Everyone knows that you should keep a headache diary in order to better understand your symptoms and triggers, right? Or – could this practice actually make things worse?
Pain diaries are actually used for many different conditions, and they’re used for different reasons.
What if these diaries were actually increasing our perception of pain? Or our fear of pain? What if, instead of making things better, they were making things worse?
Dr. Robert Ferrari has done some research into the use of pain diaries for chronic pain. In a study published in 2010, it was found that patients who completed a daily questionnaire seemed to have worse and more frequent symptoms than the control group.
Last year a new study came out, focusing on recovery from lower back pain. After three months, 79% of the control group had recovered, while only 52% of the “diary group” had recovered.
Are diaries making the symptoms “seem” worse? Or are they actually making things worse?
It’s tempting to make a comparison here with headache and migraine diaries. But the reality is, the purpose of a headache diary is more than just letting your doctor know how disabled you are, or how intense your pain is.
What is a headache diary actually for?
- It helps you identify symptoms. Headache disorders can be difficult to diagnose properly, and can be accompanied by a host of unexpected symptoms. Keeping a diary helps prevent misdiagnosis.
- It helps you identify triggers. If you find that your headache symptoms come once a month, or every spring, during most thunderstorms, or often after that glass of wine – that can help you better fight the attacks.
- Yes, diaries can also help doctors and patients understand the intensity of the pain and level of disability from pain and other symptoms. This helps with decisions about treatment as well.
- These diaries can also help others understand migraine disease and headache disorders. They can help with future research.
In the case of headache and migraine diaries, the information can be a big part of the solution. Even if they make you “notice” your pain more, the long term benefits can be tremendous.
That being said, it may not be wise to keep a diary every day for a lifetime. When things are stable, sometimes it may be better to set the diary aside, at least for a time.
But in general, the benefits seem to outweigh any issues for most patients.