The real beauty of using an electronic pain diary over paper and pencil is the ability to aggregate and analyze the raw data in many different ways which can reveal more about your chronic pain condition. With a traditional diary, you can really only flip through entry after entry looking at individual snapshots in time, however an app like Chronic Pain Tracker can sort through all those entries to identify trends and correlations in the data which will allow you and your doctor to cut right to the key bits of information.

Sometimes this will allow you to confirm subjective opinions with objective data. For example, telling your doctor that your pain seems to get worse in the evenings can be helpful, but using your diary data to objectively show that your pain levels in the evening hours are consistently higher than morning or afternoon periods will prove the point and provide a much higher degree of confidence on that claim.

Other times, analysis of your diary data will identify new trends that you may not have been able to see previously. In either case, the ability to analyze your pain diary data gives you the tools to better understand your pain profile. And, once you understand your pain better, you can make your doctor understand your situation better. Only then can effective diagnosis and treatment begin.

How Does CPT Analyze Your Data?

During the generation of the Summary & Analysis Report, CPT uses a number of different statistical approaches to aggregate and analyze your data. Each Tracker Module is programmed with several different types of graphical views that can be applied to your diary history.

For example, let’s take a look at the Pain Intensity Tracker. Although this is a very simple Tracker – it only captures a single number between 1 and 10 for each Diary Entry – there are a number of ways in which you and your doctor might want to look at it.

Obviously we want to look at how the intensity level changes over time. Does it fluctuate within a wide range or is the pain more consistent and staying within a narrow range? Does the pain vary depending on the time of day? Does it vary depending on the day of the week? Each of these questions requires CPT to analyze the Tracker data in a different way.

Once these different analysis approaches have been processed, the results need to be communicated to you and your doctor through the graphical views included in the Summary Report template. Here’s an example of the graphs you might see for the Pain Intensity Tracker section of the report.

Where does it hurt?

One of the more complex data analysis methods used by Chronic Pain Tracker has to do with the Pain Location Tracker. This Tracker gives you the ability to document the location and intensity of your pain with each entry. Looking at each individual entry can provide information about where your pain was located for a given point in time, but how do you aggregate the individual pain maps into something that shows your pain locations over the course of a week, a month, or longer?

CPT solves this question by generating a composited version of the Pain Location Map that provides an averaged picture of where your pain was located over the reporting period. For someone that deals with pain in a single location, this may not be so interesting, but those struggling with conditions where your pain can appear in different locations, this type of an aggregated view can provide a great deal of information for the doctor.

By looking at the composited pain map, you and your doctor can see where the majority of your pain has been located and focus your treatment on those areas. By comparing these types of aggregated images over time, you can also determine if your pain is remaining stable or spreading.

You can also use the various overlays that are associated with the body images to view underlying muscular, skeletal, and dermatome structures to see how your pain level aligns with these physiological elements. This may help identify which spinal disc could be causing your sciatica pain, or perhaps which muscle group could be strained.

Are my Medications Effective?

Another challenging but important area is the effectiveness of pain medications. Finding the right combination of pain medications for your condition is not an easy task. It often requires trial and error with different medications and dosages over a period of months. How are you expected to remember whether your pain was better when using medication A versus medication B? Normally this is a very inaccurate and subjective process.

Using CPT, you can bring more objectivity to the process. It might be as simple as looking average pain levels when on Medication A versus pain levels when on Medication B that answers the question. Obviously you aren’t living your life in a controlled laboratory environment, so there may be other reasons beyond the medication changes that affected the average pain levels, but being able to look at this type of analytical data will help you and your doctor make decisions about your care.

You might also look at tools like our Medication Pain Reduction Analysis graphs that attempt to quantify the impact of a given medication on your pain levels. This analysis was created to look at the effectiveness of “Break Through” medications. By monitoring how pain levels change after the medications have been taken, CPT can show graphically whether or not a medication seems to be having a positive effect on your pain levels. You can learn more about this unique analytical approach here.

Tools In The Toolbox

Just like X-Rays, Blood tests, and CT Scans aren’t standalone solutions, CPT is NOT intended to replace your Doctor when it comes to diagnosing and treating your chronic pain condition.

Instead, CPT gives you and your doctor more ways of looking at your condition based on the Pain History you have entered over time. This gives you a whole suite of objective analysis that can be incorporated into your broader diagnosis and treatment plan.