Let’s face it—most of us have made some mistakes with our friends and family members who suffer from chronic back pain. We want to be encouraging, but sometimes our mouths move faster than our brains.
To aid you in your relationships with your loved ones, here are 3 things you should never say to someone with chronic back pain:
1. “Have you heard of the latest treatment?”
It’s a reasonable reaction; your friend tells you about their chronic back problem, and you head to the internet to do some research. You stumble across a list of possible treatments, and the next day you call your friend to tell her or him the exciting news.
Despite your good intentions, this likely is not helpful. Your loved one is probably current on the latest available treatments, and is likely in close contact with their doctor. So what your loved one typically needs from you is not more information, but a listening ear.
Instead of spending time searching for the latest treatments, call them and ask how they are feeling. Or try surprising them with dinner at their home. Whatever you decide to do, the key is often to talk less and listen more.
2. “Come on, you always say no to hanging out”
If you have a friend or family member who suffers from severe chronic back pain, you may sometimes feel like they are avoiding you. They often decline your social invitations—even if they already said no to a night out the week before.
What gives? Well, more than likely your friend or family member would like nothing more than to go out with you and other friends. But, depending on the severity of their chronic pain that day, they may not be physically capable of an evening out. So don’t lay on a guilt trip—they likely are already feeling down.
3. “Maybe the pain is in your head”
Many people with chronic pain feel like the legitimacy of their pain is constantly in question. For example, statements like “It can’t be that bad” and “Maybe the pain is in your head” put people with chronic back pain on the defensive. But the simple fact is that all pain is real.
You may be led to say something similar to the statements above because you have seen your loved one operate relatively pain-free on occasion. But this does not mean they are cured—only that they have good days and bad days.
Of course, the point of the above list is not to scare you. We all make mistakes, and no one can say the right thing every time. Instead of leading to fear, we hope the above list motivates you to better empathize with your loved ones who suffer from chronic back pain.