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I have a friend who suffers from chronic LBP. How can I help him cope?

Janet10444540JJanet10444540 Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Chronic Pain
My friend has had chronic low back and leg pain for about 3 years following an accident. He's had 3 failed spinal fusions. As a result, he lost his job and is on SSDI. And, he tells me he's only sleeping 3-4 hrs/night. And, he's made some statements that have worried me such as, "If it wasn't for X and Y, I'd kill myself to stop this pain" and "I feel so useless."

So, how do I help him cope? For some reason, he seeks me out and I really think I'm the only one he talks to about this. But, he acts sort of embarrassed when he brings it up like he's being a burden on me.

Honestly, I want to talk about his pain. I don't want to see someone that I care about suffer in silence if they need to talk. But, I'm not really sure what to say to him when we do talk about it. I usually just ask a bunch of questions about it because I'm interested in knowing what he's going through. But, how do I support him better?

Also, I never really start the conversations about his pain. Should I? I just assume that he doesn't want to talk about it if he doesn't bring it up. I'm afraid of making him feel worse because he usually ends up crying when we do talk.

Any advice is appreciated,



  • Janet,

    (There has to be a story about all those numbers after your name?)

    3 failed fusions, big time bummer! Men are funny (not funny ha ha) in that they are raised most times to be the protector, the fixer. Now he is broken, and is probably feeling less than what he is...a man. You are probably one that doesn't judge him, and is there to listen and support. Bravo to you!!!

    My career has always been in the male dominated world (aircraft maintenance, pilot and law enforcement), and as such when my stuff forced me into disability retirement, it was a very hard pill to swallow - and honestly, once in a while *still* a hard pill to take daily!

    Something that might help you as the care giver or support person/friend he trusts, look on here for "Letter to normals", and on Google "The Spoon Theory". It is more for you to understand what he might be going through. Ignore the illness they describe, but listen to how they "tell" their story for regular people to understand. Chronic pain, and especially if there is no concrete answer for relief makes this spine mess a bit$$.

    Avoid comparisons to other people and "their" back issues, never say you "understand" his pain, because unless you've lived 24/7 in this world, even though well meaning, we tend to shut that person off. Just your wording that he mainly calls you, he knows you understand "he is hurting" and you want to help without looking down on him. His body, his ego, his emotions are all over the place. I hope this helps.

    *HUGZ* to you for being there for him!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hello,
    I am touched that you have bothered to find this site and help your friend. Understanding is key - he will want to understand his pain as quickly as possible, what may be causing it and is he OK? Your support and help is good here helping find sources of valuable and educational information.

    Your empathy needs to be measured too - encourage him to remain self caring and independent. A gentle and approved exercises are good to keep the blood flowing and stop him from seizing up, but this should be done with the limits of his pain and under some medical supervision. Keeping his mental health on the positive is another area to watch for. Long term chronic pain - well, my own words are "my own personal endurance test" no-one can see it or feel it and I have to struggle through it to claim as normal a life as possible.

    I hope that helps. Apologies if I repeat msg above - I had no time to read it properly. Well done to you, I wish I had friends like you!!
  • Welcome to Spine-Health. You probably have no idea how refreshing it is to have a new member posting about a friend and asking how they can help them. I think your dedication to your friendship with this man is admirable and he's lucky to have a friend like you.

    The others have wonderful suggestions so I won't repeat them, but my suggest is that you refer him to this site so he has a LOT of other people to talk to in addition to you. Everybody here can understand what he's going through and the forums offer the support that many friends, family and others can't because we've walked in his shoes.

    I can't tell you how many fellow spineys have found this site to be a godsend, from the informative articles to the tremendous support and understanding on the forums.

    So keep on doing what you're doing, try reading the "Letter to Normals" to help YOU (although I suspect you will already relate to a lot of what's in there), and share this site with him. If you both are on here, he'll already have a friend and will make many more along the way, friends that can understand and support him from a different perspective.

    I admire you, you're strength and your dedication to your friend.

  • I think it is awesome that you would seek out information regarding your friend. You must be a pretty caring and amazing friend to have! Your friend is very fortunate. Many of us have lost many friends because people get tired of our pain, of us not being able to do things on the spur of the moment, not being able to do certain activities at all. It just sucks. I think it is GOOD to ask your friend about his/her pain. It is so awesome (to me) if someone asks, because it shows me that they actually realize I do have pain and it shows their concern. If it were me, I would sit your friend down and have a good heart to heart. Tell him/her about this site and that your looked to try and find something that would help you understand better, and that it may help him/her to talk to others so he/she knows THEY ARE NOT ALONE in their pain! That is so important. I used to feel so very alone in my pain, nobody cared, like I was forgotten, left behind. Many of us do feel that any many of us miss out on a lot of things in life that truly breaks our hearts not to be able to do. There are so many different things that could be going on with your friend. Maybe they are under-medicated to control some of the pain at least. Probably have nobody else to talk to about it except you, because you are obviously a wonderful, caring, concerned person. I am amazed that someone would seek out information as you have. As far as your friend talking about suicide, I have been there many times, and I still hoover around with the idea from time to time. Hopefully your friend has people (like you) that make a big enough difference in his/her life that they can overcome those thoughts and feelings. It is hard to give up everything in life, and to deal with non-stop screeching pain. It never goes away. People don’t understand, it is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every minute of every second of every day. It is HARD! I hope you will speak with your friend and offer them this website. I know it has helped me a ton honey, it has made me see things I have not wanted to see. People have given me kindness and someone to talk too. It is a very helpful site. Take care, and God Bless you for being such an awesome friend. Are you interested in moving to Utah? :)
  • I don't know what else to say that hasn't already been said. I know that comparing a pain you have or someone else has may discourage him even more b/c chronic 24/7 pain is different from other types of pain. He is probalby on Meds that he is embarressed about and he is probalby feeling shameful for having to be on SSD instead of making his full salary. All these things have an impact on us with CP.

    I know that you will do a good job comforting him and yes, i do think it's fine to ask him, "how is your pain today"...just try it once and see how it goes. He may really appreciate it and feel that you are not burdened by him talking about it. But you will do great and I know that b/c you have reached out and found this site and have asked us who suffer everyday as your friend does. He really has a good friend in you and I'm really impressed by your efforts. I agree also that getting him to this website would be a wonderful idea. Many of us suffer from depression from the everyday pain and how it secludes us from the world. Some of us have actually had thoughts like your friend has. Does he have kids? I have to focus on my kids...b/c they NEED a mom. It's more important than my pain. Plus, going thru with that act is a selfish act b/c leaving everyone behind is devastating to them. Try to keep him focused on his loved ones and there ar so many treatments modalities that can help pain. I am sorry he's had so many failed surgeries. That is tough....is he being seen by a Pain Management doctor? B/c they do alot, not just give pain meds, in trying to help with the pain. There is also things they can do such as an SCS or an intrathecal pain pump where the pain med goes directly into the spinal space

    Well thanks for reaching out and I hope you continue to post to hear updates about your friend.

    God bless you and your friend who suffers in pain.
  • What a good friend you are. I would ask him if he should mention this to his Family Dr. and say you would go with him if he wants. It's great he can open up to you but he may need to speak with his Dr. As others have mentioned this site has helped me deal everyday and there's others who have been through what your friend is going through. Best wishes. 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
  • Thanks everyone for the great advice.

    I did read both the "Letter to Normals" and the Spoon Theory. Both helped a lot. I often do find myself thinking how can he be in so much pain and look so happy at times. The article helped me realize how separate those 2 things are.

    I also need to work on refraining from trying to offer him some miracle cure. It's tough because I'd like to help him, but he's tried everything that I've ever mentioned. I also think he's at the point where he just wants to learn to cope with it and not go chasing after every medical trial and new drug that comes out. I imagine it gets very frustrating when you try all of these different treatments and nothing helps.

    I will definitely tell him about this site. I think he might welcome the opportunity to talk others experiencing similar medical issues since I can never really understand what he's going through.
  • Welcome back! It looks like you are on a good road now to help your friend, and too support him. The search box at the top of the web page might be of some help as well. There are many on here who like yourself either has friends, family members etc., with spine issues, and have posted their situations.

    You can also search for some of the issues your friend has to further understand what he has going on, and some of the present treatments. Please keep us posted on how it goes. :)


    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Actually, you made a great point. It drives me crazy when people say, have you tried this or that, or have you seen this kind of doctor or done that? Uhm, yes if it’s an option we have probably tried it. Of course we know people are just trying to help but sometimes you just want to slap them. My co-worker wondered if I’d ever tried “advil”.. Seriously? I’m on freaking narcotics just to get thru the day – hello…  You’re a good lady Janet, best of luck to you and your friend!!!
  • Just wondering if your friend has been on here yet? Maybe if we know who he is, we can help more when he posts? Has he at least done some reading on here? Just curious for how it's going. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • You are a wonderful and caring friend! I'm afraid for most, there is no "miracle cure", and it is a good thing that he is looking now for a way to cope with his daily pain, but learning to cope with it doesn't mean he should give up trying to find ways to ease it either. On the coping side of it, is there any chronic pain support groups in your area? A lot of cities do have them, maybe you could help him find one, and go with him if he wouldn't be likely to go on his own. Also, there are pain psychologists, usually found along with pain management clinics. If he's looking to find a way to live with the pain, a pain clinic and psychologist may be very beneficial to him. They teach meditation, breathing exercises, etc, that help your body to relax, thus lessening the pain, as it is worse when we are all tensed up. On the pain clinic side of the house, they can offer different venues to manage the pain levels that we live with, like injections and/or meds.
    I'm so glad that your friend has such a wonderful person by his side to help him! I hope that he does find his way here, as there are so many terrific people, and we're all here for each other, as well as all the information that the site offers.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • I truly commend you for being such a truly caring friend. I can honestly say I wish I had someone that I could open up to the way your friend has been able to open up to you. Chronic pain can be a very lonely situation to be in. You have shown by your research that you are truly a loving and caring friend.
    I have found after becoming disabled I have very few friends. Maybe they don't know what to say to me. Perhaps I am not the fun person I used to be so they really don't want to be around someone who can no longer do all the fun things we used to do. I don't know. All I can say is your friend is so lucky.
    Occassionally I will get an email asking if I am better yet. Although they probably are trying to be kind, I guess I feel if they were truly concerned they would have checked in a little more often and realized I am not improving and this is a lifelong situation. And believe me I do understand people have their own lives. It's just so nice that your friend has someone special in his life like you who truly wants to reach out to him.
    Just be there for him. Let him know you truly care about what he is going through even though you may not totally understand it. I think it is perfectly ok to ask him if he wants to talk about it. Sometimes we need to talk about it. Of course don't push the issue just let him know you are on his side and willing to listen. One thing for sure though, if you see any signs at all or he is talking suicidal then it is time for him to seek professional help. Even the most caring of friends is not equipped to handle that type of depression.
    You are truly an awesome friend.
  • Hi again,

    I haven't talked to him yet about this website, but I definitely plan on it. There aren't any formal support groups in the town where we live so I think this would be a great resource for him. I'm just waiting for the right moment to bring it up.

    Thank you for all the great advice.
  • Just in case, if you want us to delete this post before you show your friend this site, just let one of the admins, mods or authority members know. I don't see any reason to, but you might, so I just wanted to let you know this is an option.

    Take care and get him here so we can help him.

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