Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than six months. The pain may be episodic, occurring in unpredictable flare-ups, or continuous. Many chronic pain patients have good days when the pain is mild or non-existent and bad days where the pain is excruciating and incapacitating. Because chronic pain is an invisible illness, patients often suffer in silence. Here are ten things they wish the people around knew.
It’s not all in their heads
Don’t assume that a person with chronic pain is a hypochondriac or an attention seeker. Most of them have an underlying medical problem, even if it isn’t apparent. A wide variety of disorders can lead to chronic pain and many are difficult to diagnose. Even when chronic pain results from a psychological condition (somatoform pain disorder), the pain experienced is real and can’t be wished away.
They’re not unreliable; their health is
People with chronic pain want to do things with family and friends. If they frequently cancel plans or turn up late, it’s because they’re having a bad pain day. They don’t want to disappoint the people they care about and wouldn’t do it intentionally. They just can’t predict in advance when pain and fatigue will prevent them from participating in social activities.
They’re probably in more pain than you think
Chronic pain can feel just as intense after two years as it did after two weeks. If pain seems to bother them less over time, that’s because they’ve learned that there’s no point in complaining or reminding others of their illness. Sufferers also acquire a few coping strategies to get them through the day.
They’re not lazy
Because of their pain and fatigue, they often have to work twice as hard as a healthy person to accomplish everyday tasks. On bad days they may need to rest frequently or nap for hours. They’re aware of their limits and know that exerting too much energy may make the pain worse. If their house is a mess, it’s not because they’re too lazy to clean. They’ll do it on a good day when they’re not disabled by pain.
They truly appreciate support and understanding
Knowing you have a supportive network of friends and family makes chronic pain more bearable. They want their loved ones to try to understand what they’re going through and realize that they’re doing the best they can. Most pain sufferers feel guilty about having to ask for help. On a bad day they really appreciate it when you notice they’re struggling and offer assistance or voluntarily take on some of their tasks.
Chronic pain is exhausting
When they’re in pain they have limited physical, mental and emotional energy. Every time they have to exert effort some of that energy is used up. Just getting out of bed, getting dressed and eating breakfast can wear them out. There comes a point in the day when they’re exhausted and need to rest. If you want them to do something then, understand that they just don’t have the energy reserves to draw on.
Pain sufferers try hard to seem normal
If they look well, it’s most likely because they make an effort to conceal their condition. They don’t want to be pitied. They take their pain medication, try to get plenty of rest and pay attention to their appearance so that they can be at their best in social situations. When pain flares up they often try to hide it and act cheerful. You may think they’re fine when they are actually suffering in silence.
They don’t want advice from friends and family
Most people with chronic pain educate themselves about their condition and seek guidance from medical professionals. They don’t need unsolicited advice from well-meaning people who have no knowledge or experience of their disorder. Although they appreciate your concern, it’s frustrating when you suggest something they’ve already tried and know doesn’t work.
They’re not drug addicts
They need medication to manage their pain and help them to live a more normal life. Sometimes this requires the use of prescription opioids but not as recreational drugs. They aren’t looking for a ‘high’, they just want pain relief. People with chronic pain take controlled doses of drugs under a doctor’s supervision just people with other types of illnesses do.
If they’re unemployed, there’s a good reason
People with chronic pain aren’t work-shy slackers. Many of them are too disabled by their condition to work. Severe pain can make it impossible to concentrate on a task, perform physical actions or meet targets. They may have good days when they’re well enough to be productive, but they can’t predict when the pain will return. Businesses are not keen to employ people who frequently call in sick and may have to leave in the middle of a shift.
Don’t let chronic pain steal another day! Call Dr. Adrian C. Dumitru. He’s a board certified and fellowship trained pain management specialist. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment please call (713) 461-8555 or visit www.houstonpainservices.com