Knowing how to support someone with chronic pain can be really difficult. It’s hard to know how to help when it’s something you’ve never experienced or find difficult to understand.
Chronic pain is a lot more than feeling a twinge here and there, its relentless and can be debilitating. It can last a long time, no matter how many treatments or remedies an individual may try.
Unlike acute pain, which is usually the result of an injury or specific incident, chronic pain doesn’t always have a known source.
I say all of that to say – chronic pain is bloody exhausting!
Living with chronic pain often causes several changes to a person’s lifestyle, family dynamic, social life, personality and outlook on life. These drastic changes can, unfortunately, lead to feeling guilty, isolated, less independent, which can have a negative impact on mental health.
Therefore, it’s really important for those dealing with chronic to have a trusted support system to help them live their best life despite being in constant pain.
If you’ve been struggling or just need a bit of guidance to learn how to support someone living with chronic pain, here are some useful tips to help.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO SUPPORT SOMEONE LIVING WITH CHRONIC PAIN
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Doing your research and finding out as much as you can about your loved one’s chronic pain condition will put you in a better position to help. It will help you understand their symptoms, triggers, and capabilities in order for you to offer the best support.
PubMed is a great place to do your research, “PubMed is a free resource supporting the search and retrieval of biomedical and life sciences literature with the aim of improving health–both globally and personally.”
Supporting someone with an invisible illness can frustrate loved ones because it’s something you can’t see and therefore don’t understand. Doing your research will help you understand that their pain is real and not all ‘in their head’, and although you can’t see the pain, it is very real.
Getting an understanding of your loved one’s pain will help you to be better equipped to provide the support that they may need from you.
STOP VOLUNTEERING MEDICAL ADVICE!
I’m almost certain that those who live with chronic pain hate this the most! One of the most irritating things you can do is offer unwanted medical advice!
I know it’s coming from a good place and you’re only trying to help, but believe me, YOU’RE NOT! Those of us living with chronic pain are pretty clued up about our pain and ways to manage it.
Although volunteering remedies or solutions may seem like a good idea, we’ve probably already researched, tried and discussed with our doctor all that you’re suggesting. So constantly shoving medical advice (when your no doctor) down someone’s throat is far from helpful and can come across as patronising.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you’ve done proper research and come across something you feel may be genuinely useful for your loved one’s chronic pain, you can mention it. There’s just a way to go about doing it.
Perhaps send them a link to an article or briefly drop it into a conversation, but once you do, leave it at that. If they want to discuss it further, they will but let them take the lead.
KEEP INVITATIONS OPEN
Prior to chronic pain, your friend or loved one may have been the life of the party and never one to miss out. But chronic pain is unpredictable and can vary day to day, hour to hour, meaning they may have to miss out on a lot of events and activities.
You may feel like your being thoughtful by not inviting your loved one to activities because you assume they won’t be well enough, but that is not the best approach.
Most of us living with chronic pain, hate for our pain to define us!
We still want an invitation to dinner or to your birthday party. It helps us to still feel included and gives us a sense of normality.
Besides, chronic pain is unpredictable, so there may be days when we feel well enough to attend. So, instead of assuming we “can’t” or “won’t be willing” to take part, extend the invite anyway with no pressure or making us feel obliged to accept.
Let your loved ones know they don’t have to accept your invite, and it’s okay if they need to cancel or reschedule.
Chronic pain can make people feel like they’re at risk of losing their independence, so often they won’t ask for help to avoid feeling too dependent on others.
Your loved one may look like they’ve got everything together and they’re coping with their chronic pain really well, but that might not always be the case.
Rather than assuming they don’t need any help because they haven’t asked, offer to help anyway.
Be tactful when offering your help, rather than just saying “ if you need any help let me know”, be specific with the help your offering.
For example, ask if you can help them with household chores, childcare, taking them to appointments or anything else you think will be most helpful for them.
No matter what you’re going through, having someone to listen to can be really helpful. Aside from the pain itself, chronic pain cause stress, depression and loneliness, so having someone to talk to about everything can be therapeutic.
Be a sounding board and let them know that they always have someone to come to if they want to talk.
BE MINDFUL AND PATIENT
It’s hard to notice when someone with chronic pain is really struggling, as it’s not something they will always say or show to others. In order to support someone living with chronic pain, it’s important to respect their physical limitations.
If they tell you they need to sit down, listen, and don’t question or undermine their pain!
Chronic pain can hit you like a ton of bricks with no warning, meaning a person may have to stop what they’re doing suddenly.
You may be out with a loved one and they suddenly have to leave, just be patient and understand that they need to do whatever is necessary to take care of themselves. Just because they were fine a few minutes ago doesn’t mean things can’t suddenly take a turn for the worse.
DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY
When you see someone you love struggling, it’s natural to want to cheer them up or help, but chronic pain can make it difficult to make plans or be the best company for others.
Even though they may have to decline your invitations or aren’t themselves when you’re around them, don’t take it personally. It’s not that they don’t want to see you or that they don’t enjoy your company, they’re just doing everything they can to keep the pain under control.
Every day is a struggle for those living with chronic pain, so having an understanding support system can reassure them despite all they have to deal with.
Having dependable people around me has made such a difference to the way I manage and view my chronic pain, so be that rock for the chronic pain warriors in your life.
In the meantime, if you’d like more about living with chronic pain, check out these posts :
- My Doctor Is Not Helping Me! – How to Make Doctors Take Your Pain Seriously
- Living With Chronic Pain – How to Stop Chasing a Diagnosis
- How Dealing With Chronic Pain Changed My Life Forever
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