September is Pain Awareness Month. This is a great time to raise awareness of chronic pain and to educate to those around you.
Why do we need Pain Awareness Month?
An estimated one and a half billion people suffer from chronic pain worldwide at an enormous cost. In 2012, the cost of chronic pain was estimated at $635 billion dollars in the U.S. alone. These costs include:
- Direct costs of chronic pain: Medical care including prescriptions, procedures, and visits to the doctor
- Indirect costs of chronic pain: Loss of productivity on the job due to pain, plus disability payments or other social safety nets for those in pain
- Other costs: Early mortality, lost days at work, and less employment fall under this category of chronic pain impacts
As the number of pain patients increase, so, too, does the cost of chronic pain.
The prevalence of chronic pain and its high cost across the globe don’t translate into a profound understanding of chronic pain. Many pain patients still face discrimination, under-diagnosis, and under-treatment. Pain Awareness Month strives to combat this with education and awareness of this misunderstood condition.
Here are ten ways to celebrate Pain Awareness Month
1. Dispel damaging myths about chronic pain
You know the people who say pain is “just in your head”? Or that popping a pill will make everything all better? Go ahead and spread some knowledge around by counteracting 12 of the most damaging myths about chronic pain.
2. Bring chronic pain into the light
Chronic pain is considered an “invisible illness.” As with mental health issues, this invisibility somehow makes those in chronic pain feel like their pain doesn’t matter, and sometimes like they don’t matter. Shine a light in the dark places and talk about your chronic pain, sharing what it means in your daily life. People who have no experience with any type of chronic illness, especially a chronic invisible illness, can’t know what each day is like. Share the “spoonie” model with them, and get them talking.
3. Help someone in pain
Sometimes talking isn’t enough. Those who struggle with chronic pain often struggle with simple tasks we take for granted. Take some time this month and lend a helping hand. Do some laundry, weed the garden, mow the lawn. You could even make a couple freezer meals for when pain gets really bad. Even if you have never struggled with a chronic illness, these gestures go a long way towards making someone’s life easier.
4. Offer some time
One of the worst things about chronic pain is the isolation. When pain flares up, chronic pain sufferers may not be able to leave the house. So go to them. Pack some snacks, grab some good movies, and head over to their house for a movie marathon. Or lace up your walking shoes (and help them tie theirs!) and go for a leisurely walk in the park. Connected people are happier people. Help those in pain stay socially active.
5. Spread the word
Chronic pain awareness is key during Pain Awareness Month, and there are many different ways to get the message out. Follow the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) on Facebook to stay updated on research and events near you.
Follow and share Pain Doctor on Facebook to get updates from our blog and read about new research into diagnosis and treatment. You can also visit, follow, and share Pain Doctor’s Pinterest account for hundreds of posts on chronic pain.
6. Alert the media
The ACPA has tons of resources to help get local media involved in chronic pain education and awareness. Get in touch with local radio, television, and newspapers and use the ACPA’s press tools that include:
- Press release
- List of partners
- Fact sheets on chronic pain
- And more
7. Donate money
If it’s just not possible to donate time, donate money to the American Chronic Pain Association to help build awareness and educate people about chronic pain. Click here to donate monthly in any amount, or offer a one-time donation to honor those who live with chronic pain.
8. Educate your primary care physician
This may seem like a strange way to mark Pain Awareness Month, but many primary care physicians don’t have much training in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain. Use ACPA’s chronic pain communications tools to help your primary care physician understand more about chronic pain. They can use this new understanding to provide better treatment to future patients.
9. Speak up for someone in pain
Chronic pain sufferers face daily discrimination, from getting harassed for parking in a handicapped space (“But you don’t look sick!”) to being cut off in line for moving slowly. If you see something, say something. Often, chronic pain and chronic fatigue go together, and pain patients may not have the energy to speak up for themselves. Build awareness one situation at a time. You needn’t be confrontational. Saying something like, “I think she was first in line,” or demonstrating compassion by helping a person load their groceries into their car in the handicapped space can go a long way!
10. Take time for yourself
If you are struggling with chronic pain, or if you are a caregiver to someone in pain, self-care is crucial. If you have gotten out of the habit of caring for yourself, take time out for a massage, a hot bath, or a cup of tea. Other complementary therapies like acupuncture, float therapy, and aromatherapy can be relaxing and rejuvenating.
How will you mark Pain Awareness Month this year?