Chronic pain is a deeply personal matter, which can often feel isolating to those who are struggling with it. Which is why it’s important for friends and family members to familiarize themselves with the reality of chronic pain, in order to offer support and truly care for those you love who may be in pain. Here are a few things everyone should know:
They are not making it up. One of the most pressing problems for those who are living with chronic pain is the feeling that those around them don’t believe that they are in pain, or that their pain is not as bad as they say that it is. But the fact is, only the person who is in pain can know what they are feeling, and no amount of skepticism or disbelief is going to help them recover. Believe your loved one when they say they are in pain and, instead of questioning their motives or perception of the pain, ask how you can help.
Chronic pain is different from acute pain. Everyone has felt some kind of acute pain in their lives -- but that doesn’t mean that everyone can understand how chronic pain feels. Often caused by some kind of nerve or tissue damage, chronic pain is persistent and, in many cases, permanent. It’s normal and acceptable to not to understand what a chronic pain patient is going through. Don’t try to compare chronic pain to pain you may have felt at some point. Understand that it is different. Pain can lead to other health problems.
Patients who suffer from chronic pain may also suffer from another persistent and serious issue: Chronic sleep loss. The inability to attain regular, restful sleep, due to pain, can lead to higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
Chronic pain is an emotional experience, too. Being in constant pain doesn’t just wear on the body -- it’s also mentally and emotionally exhausting. If you know someone who is living with chronic pain, it may, at times, take a toll on their emotional well-being -- and that’s normal. All your loved one to be sad, frustrated, depressed, and even angry at times. Don’t diminish the way that they’re feeling. Simply be supportive and know that they are doing the best that they can.