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Arthritis Pain Explained


Updated May 22, 2014

4 of 10

Part 4 of 10 - How Do Doctors Evaluate Arthritis Pain?

Describing Your Pain

Pain is not visible. To assess your level of pain, your doctor must depend on you to describe what you feel and how it causes difficulty for you. For example, doctors typically use a 1 to 10 pain scale to have you rate your pain. You may be asked to further describe your pain, using words such as aching, burning, stabbing, or throbbing.

Keeping a Pain Diary

Since doctors rely, in part, on your description of pain to help guide treatment, you may want to keep a pain diary to record your pain sensations. You can begin a week or two before your visit to the doctor. On a daily basis, you can describe the situations that cause or alter the intensity of your pain, the sensations and severity of your pain, and your reactions to the pain.

For example:

  • On Monday night, housework resulted in sharp pain in my knees. Sleep was disturbed that night.
  • On Tuesday night, because of the pain, I had a hard time getting out bed. Medication and applying ice to my knees provided some relief.

The diary will give the doctor insight into your pain and how it affects your daily routine. The diary will provide an accurate account and you won't need to worry about forgetting relevant details.


Journal writing can be therapeutic. Keeping an arthritis journal has shown many positive benefits. A journal can help you cope with arthritis allowing you to vent about negative experiences and record positive experiences. Looking back on positive experiences can be uplifting.

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