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Knee pain: How a pain journal can help

An older woman sits on a couch and writes in a notebook

Keeping a pain journal can provide important insights. It helps you communicate effectively about your pain and gets you moving on the road to relief.

Knee pain can be hard to ignore—and hard to describe. Some people are uncomfortable talking about it or worry that they are complaining. But it's important to tell your doctor about your knee pain. Pain can be a sign of a problem. And it can get affect your activities, mood and relationships.

The good news: Most pain can be managed. Talking to your doctor is the best place to start. And a pain journal can be a great way to begin that conversation.

A daily record

A pain journal doesn't have to be fancy. It can be a notebook where you jot notes each day about how you feel. There are also apps that can help you track your pain. The key is to keep a detailed daily record. Writing down the details of your pain can help you share that information with your doctor.

Bring your pain journal to your appointment. You won't have to worry about forgetting details, and your doctor can see how your knee pain affects your life. More information can empower you both to move forward with the right treatment.

What to include in your pain journal

Keeping track of how you feel every day can help you and your doctor find patterns in what helps your knee pain—and what might make it worse. Ask yourself about these topics daily, and use a notebook or an app to track your answers.

  • Location. Where does it hurt? Does the pain move around?
  • Timing. When does the pain start? Does it come and go? Are there specific times of the day when you experience the pain? Does the pain occur with a specific activity, like sleeping or walking?
  • Type of pain. What does the pain feel like? Is it sharp, dull or burning? Does it radiate? What other words would you use to describe it?
  • Other symptoms. Do you have any other symptoms at the same time as the pain or in the same physical area as the pain? Do you notice any connections?
  • Duration. How long does the pain last? Is it consistent, or does it come and go?
  • Activities. Does the pain show up when you are doing certain tasks or making specific movements? What activities does the pain interfere with? Does the pain get in the way of daily living or disturb sleeping, eating or working?
  • Treatment. Is there anything you do that makes the pain better or worse? Do you find relief from lying down or taking over-the-counter medications? Does a heating pad or ice pack affect the pain?
  • Rating. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the pain? Zero is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine.

Don't be afraid to seek care for knee pain

Sometimes, people think pain is part of aging and can't be helped. But as the National Institute on Aging points out, this isn't true. You don't have to accept discomfort. And finding a way to manage pain is often easier if you address it early. If you're experiencing knee pain, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed 9/15/2021

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