Chronic pain is a serious condition that affects millions of people all around the world. It is very difficult to measure and the pain is often unique to each person. There is no magic treatment to cure chronic pain either and there are many complicated issues that can come along with chronic pain conditions. So how do you support those with chronic pain, especially your loved ones?
Understanding what chronic pain really is
Chronic pain isn’t a psychological problem that can be fixed by pushing through. It isn’t an excuse or a cop out for being lazy. It isn’t a way to garner sympathy. It is a sometimes overbearing problem that chronic pain suffers have to learn to deal with every day in order to still try to live a happy and productive life.
Pain is an experience everyone has had in one form or another. You stub your toe, it hurts for a day or two and then you feel fine. However, those with chronic pain don’t have the benefit of knowing relief is just around the corner. Some even dread the next day as chronic pain can be crippling on one day and virtually gone the next. This disjointed pain schedule can have big impacts on all parts of life, such as socially and at work.
Is chronic pain really that bad?
Chronic pain is often discounted as a real issue by those who are pain free because they cannot see any physical manifestations of the pain. Most people can’t comprehend the ebb and flow of a chronic pain condition, which can be frustrating for both the pain sufferer as well as family and friends. Many with a chronic pain condition don’t want to be a burden. They then develop the ability to mask their pain, which can make it even more difficult to notice.
Those who suffer from chronic pain are often ashamed of their condition. They don’t want to be seen as weak or helpless. They really do want to go out, be active, and have fun, but sometimes the pain makes that impossible. Chronic pain can make a person feel lonely and isolated even from the ones they care about most.
Ways to explain chronic pain
The spoon theory was created to better explain how chronic pain could affect even simple daily activities. It is a physical representation of energy-using spoons as a unit of measurement. A person starts with a set number of spoons in their hands, the metaphor begins, to show how much energy a person starts with on any given day. In this way, a person is able to see the spoons disappearing before their eyes as a pain patient explains how much energy it takes to do certain activities in terms of spoons. For an in-depth explanation, check out our post “Why Spoon Theory Is So Important To Chronic Pain Patients.”
Do you completely under comprehend chronic pain now? Probably not. It is a condition that is difficult to get a grasp of if you have not had it firsthand.
Supporting someone with chronic pain
Once you get a grasp about just how bad the pain can be, it is easy to see why those who suffer from a chronic pain condition really need support from the ones they care about most. Here are some good strategies and tips to keep in mind when you are playing the role of caretaker. Most of these will be just as helpful for those who are just visiting someone who is afflicted by a chronic pain condition as well.
Learn about chronic pain and its treatment
A little knowledge can go a long way. The next time a patient goes for a physical therapy or medical consult, ask if you can go with them. Knowing the types of pain and experiences someone has can help you better understand their needs. Educating yourself on their condition and the medications they take can also give you some valuable insight.
As a caregiver, it is best to learn managing strategies from doctors, support groups, and books about how you can help. Giving support to your loved one is an amazing feat, but you will have to learn how to balance what you do with what they need to do for themselves.
Use clear communication
Pain can do funny things to a person, so clear communication is very important. We sometimes forget that people cannot read our minds. While you think a gesture or action is clear, it is always good to make sure verbally. One thing to keep in mind is that people are very irritable when in pain. Try not to take their anger and guilt to heart.
Encouraging someone with chronic pain to be more physically or mentally active is a good thing. Just try to remember their limits and don’t push too hard. Try showing appreciation when they start branching out to help build a trend of growth and success. Make sure to keep the positivity up too!
Care for yourself too
If you are a caretaker, whether it be full time or part time, always make sure to find time for yourself. Caretaking can be a taxing and exhausting endeavor, but you cannot be there for someone else 24/7. Make sure to keep your own social life alive as friends and family can be a strong source of comfort for you.
Make sure you still healthy as well. A balanced diet and staying active is important to your own health and happiness, so don’t let it fall by the wayside while you are caring for someone else. Continue doing activities and hobbies you enjoy and remember that you have to lead a fulfilling life, too.
What have you learned the most from caretaking? If you are a patient, what things do you really think your caretaker does well?