Pain is Personal

Each person’s pain is unique.

Finding the right treatment for pain can be an ongoing challenge. There are often multiple, overlapping conditions that can make it difficult for patients and their caregivers. An open dialogue among patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals can lead to a better understanding of a patient’s needs and helps build trust while determining the most appropriate options. Here are a few things to consider as you help friends, family and loved ones living with pain.

Helping Another Talk

to a Healthcare Professional About Pain.

If you have a friend, relative or loved one living with pain, you may be unaware of just how much they are hurting. Since pain can’t be seen, and there is no objective way to measure it, it’s important for them to be able to describe how much pain they’re in. Pain doesn’t just affect them physically, it can take a toll on their emotions, their relationships and how they feel about themselves. Having them talk to a healthcare professional is the necessary first step in getting them the pain treatment and management they need.

Helping Them Use Language

a Healthcare Professional Can Understand.

Describing the pain they’re experiencing can be difficult. There isn’t one established way to talk to a healthcare professional about pain, so the person you’re caring for may struggle to explain the level of pain and suffering they’re dealing with. Ask them to explain to their healthcare professional how long they’ve been in pain—and how it’s affecting their daily life. They should talk about the frequency of their pain, its duration and how it impacts their daily activities and relationships with others.

Getting the Emotional Support They Need.

Pain can put a tremendous strain on relationships, both inside and outside of the immediate family. That’s because it can be hard to understand the pain your friend, relative or loved one is experiencing, and how much it impacts their daily life. This may cause them to decline invitations, avoid friends and family, and to stop talking about their pain—bringing a sense of isolation. Their best approach is often to let those around them know about their situation and to ask for their support when they need it.

Find Dignity in Pain.

To gain respect and feel better about themselves, those in pain may choose to bravely move on with their lives and “push through” their pain. However, this effort may not be acknowledged, because you and others may not recognize their pain. It can also be hard to rely on others for support. They should be realistic about what they can do on their own and ask for the help they need. Make sure that they talk to their healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen. It’s also possible for the person in pain to feel better about their financial health through careful budgeting, applying for the benefits they’re entitled to, or finding work that is less physically demanding.

Find Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Life.

For some people living with pain, the inability to hold down a job, or fulfill a role as parent, spouse or partner, can have a negative impact on self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life. Boredom or depression can be a challenge as pain limits their abilities. Some people can find positive purpose by becoming experts on pain and illness and advocating for their own health, while others use their knowledge to help those in need through volunteering or mentorship. They might also find new home-based hobbies or interests, and use their free time to strengthen ties with family. Whatever path is taken, a positive outlook, in spite of their pain, can lead to a more meaningful life.

Maintaining Control of Life.

The uncertainty and unpredictability that come with an injury or illness, along with the changing nature of pain, can make it difficult to adjust to what is now the new normal. It’s important to take advantage of the times when there might be less intense pain to get things accomplished. People living with pain can plan ahead, be compassionate with themselves and allow themselves adequate time, but be careful not to overexert themselves. Some people also maintain control by establishing a regular, daily routine that starts from the moment they get out of bed and continues throughout the day. They might also become their own medical advocate, educating themselves about treatment options and using their time to find the right team of medical professionals.

Overcoming Stigma.

If you know someone who is living with pain, they may encounter people who judge them, creating difficult interactions with friends and relatives to those in the medical community. This can result in anxiety. Remember that pain is personal, as is the way they and their medical team treat it. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open with them and look to other avenues of support – like joining a support group.  You can also remind them to always maintain a healthy respect for the risks and benefits of treatment.

Maintaining Hope in All Circumstances.

For patients, living with pain is an emotional journey. People may struggle to stay hopeful when faced with the negative emotions that can sometimes occur. You may be able to help your loved ones to set attainable goals; instead of hoping for less pain, they may hope for periods of less pain. There is evidence that those who manage to maintain a more optimistic outlook seem to do better. Here are a few additional approaches they might consider:

  • • Seeking support from their care team, friends and family
  • • A focus on positive thinking, through counseling or meditation
  • • Engagement in activities that make them feel happy
  • • Avoiding negativity, including negative people and unsupportive people