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How to help a friend with chronic pain - Is this good advice?

Janet10444540JJanet10444540 Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:49 AM in Chronic Pain

I posted on here a long time ago. As you may recall, one of my good friends has been struggling with chronic pain for a while, and I've been trying to learn as much as I can about how to be a good friend to him with regard to his pain.

I found a website online, and I'd like to get your response to what it said to do:

"Help someone with chronic pain get distracted from thinking always about the pain. Encourage them to do something fun - such as watching a comedy, painting, reading, and the like. Sometimes, conversing with them about happy memories make them temporarily forget about the pain they are feeling. Don't bring up their pain a lot. Sharing too much can cause them to feel overwhelmed, helpless, or depressed."

This is the exact opposite of the approach I've been taking with my friend. I always bring his pain up by asking him how he feels or how he's been doing since I've seen him last. He usually runs with it once I bring it up and we end up talking for an hour or so about it. It seems like having these conversations has also made us closer friends. However, he does get very upset and cries. I don't want to depress him or make him feel worse.



  • It's tough because on one hand, he may not have anyone that understands, so it might be nice that you actually extend him the offer to share his fears, frustrations, sadness.

    On the other hand, if that's all you ever ask, it does tend to add to the frustration. Sometimes, I hope people won't ask me how I'm doing b/c I'd rather try to do something normal. I spend enough of my own time in my head or in my own time focused on pain.

    SO, I think it's balance. Ask him if he's up for watching a funny movie or ask him if he's up for taking a drive to a local event (ok this time of year is tough but there are still indoor events).

    One of the nicest things someone did for me is offered to come pick me up to go to another friend's home. She had to drive 30 mins in the wrong direction just to pick me up. Initially I said no but she insisted so on the 2nd offer I accepted. It was SO nice b/c I would have still tried to go but I wouldn't have enjoyed myself b/c at the time driving put pressure on my back. As a passenger, I was able to recline so that I was in less pain when we were at the girl's gathering.

    Not sure if this helps.
    You are a VERY good friend...chronic pain can't be seen so it's very hard for people because no one can comprehend daily life unless they've lived it. Having someone that tries to understand means a lot.
  • It is a balance. It helps to tell someone about the pain some times. However, distractions such as a funny movie, some crafts or art work could be fun and a bit freeing. As long as you're not trying to drag your friend out on a 2 mile hike, a diversion could be good.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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  • Howdy, and welcome back!!! I hate to sound like a parrot, but so far, "a balance" is a bunch of it. Him knowing you are there to listen, support, and if needed vent to is good. The one phrase you want/need to stay away from is; "I know what you're feeling" or "I know what you're going through", because unless you've had similar issues, it works against you.

    It's kind of like me who has lost friends and family like many, but say never lost a child telling a friend who lost a child that I understand where they're at, or I know how you feel. I've never lost a child. So I really don't know what my friend is really feeling in this case. Does that help at all? I think it is wonderful he has you. Many of us lose a lot of our friends when this stuff starts, and stays. 10 stars to you Janet!!! :)

    Same as the others, activities that don't increase pain, or cause him to be uncomfortable (i.e., he isn't sure if he can commit to do said activity) are great in distracting away from the focus of pain. Please let us know how it goes.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I have a friend who always asks how I am doing and I love it. It gives me permission to not be "ok" all the time. I get tired of playing like my legs aren't burning and my back isn't on fire. I appreciate it when I can talk about it.
  • Having someone you can talk to is awesome! You are obviously an amazing friend to come here and ask how you can help. Man, don’t we all wish we had some peeps like that in our daily lives! This IS the only place I talk about it really. I think it’s great that you ask him and let him talk. He might cry and get upset, but that is a good release for him just to talk about it and get it out. Sometimes we all do just need a good cry and a soft shoulder (like yours) to lean on or cry on. I think you are doing all the right things. I’m sure you two talk about other things besides his pain, but it is so nice that he feels comfortable telling you whatever. Where do you live? Can I move next door to you? LOL! Just teasing… You’re a great friend, God bless you for caring and doing everything you can to help. Most people would never put forth that kind of an effort. You make me happy just reading your posts.
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  • I wouldn't like it if that were all that someone wanted to talk about, but on the other hand, there are people who never ask me how I'm doing, never mention my obvious disability/s, and to be honest that is even more hurtful. It makes me feel like they don't even care enough about me to ask. Now, some of the people I'm referring to, well I know that they care, so I can only assume from their personalities that they are uncomfortable asking, or they worry that I might become uncomfortable. So, just like anything in life, let him know you care. Personally speaking, I appreciate honesty over all else in this situation.

    Obviously those of us on a message forum are focusing on our pain or others here, and that might be because some of us (me) would rather look at it here more than in my real life, where it is much more difficult to face. Here the others are just like me.. so no need to explain my need to be validated or understood. You are a good friend for thinking of him and being concerned about his needs.
  • Why don't you ask your friend? Just tell him something like "I really want to be here for you, and be the most supportive I can. But if you don't want to talk about your pain all the time then I don't want you to feel you need to just because I asked".

    I personally would LOVE for someone to give me some vent time and then end our visit on a lighter note of comedy, movie etc. :)

    Can I borrow you as a friend? Will you be my friend? circle yes or no lol ;) Kidding!
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • But I get her as a buddy first missy!!! LOL!
  • I think it's great . Especially when most of those close to me get tired of hearing it. It gets old after a while for them. I don't talk much to those close to me except when they ask...how is your back today? Then if I start to tell them that it hurts, they quickly change the subject. I wish I had someone to listen to me....that's why I love love love this place! Many people who understand and who can offer support!
  • friend janet. i think it is important to ask and give the person an opportunaty to vent, because i can bet that they go over stuff in thier minds, alone and keep a lot inside and this can lead to depression.
    even though he may sometimes cry when discussing this, it is a release and better to get out than keep it in

    now , obviously , im not saying that this is all you should talk about, distraction techniques, like watching funny movies and activities he is able to do are also very important, along with everyday conversation and having a laugh, music is good too

    another thought, is there any practical issues he needs help with , that he is unable to do due to pain

    what about hobbies/interests, is there something he would like to do within his limitations that wont increase pain

    best wishes to you janet
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