Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
Pain is a useful tool--one you wouldn't want to be without. It
lets you know when a tooth is infected, a leg is broken, or
you've touched something hot enough to burn your skin. But
sometimes the fact that you're in pain isn't enough to help your
doctor determine what's wrong. You have to explain what kind of
pain you have--throbbing or sharp, constant or intermittent, mild
Keeping a pain diary or journal can help identify the causes
of difficult-to-explain pain or measure improvement if you're
being treated for a painful condition. Record the following kinds
When did you
first notice the pain?
How often do you
feel pain, and when does it occur?
Do you associate
the pain with some activity?
Does it move from
one spot to another?
How long does pain
relieve the pain?
What do you do to
try to relieve the pain? Does it work?
Is the pain
associated with any other symptoms (like nausea or fatigue)?
To describe your pain more precisely, consult the table below,
which gives some terms useful for describing pain and a scale to
rate its intensity.
Rate Your Pain
|Instruction: Using the Pain Intensity Scale, assign a
number to each term that best describes your pain and its
PAIN INTENSITY SCALE: Mild 1,
Uncomfortable: 2, Distressing: 3, Horrible: 4
Source: Adapted from "The McGill
Questionnaire," by Ronald Melzack, Ph.D., published with
permission in "How to Talk to Your Doctor about Acute
Pain" (Wilmington, Del.: Du Pont Pharmaceuticals, 1987).