Chronic pain can lead to discouragement and loneliness for many people. If you have a friend or loved one in this situation, here are a few ideas for how to support them.
Ask how they’re feeling
Chronic pain, by definition, isn’t a short-term problem. Just because you asked someone how they felt a month ago doesn’t mean you know how they feel today. Consistently give them space to talk about their health rather than ask about it once and never bring it up again. This gesture will let the person know you care.
Your instinct may be to avoid asking how someone is feeling, perhaps out of fear of coming across as awkward or nosy. But this person could interpret your silence as a lack of concern, and they might feel lonely as a result. Show interest in their health rather than avoid the topic altogether.
Avoid steering the conversation to your experience with pain. The other person might feel as if you are more interested in talking than listening. Remember, they are in pain. Listen first and share after if you feel it is necessary.
Avoid giving health advice
It’s natural to want to help someone in need and find a solution to their problem. Perhaps you heard about a certain medical procedure from an acquaintance or read about a pain-relieving supplement online, and you can’t wait to recommend it to your friend or loved one.
But you are this person’s friend, not their doctor. Refrain from suggesting what treatment they should try. Chances are this person has discussed options with their doctor and considered various treatments. Suggesting various solutions might sound inconsiderate to them, even if your concern is genuine.
Instead, ask this person which treatments they have considered or about their experience with pain.
Be understanding and accommodating
Chronic pain can come and go, depending on the day. The person in pain may have to change or cancel plans on occasion.
Rather than expressing annoyance or frustration, try to be understanding. You can even go the extra mile by giving multiple options for when you can meet and suggesting places that are closer to where the other person lives or works. Be sensitive to circumstances that may present physical difficulties for this person, such as which coffee shops or public parks have uncomfortable seating. This extra awareness signals thoughtfulness.
Avoid saying things such as, “But last week you said you were feeling better.” Understand that there are good and bad days, and your friend or loved one is likely trying their hardest to live a normal life.
Ask how you can help
The person in pain may need help but may be uncomfortable asking for it directly. Ask how you can tangibly help them around their house. Offer to bring over a meal or provide free childcare for them while they get some rest.
This person may not take you up on your offer, but simply making your willingness known can bring comfort and assurance to a person with chronic pain. It shows you care for them and are aware that chronic pain affects their day-to-day life.
Follow these ideas and see if they encourage the person in your life who has chronic pain.