrieved from: here

Healthwise Staff. (2021). Learning About A Pain Diary. My Health Alberta. Retrieved from: here

Meszes, M. (2021). Pain diary and its benefits on chronic pain management. Biekos. Retrieved from: here 

Smith, Y. (2021). Using a Pain Diary. News Medical Life Sciences. Retrieved from: here

Zhoa, P., Yoo, I., Lancey, R., et al. (2019). Mobile applications for pain management: an app analysis for clinical usage. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 19 (106) DOI: 

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