If you suffer from chronic pain, it's important that your friends and family know what you're going through. With this in mind, here are 5 things to know about chronic pain that you can share with your loved ones:
Read: Modern Theories of Chronic Pain
1. Chronic pain is real
People with chronic pain are often treated as if they are making up (or at least exaggerating) their pain. But the truth is that all pain is real, even if there is no known cause. Additionally, almost all people with chronic pain want nothing more than to be pain-free.
So what your friend or family member needs from you is your support and kindness, not condemnation. Statements like "Get over it" or "It can't be that bad" don't accomplish anything other than to discourage those with chronic pain.
Thankfully, there is an increasing consensus in the medical community that all chronic pain is real, and that it needs to be treated even if there is no known cause.
2. Chronic pain commonly leads to disuse syndrome
Chronic pain often leads to long-term lack of physical activity and a condition recognized as disuse syndrome. This syndrome can negatively impact your musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neurological, psychological, and emotional processes. At its worst, disuse syndrome leads to a pervasive lack of wellness that in and of itself can be debilitating.
Of note, disuse syndrome can both perpetuate and increase the likelihood of chronic pain worsening over time.
3. Chronic pain commonly leads to sleep-related problems
Chronic pain can create a troubling cycle when it comes to sleep. That is, chronic pain can make it harder to sleep, and in turn a lack of sleep can make chronic pain worse.
Common sleep-related problems caused by chronic pain include an inability to fall asleep, constantly waking up at night, and not feeling refreshed upon waking up in the morning. Because of the close connection between sleep problems and chronic pain, the two need to be treated together.
4. Pain is deeply personal
Everyone persons experience of pain is different. For example, two people may have the same condition, and one may display no ill-effects, while the other may be incapacitated. When it comes to back pain, this is especially true. Two people can have the same type of herniated disc, but one feels only slight discomfort and the other feels burning, debilitating sciatic pain.
There are a number of possible reasons for this, including individual physiology, a person's upbringing, etc.
5. Happiness does not equal health
Often times, when a person with chronic pain is smiling or having a "good day," people assume that the person is not experiencing pain. However, this is not necessarily the case.
It is important to recognize that a person can be happy and at the same time be experiencing pain. So be careful to not assume that a friend or loved one is "healed" simply because they seem to be enjoying themselves.
The bottom line
There are so many secondary and related issues that accompany chronic pain that it would be a real challenge to address them all. This list is intended to at least get the conversation started—and for anyone living with any type of chronic pain, please pass this along to your loved ones to help them better understand and support you.
If you have chronic pain, your may also find it does you a world of good to have increased emotional support, more effective and sustainable pain management, and even possibly harnessing the power of your mind to assist in coping with the pain.