Chronic pain is sometimes called an invisible illness. If you have chronic pain, you may have been told you look just fine, since there are often no outward signs of harm.

The experience of chronic pain can be influenced by a number of factors, including thoughts, emotions, and pain behaviors. Read Understanding Chronic Pain

While the pain may go unnoticed by others, its impact is enormous: More than 11% of adults deal with daily long-term pain1.

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September Events Spotlight Chronic Pain

Pain Awareness Month (September 1-30) aims to ensure that chronic pain is invisible no more. An array of events will get the word out about both the difficulties and opportunities surrounding chronic pain, helping break the isolation that often comes with the pain. The focus of the year's events is integrative and complementary medicine.

For more in-depth information, see Integrative Medicine for Arthritis Pain Relief on Arthritis-health.com.

Lectures, workshops, virtual campaigns, a fun run (with virtual and real runners), an array of social media activities, and sales of "pain warrior" bracelets mean you can be involved no matter where you are. You can also follow Pain Awareness Month activities at @USPainAwarenessMonth on Twitter and @uspainawarenessmonth on Instagram.

Blue ribbons and signs promoting Pain Awareness Month will appear and more than 30 landmarks and buildings—from the New Orleans Superdome to Los Angeles International Airport—will be bathed in blue light on Saturday, September 9, as part of the Beautify in Blue initiative to spread the word.

See Chronic Pain As a Disease: Why Does It Still Hurt?

Pain Awareness Month is supported by a number of patient advocacy organizations, including the U.S. Pain Foundation, American Chronic Pain Association, and the multi-organization Partners for Understanding Pain.

In-Person and Virtual Events and Activities

A traveling photo exhibit, the INvisible Project, is making stops around the country to promote awareness. The show offers a photojournalistic look at the day-to-day experiences of people with chronic pain and illness to make their challenges visible to the wider world.

Photos are arranged to help visitors learn more about various pain conditions. While acknowledging the toll of chronic pain, the INvisible Project also highlights strength and courage. These are some of the places the exhibit will be shown:

  • September 1-15, Canton Public Library, Canton, Mich.
  • September 5-9, PAINWeek in Las Vegas, Nev.
  • September 8-10, Abilities Expo in Boston, Mass.
  • September 14-17, ClusterBusters Conference in Chicago, Ill.
  • September 30, Johnston Senior Center in Johnson, Rhode Island
  • October 1 at Quench the Fire Run, Walk, Roll in Van Nuys, Calif.

This is a sampling of the variety of pain-related events around the country in September:

  • 30-Day Challenge
    This interactive initiative will include daily challenges that can usually be done at home or wherever you have online access. Each day, U.S. Pain will post an action item on its social media accounts. You can participate in the challenge by responding to the prompt and using the hashtags #PAM17, #PainAwarenessMonth, and #USPain. By participating, you will be entered into a raffle to win a prize! Visit the U.S. Pain Foundation's Facebook page to learn more.
  • Living Well with Chronic Pain Workshop
    1 to 2 p.m., Friday, September 8, Boston Abilities Expo
    Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Hall C

    Casey Cashman, volunteer executive director of the U.S. Pain Foundation, will share tips for easing pain, using traditional or alternative approaches. Her workshop is part of the Abilities Expo for People with disabilities, which includes speakers, exhibitors, new technologies/devices, and entertainment. The Expo runs from September 8 through September 10.
  • For more in-depth information, see How Mind-Body Techniques Help With Fibromyalgia on Arthritis-health.com.

  • The Dream Team: A Team Approach to Treating Chronic Pain
    1 to 2:30 p.m., Friday, September 8
    Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road, Tucson, Ariz.

    This panel discussion on chronic pain treatment options will include acupuncture, massage, and Pilates. It's a presentation of the National Coalition of Chronic Pain Providers and Professionals (NCCPPP). Registration is required on the NCCPPP website or call 1-800-910-0664.
  • Clusterbusters Conference
    Thursday, September 14 to Sunday, September 17
    Embassy Suites Chicago-O'Hare, 5500 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill.

    Presentations by cluster headache doctors and researchers will be featured at this conference for those with cluster headaches. In addition to the speakers, practical demonstrations on oxygen use and other treatments will be offered. The event is also an opportunity for people with cluster headaches to share experiences. Clusterbusters is an organization committed to finding effective treatment of cluster headaches. Registration information for the conference is at clusterbusters.org.
  • Change Agent Pain Summit, Part One
    8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, September 22
    California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities
    1000 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles

    Working together, participants will determine barriers to care and develop best practices and solutions to be shared with healthcare and policy leaders in California at the 2018 summit. Keynote speaker Bob Twillman, Ph.D., executive director of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, will share the benefits of the National Pain Strategy and integrative medicine.

    Sponsored by the nonprofit organization For Grace, the summit will include art and photo exhibits, as well as additional speakers. Those who can't attend may follow the summit on the Women in Pain Conference Facebook and Twitter @WIPConference. Check the For Grace website to learn more.
  • See Do We Need a National Pain Strategy for People with Chronic Pain?

  • PAINWeek
    Wednesday, September 6 to Saturday, 9
    The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nev.

    One major event that is not part of Pain Awareness Month, PAINWeek, is also expected to increase public understanding of issues related to chronic pain.

    This annual medical conference is an opportunity for health professionals who are not pain specialists to hear the latest research and learn pain management techniques. Patients can also learn from PAINWeek by checking out the wide range of pain topics already posted on the PAINWeek Facebook , and following PAINWeek on other social media.
  • Quench the Fire Run, Walk, Roll
    Sunday, October 1
    Woodley Park, Van Nuys, Calif.

    Pain Awareness Month stretches into October with this race sponsored by the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. The annual event includes 5K, 10K, and 1-mile courses as well as a kids' fun run. If you can't be there in person, you can help by becoming a virtual runner—and get a t-shirt for your support. Actor Richard Dean Anderson ("MacGyver" and "Stargate SG-1") will also be on hand. The event benefits the USC Pain Center and raises awareness of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and neuropathic chronic pain diseases. More information is on the Quench the Fire website.

Hospitals and other health-care facilities often schedule events around Pain Awareness Month, so check local event listings to see whether something is planned near you.

References:

  1. Nahin RL. Estimates of pain prevalence and severity in adults: United States, 2012. J Pain. 2015;16(8):769-80.