Keeping a pain journal can help track increased pain and reduce stress for many migraineurs. Pain Pathways magazine provides some essential tips for jotting down personal information on a regular basis.
Putting pen to paper doesn’t seem like magic. In fact, for many people it may seem tedious. But studies have shown that, not only does it benefit people in general, it can help chronic pain sufferers specifically. From reducing flare-ups to boosting immunity, writing is a proven doorway to health.
Journaling comes in many types. But three that have shown to serve chronic pain sufferers are the medical record, the personal narrative and poetry.
A medical record is a list of information you write daily to help you and your medical team identify triggers, adjust medication and limit flare-ups. This list also has a positive side effect: stress reduction. Keep the journal daily for a minimum of six weeks. Make sure it’s legible enough that you and your doctor can read it.
Here’s what should be included in your journal:
- Daily activity, including type, duration and intensity
- What you ate and drank, including quantities and times
- Medications, natural remedies, vitamins and supplements
- Alternative therapies, including yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, meditation, etc.
- Pain Flare-ups – time, date, duration, description
- Pain rating – one – 10
- Other symptoms – nausea, chills, tingling, etc.
- The day’s weather
- Related emotions before, during and after flare-up
James Pennebaker, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at the University of Texas, Austin. For more than 20 years, he has studied the positive impacts of journaling on health.
In a 2002 study, Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth, Ph.D. of Syracuse University showed that writing about emotions and stress boosted the immune systems of patients with diseases including arthritis, asthma and HIV/AIDS. Later, Pennebaker also found that people who constructed a personal narrative during journaling (that is they had a story-like structure when it was finished) had better benefits than those who didn’t. Creating a narrative allowed them to shift perspectives, seeing their experience differently, and adding meaning to the event they were journaling about. Meaning, they found is a key component in healing.
Reading and writing poetry have long been considered beneficial to health. Poetry has a natural healing presence. It has been shown to increase empathy between caregiver and patient, as well as improving physician effectiveness.
In writing to heal, you may find yourself experiencing an increase in:
- Communication with your doctors
So consider writing to heal. It may just transform your health – and your life.