Living with chronic pain is hard enough. Unfortunately, it may also come with some frustrating misconceptions and misunderstandings from other people.
But if your friends and family know what these challenges are, they may be better equipped to empathize with your experience and offer help when it’s needed.
Learn more: Defining Chronic Pain and Depression
Consider sharing this blog post with loved ones whom you want to have a better understanding of the struggles of chronic pain.
Read more: Chronic Pain Can Lead to Depression
- The pain is unseen but very real.
- Chronic pain triggers other health problems.
- Chronic pain is unpredictable.
- Chronic pain serves no purpose.
- Chronic pain is isolating.
Chronic pain is often caused by problems that aren’t easy to see or identify, so people may treat it as if it’s made up or exaggerated. Because they can’t see evidence of the factor(s) causing pain, they think it’s “all in your head.” Unfortunately, if you are surrounded by people with this attitude, you may find yourself trying to “prove” your pain to others. This can result in an unhealthy focus on the pain rather than on more healthy pursuits and activities.
Even health care professionals have been shown in studies and surveys to not take their patients’ claims of pain as seriously if they can’t detect an exact cause.
Fortunately, many in the medical community are realizing this problem—they are working to appreciate the reality of chronic pain in their patients and how it needs to be treated and managed differently. They are understanding that the pain is its own problem that needs to be treated, and a relentless search for an exact cause is not always appropriate and can sometimes be dangerous to the patient.
When chronic pain comes into someone’s life, it rarely comes alone. Those with chronic pain are much more likely to have depression, fatigue, sleep problems, and more. And what’s worse, these problems usually increase the pain too, triggering a dangerous downward cycle both physically and emotionally. Professionals have labeled this phenomenon as “suffering.” Suffering is the combination of your pain and your emotional response to it.
Read more: Suffering and Chronic Pain
It’s important that all the health problems that accompany chronic pain are identified and treated concurrently. This can help decrease your overall level of suffering even if the pain intensity is unchanged.
Each person’s experience with chronic pain is completely unique. Two people can have the same condition and be in the same general health, and yet their pain level (or perception of pain) can be completely different. Two individuals with the same condition can also show very different levels of suffering.
This is very true for those with arthritis. Studies have shown that someone with a badly damaged joint may feel only minor pain, while someone else with only mild joint deterioration can be in serious pain. In chronic pain, the amount of tissue damage does not necessarily predict the pain that will be experienced.
Acute pain due to tissue damage from something harmful—like touching a hot surface or a sharp object—acts as a warning to the brain to take evasive action and avoid further injury. But with chronic pain, the nerves are sending repeated signals to the brain for no protective purpose. Chronic pain can be very frustrating since it is not as simple as finding the “cause” of the pain and “fixing it,” like in acute pain.
When chronic pain is debilitating and others don’t understand what you’re going through or why you can’t just overcome it, you can start to feel very lonely and isolated.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows people with chronic pain to find each other and share support and experiences, so they don’t feel so alone. One such place is the Chronic Pain Forum on Spine-health.com.
Fortunately, the medical community is making strides to gain a better understanding of how chronic pain works and how to provide support and relief to those who suffer from it.
If you have chronic pain and you struggle with some or all of these factors that make life difficult, seek emotional support from others who understand what you’re going through.
Also, don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor and share how chronic pain affects you day-to-day, so you can work together on finding treatment options.