When you first start having stiffness and pain in your joints, you want to take something to ease the pain and go on with your life. Unfortunately, as the pain becomes more and more regular, you realize something more serious may be happening. You call the doctor to see if you have arthritis. Before you have your appointment, documenting and measuring your pain so you can take it to the doctor will help them understand and make a proper diagnosis.
Keeping a symptom diary, when you first notice pain you think maybe arthritis, will be invaluable for your doctor. It will also help your doctor recognize the type of arthritis you may have. There are over 100 types of arthritis; this information will help you receive the proper treatment. Here are some things you may want to consider when documenting and measuring your pain:
– Where does the pain begin? Does it start in the joint itself and radiate out? Alternatively, does the pain begin in the muscles surrounding the joint without affecting the joint itself?
– Do you have only one joint with pain or is more than one joint affected?
– Is the pain associated with stiffness or is there simply pain?
– Is the pain worse in the morning and then it “works itself out” as the day progresses?
– How severe is the pain? Can you give it a rating between 1 and 10, with 10 being the worst pain you have ever experienced?
Your doctor will also ask you if your pain interferes with your quality of life and to what degree. Quite likely, your pain intensity will change from day-to-day.
Tracking your symptoms and pain each day will help tremendously. Not only will you see what activities make your pain worse, you can also see a pattern if foods you eat affect it. Each of these items will assist your doctor in their diagnosis and choice of treatment:
– Your activity level – Some types of arthritis will improve when you move. Others will become worse with activity. Therefore, it is important to record what type of activity level you had leading up to the pain.
– Barometric pressure – No one fully understands how or why weather affects arthritis pain, but recognize the fact it does. Higher barometric pressure (good weather) will cause little to no arthritis pain. On the other hand, low barometric pressure (bad weather) makes arthritis pain considerably worse. Write down what the weather was like leading to your pain and on the day you experienced it.
– Foods can also make a difference in arthritis pain. Some foods will make it worse, such as red meat, tomatoes and alcohol, and others will make it better, such as salmon, walnuts, vitamin C-rich foods and spices like turmeric and ginger. Pay attention to what foods you have eaten when arthritis flares up.
– Your weight is the final thing to track. Whereas gaining weight will make arthritis pain worse, losing it can make it feel much better.
Having a pre-created document on which to track your pain will make documenting and measuring your pain easier. When you have an appointment with your doctor, be sure to take the document or journal with you.