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Talking to your loved ones about the pain

LumpyLLumpy Posts: 103
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Okay, I am a typical man. I'm not supposed to talk about pain and I am supposed to downplay the intensity, right? Lately I have been actually trying to explain the kind of pain that comes from nerve compression and I can't find the words that actually convey the feeling other than to tell someone it is an intense, deep ache that is like nothing else I have ever experienced. My question, however frivolous it may sound, is how do you convey what this actually feels like to someone who has never experienced it? I think my wife is better able to understand the depression than she is the pain.


  • I found that I have to come up with an analogy that the other person can relate to on a gut level. Until they experience the same type of pain, they really can't truly relate, but I do believe they appreciate the effort of trying to find a way for them to.

  • You could tell her it is worse than childbirth, but that probably wouldn't go over too well. @)

    To tell you the truth, I have lumbar issues and I do not know if cervical pain and lumbar pain are the same intensity, or if one is "worse" than the other.

    I don't really think it is possible for someone to understand what you're going through unless they have had back issues too. One of my doctors even told me he thought he knew, but recently developed a ruptured disc and was actually surprised by the amount and quality of the pain he experienced. He said he now has a newfound respect for his patients!!
  • I understand what you mean. I asked my Pain Management Dr. to have a talk with my husband about what was going on with me and my husband and I spent over an hour at the Drs office and he explained pretty well so that my husband could understand that chronic pain becomes chronic after 6 months of not healing and may continue to be chronic pain for a long time and we can't just snap out of it and get better. But it's difficult sometimes to talk with your family about it. I don't know if this would help but hope your wife can understand better of what you're going through. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • My family couldn't care less, so I just come here and am able to vent with people who actually understand and DO care. I don't have a single person in my family who gives a .... about my pain issues. I am hoping no one else who comes here is as alone in dealing with this garbage pile of a life as I am. I am caregiver for an 88 year old mother, and that is my entire worth to my family. Makes life a little impossible. No, truthfully, life is seldom at the level of being worth living, but I keep doing these things they call life just because someone has to take care of my mother.
    Jane in TN
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,878
    This has been a topic that has been discussed so many times.

    I know it is somewhat difficult dealing with someone in chronic pain or going through surgery. In many situations, it is us, the spinal patient that have it easier while our
    loved ones, spouses, etc have it harder.

    1 - Understanding
    They don't completely understand your medical condition. They only know bits and pieces of it.

    2 - Anger
    They feel angry. I think that stems from them not really understanding your situation. They feel helpless and that they can really not doing anything to help you.

    3 - Fear
    Fear in the fact that while you are recovering you know you have to pick up the additional work load. They try to figure out ways to pick up the additional necessary workload.

    4 - Worry
    For families with two incomes, losing one of them can put an additional strain on the entire family. They know that you are hurting, need to take all the medications you do and many times see you down and depressed. All which they can not change

    There are many other reasons, so it is difficult to document them here. Some of the issues deal with the patients inability to take care of themselves. They might have to shower them, dress them, etc.

    The best way to deal with this type of situation is to have complete and detailed discussions. There needs to be time set aside so that they do know whats hurting you and how to provide the best help.

    Many times, I hear about members who can not have those type of open discussions. If that is the case, over time, the chronic pain and impacts can only turn negative. Then you have a tumbling situation that is heading no where.

    If anything, work on having open two way conversations. Try to understand how they are feeling, ask them and then explain your problems and what you are going through.

    Its not easy, but marriage was never meant to be a simple and easy thing

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,732
    All of these answers are accurate. If a person hasn't been there they can't relate. My brother and a friend of ours had back problems. There was better success's at her understanding coming from them than from me.
    She had to have 2 shoulder surgeries. And trying not to make light of them. I told her they were kinda like the back pain. But the back pain dosen't go away and is much worse on a scale of 1-10
    I wonder if she would be open to reading the pain forums?
    good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • Hi Lumpy,

    I was never able to explain what chronic pain was like, and what I go thru on a day to day bases. People who don't experiance it. Have a hard time understanding chronic pain. About a year ago, I found a short story about life with chronic pain. It's called the Spoon Theory, and it explains what we face every day. How this young lady explains it is just perfectly. How hard life is for us, and what's it like. I like it so much, that I sent it to all my friends, so they could possibly understand my life.

    If you go and google it, you should be able to find it. If you can't find it, pm me and I'll give you the link. I hope you find it as comforting, and helpful as I do.
    Bobbi Jo
  • Thanks for all the input. I have to admit, at times I don't even realize the impact the pain has had. After my first ESI I experienced the first day in almost 6 months without pain. I felt like a different person. It seemed to change everything. Of course, now the pain is back but I do appreciate the few weeks I had without or with less pain.

    My wife is a saint. She is very good at trying to understand and sympathise. But I know it is frustrating and frightening for her and I do feel bad about putting her through this. It is as much for me as it is for her that I want to explain accuratly how I feel and why I am a different person.

    I used to be (even this time last year) a very independent person. When our yard needed a new fence, I put up a new fence. When the kitchen or bathroom needed gutted and remodeled, I did it myself. etc. etc.. Now, even when the yard needs mowed, I'm going to put it off as long as I can.

    I'll look up that article later. It sounds interesting. I really like the post by gwennie17. I think every NS should have to go through a simulated disc rupture ;)

    dilauro you bring up some really valid points. The life changes are almost like a grieving process, I suppose. Thanks for such a good post.
  • Ron left out one biggie for men and women. Once you begin to understand what your partner or loved one is feeling there is a sense of helplessness. Women tend to step up to the challenge and do homey things to make you feel better. Chicken soup fixes everything. Men tend to get mad because they don't like losing control and feeling helpless. If they can't fix it then there is something else wrong.

    I can count on one hand the couples that I have met in my lifetime that are that are living that ideal life where they talk and share and laugh...you get it. I half of them are probably divorced by now.

    Life is hard and being in pain just makes it harder. When we stop expecting roses the pansies look really great!!
  • I'm able to talk to my husband about this pain because he experienced the same thing before it happened to me. He knows exactly how I feel and what I'm talking about,but thank goodness he was able to rehabilitate his back from a disc herniation and stenosis on his own without back surgery. The rest of my family is very supportive and they have their own health problems which makes them sympathetic to my situation.

    There is a great post called "A Letter to Normals" here on Spine Health in the "Chronic Pain" topics and you find it by typing it on the SH search. You'll find it very helpful and candid. Take care
  • I have a husband with chronic chest pain (after a sudden death heart attack three years ago at age 42). He is miserable most of the time. Eventually his condition is expected to deteriate to the point he will need a new heart.

    He is very understanding of my pain because of all of his. Secretly, I sometimes feel guilty that I have pain because I know I will live (even if Im miserable) but his pain is like having a heart attack almost daily. Sometimes I think he is dying before my eyes. It sure makes it hard for me to want to complain.

    A year after his heart attack is when I fell and my neck issues began. He has been by my side and I have been by his through all of it. He definitely doesnt let me downplay my pain to him. We take care of each other. I call it The Lame Helping the Lame.

    I agree with it being like a grieving process. Im sure I will have pain for the rest of my life and I know he will too. Things were not supposed to be this way and sometimes it really gets to me. I went back to work this week after being off for three months since my second ACDF. The pain is horrible but I need to work if we are going to keep our lifestyle since he is on disability. I pray I can cope somehow.
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