One of the most helpful tools for your doctor and yourself during your appointments is keeping a pain diary and symptom tracker or log. This way you can pinpoint exactly the time and date of when an autoimmune disease flare-up occurred, monitor, what you were doing each time and have a better understanding of what sets you off or what looks to be caused by more general things such as weather or the time of day.
You can keep a diary in a variety of ways. I simply keep a notebook and fill in the following:
Time of Day:
Area of Pain:
How long has the pain/symptom lasted:
Describe the sensation: Sharp / Burning / Aching / Tingling / Cramping / Throbbing / Numbness / Shooting / Dull / Stiffness / Swelling / Other
It can be just a simple entry each time, or more lengthy when a few symptoms accompany each other. For example:
|Date: January 28, 2012|
Area of Pain: Left Leg and Lower Back
Medicines Taken: Celebrex
How long has the pain/symptom lasted: So far it has been an hour
Describe the sensation: Started out like cramping, a constant dull feeling succeeds it. Now it is aching, and at times a sharper pain comes and goes.
Activity: I was watching tv in bed
Weather condition: well it was raining all day and I did go outside a few times and got wet. Now I’m in the bedroom we have the aircon on and I feel cold but if I turn it off I feel too hot
Other Notes: I can see a few “lumps” starting to form at the top of my left hip and in my left thigh, the area is red, tender and sensitive to touch.
An even better way to do this, is to accompany these notes with a more visual way of explaining your symptoms. For example, I sometimes print a body chart like the one below, and make comments around it to better help explain what has happened:
Mark with a colored marker the areas that are causing discomfort. Keeping a diary and log such as these will help show your doctor what’s been happening day to day and pinpoint what sort of medicine/exercise/lifestyle changes you’ll need to make as your condition progresses.
A great site to inspire your own Pain and Symptoms Diary is FreeMedicalForms.com, here you can find a number of forms from diet and exercise logs to pain charts. Go to Newest additions and download your own free pain assessment sheet. There are a ton of other forms you might want to get a look at, so have a browse through the website.
Hope this helps! Got any other tips for explaining your pain and symptoms to your doctor? Do you keep a file or log on your progress? Share your ideas in a comment below 🙂