Communicating with Friends and Family about Your Chronic Pain

It can be difficult talking to your friends and loved ones about something as uncomfortable as chronic pain for a multitude of reasons. You may be someone who doesn’t want to burden others with your problems, or you may not have the kind of relationship where you can discuss such a delicate topic.

There are many reasons why talking about your chronic pain is a challenge, but there are some very important benefits that should motivate you to keep trying. You will feel better knowing that there is someone nearby who understands what you are going through. It is also important that you have someone who can assist you through the day when things become too difficult.

Prepare Yourself

If your chronic pain condition is new to you, then it is important to learn as much as possible about it prior to discussing it with your family. You may not find that there is much medical information about certain pain conditions, but you may find a lot more information from other people suffering from your condition.

Whether it is through blogs, online testimonials, or face-to-face conversations, you may learn important tips about what to expect, how to manage your pain, and how to talk to loved ones about your pain condition.

If you have a common chronic pain condition like arthritis or lower back pain, you may find that there is a wealth of information about the science of the condition. While you may want to learn as much as possible about the science of the condition, your loved ones may find it more helpful to know how it affects you personally.

It will take time to learn how your body responds to the condition itself as well as any treatments that you are trying. If you do not know yet how the chronic pain will manifest or how your body will adapt to it, it is best to let your family know that you are still learning about it yourself. Keep up lines of communication so that you and your family can react accordingly as the chronic pain condition evolves.

Challenges to Talking about Chronic Pain

You should understand that there is no easy way to talk about chronic pain, and that one conversation probably will not be enough. Ask your friends, family, and work colleagues to remain patient and as open as possible so that you can share how the struggle is going.

Many people, even close family, may not be willing to remain that patient. They may be incapable of understanding the finer points of how chronic pain affects the body as well as the mind, or they may just not believe that your pain is as real and severe as you profess.

Unfortunately, many people will naturally believe that your condition is a mental rather than a physiological one. It is often impossible to convince some people that pain which has no visible source is authentic. They will choose to believe that your pain is a lie or the result of a psychological problem, and they will continue in their belief that you only need to convince yourself that the pain is not real in order to overcome it.

In most cases, however, people will recognize that chronic pain is really affecting you, but they may not respond in helpful ways. For example, they may suggest that you get out more. While being active in certain ways is beneficial, their idea of being active may injure you more. When you encounter misguided encouragement, do your best to accept their advice with gratitude but explain why it may not work for you.

Key Talking Points

When you discuss your chronic pain with those close to you, you want to make sure that you cover important topics including

  • Good days and bad days—make sure that they understand that some days will be better than others. While it is good to be encouraged by the positive periods, it is important to keep in mind that as a chronic condition, there are likely to be many more days in which the pain flares up.
  • Mental effects—be sure to explain that chronic pain has a profound effect upon the brain. This can often lead to stress, depression, and social isolation. If you have children, you should carefully explain that your sad days are not related to anything they have done.
  • Unpredictability—because your chronic pain can flare up at any time, ask your loved ones to be patient with you. There may be situations in which you agree to an activity but must withdraw due to a pain episode.
  • Assistance may be needed—explain that you may not be able to do certain things and you may need their help from time to time. Certain simple tasks that you can do one day may be impossible the next, so please be understanding.
  • Emotional fragility—it is critical that your loved ones understand that you may become angry, frustrated, or distressed from time to time. Often it is not the result of anything that others have done, but just the pain producing anxiety and hopelessness.
  • Trial and error therapies—although modern medicine is relatively good at offering effective therapies for many health conditions, chronic pain is not one of them. It often takes many attempts and therapeutic approaches before the right combination for pain relief can be attained, so this requires patience.
  • Encouragement is helpful—because chronic pain can be so depressing, if others can emotionally support, that would be greatly appreciated. Ask your friends and family to provide positivity whenever possible.
  • Talk honestly—explain that chronic pain is a condition that affects the entire family not just the afflicted. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed or unhappy, they should feel like it is okay to share their feelings with you. If they do not feel comfortable talking to you, then ask them to talk with someone like a close friend or even a professional.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.