Talking About Chronic Pain: 3 Helpful Tips

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One of the major issues for people living with chronic pain is that the condition causes issues extending far beyond the pain itself. In particular, people with chronic pain find it incredibly difficult to discuss the problem effectively, even with doctors who are specifically trained to help manage the condition.

However, talking about chronic pain is incredibly important. Building a support network of trusted friends, family members, and medical professionals can make living with the problem that little bit more manageable. If you experience chronic pain, but have always found discussing the condition challenging, here’s a few tips that you may want to keep in mind…

#1 – Avoid using the pain scale

Pain is often measured on a chart ranging from one to 10, but there is an inherent flaw in this kind of system: what one individual considers to be a “five” on the pain scale may only be considered a “3” by others – we all feel pain differently.

If someone – usually a doctor – asks you to rank your pain on this scale, it’s usually best to refuse. Instead, talk about the barriers that the pain is causing; for example, the pain is severe enough to be causing you to lose sleep, or struggle to do household chores. Everyone can relate to this description, because we immediately begin to think about how much pain we personally would need to be in order to struggle to do those things. As a result, there’s less room for interpretation or variances in pain thresholds, and you’re all the more likely to be able to receive the assistance you require.

#2 – Be forthright when discussing the changeable nature of chronic pain

One of the reasons chronic pain is so difficult to discuss is that people who do not experience chronic pain simply don’t understand the condition. For most people, pain is a linear progression: they experience pain, they take prescribed medication or alternatives such as Enveed CBD products in an effort to overcome the pain, and then the pain disperses. As a result, it’s often a real mental leap for people to imagine pain that does not follow such a linear progression; pain that may never entirely subside, and has ups and downs in terms of severity.

The only way to overcome this issue is to be as forthright as possible when talking about the pain you experience. For example, if you wish to cancel a social event as your pain levels are so high, say so. It’s often tempting to try and talk around the issue – “I don’t feel well” or “I’m just not feeling it” – but this can just add to the confusion. Instead, opt to simply say “It’s a bad pain day today”; this helps to emphasize that your pain levels are variable rather than a simple, linear experience, which should help them to better understand the condition, and thus be better able to provide effective emotional support.

#3 – Don’t feel pressured to accept suggestions

Anyone with a chronic pain condition will be familiar with the following kind of conversation:

Person with chronic pain: “I’m in pain every day.”

Well-meaning friend: “Oh I know someone who had chronic pain, they tried pilates/the keto diet/massage/etc and it worked! Have you tried that?”

Dealing with this kind of exchange is commonplace for people with chronic pain, and it’s always incredibly challenging. On one hand, you know that your friend or family member is genuinely just trying to help, that they believe they are sharing information that you might never have heard. Their intentions are good.

However, the chances of anyone with chronic pain not having considered a range of different issues is slim to none, especially when the suggested remedies are so basic. As a result, such comments are unwelcome and even mildly insulting, and it’s entirely natural for the person on the receiving end of such comments to feel aggravated – but feel they have to be nice, or say they will look into the idea, because the comments are being offered in good faith.

While you can just say “sure, I’ll look into it” if you feel it’s appropriate, it is always important to remember that you don’t have to say this; there’s absolutely no obligation on you to accept advice or guidance that is of little to no use. It’s also worth noting that being blunt also helps to prevent the same individual ‘following up’ on the conversation in future. You can simply say: “no, that won’t work, but thanks for thinking of it” – polite, to the point, acknowledges their good intentions but very much shuts the issue down once and for all.


In conclusion

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Hopefully, the above tips will allow anyone living with chronic pain to feel empowered to discuss their condition openly and effectively in future – much to the benefit of their overall health and well-being.