Living with Chronic Pain

Encouraging Individuals With Chronic Pain to Participate in Social Activities


Chronic pain can adversely impact one’s ability to participate in social activities. Symptoms, such as pain or fatigue, and concerns over being unable to participate often cause individuals to avoid social activities. However, social connections and activities are key components of a person’s improved health and well-being.

Benefits of social activities

Engaging in social activities is beneficial to both physical and mental health. Staying socially active can help prevent isolation and loneliness, which are linked to negative health outcomes.

How to encourage participation in social activities

Five ways to encourage a loved one to participate in social activities include the following:

  • Supply needed accommodations for participation. When inviting someone with chronic pain to an activity or event, ask what accommodations they need to ensure their participation. Examples of this include the type of chair that would be most comfortable during a game night, or volunteering to push the person in a wheelchair during an activity that involves excessive walking.
  • Provide alternate suggestions. Individuals with chronic pain may have concerns about their ability to fully participate for the duration of an activity. To alleviate this concern, let the person know that they are welcome to stop by for a short time or participate in a small portion of an activity. For example, when asking someone to go to dinner and a movie, it may be helpful for them to know that it is okay to only go to dinner or the movie. When inviting someone with chronic pain to a backyard barbecue, let them know that they are welcome to lay down in the guest bedroom if they need to.
  • Remind the person that social connection is good for mental and physical health. If they are undecided about participating in an activity, a gentle reminder that social connections are an important part of a person’s well-being may be the nudge required. Let them know that social activities also provide a distraction from pain, which is an effective pain-management tool.
  • Reschedule if they need to cancel. If an individual cannot participate in an activity due to pain, fatigue, or other symptoms, be understanding. Pain flare-ups happen unexpectedly and are outside the person’s control. Expressing understanding and planning to reschedule on a different day shows them that the friendship or relationship is relevant, regardless of the need to cancel.
  • Express appreciation for participating. Following a social activity, show appreciation for participation, so they are more likely to attend future social events. A simple text saying “I had a lot of fun spending time with you yesterday” or “It was great to see you this morning” can provide encouragement and heighten self-esteem.

Additional sources: and Western Michigan University

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