Understanding Someone with Chronic Pain
If you have never suffered from chronic pain, or any intense pain at all, it is probably difficult for you to understand what it is like to endure this condition. At the same time, since you do not understand what it feels like both physically and mentally, you also may have a difficult time determining how to best support your loved ones that may suffer from a chronic pain inducing condition. Here we offer sensible suggestions to help you better support your spouse, friend, or relative who suffers from chronic pain.
1. Learn about the individual’s pain and symptoms
Similar to all illnesses, every person that suffers from chronic pain has a unique experience full of distinct nuances. Therefore, it is helpful to discuss your loved ones conditions and daily struggle with pain. By educating yourself about this condition, the more you will be able to understand what their life is like on a day to day basis. Some topics you should consider asking about are the source of the pain, how the pain started, if there is a co-existing pain condition (depression, inflammatory bowel disease, peripheral neuropathy, sciatica, endometriosis, or chronic fatigue syndrome), and additional “complaints” such as arthritis pain, low back pain, and headache.
2. Understand the pain scale
The pain scale is a code that is used to measure and describe the intensity of the pain the sufferer feels at any given moment. Values from 1 to 10 are employed to describe the level of pain. On this scale, a rating of 1 indicates “free of pain and feeling wonderful” whereas a rating of 10 indicates the “most horrible pain ever experienced”.
3. Be aware of depression symptoms
Due to the fact that chronic pain affects the activity level that is achievable by the sufferer, it can also be accompanied by secondary depression. Depression can lead to the sufferer showing less emotion which can resultantly work to cover up the pain that they feel. To best support the person that you love, be sure not to confuse this masking with there being a reduction of pain symptoms.
4. Respect the individual’s physical limitations
For people suffering from chronic pain, there is no outward means to determine how they can move or what their optimal activity level is at any time. While it is sometimes possible to read it on their face or in their body language, this is not always the case. To respect potential physical limits, first off, be very understanding when the sufferer tells you that they need to lie down, sit down, or take medication immediately. This means that they are experiencing a sudden bout of pain and cannot possibly continue on with the current activity. In addition, take that that just because someone stands up or walks around for a certain amount of time, does not mean that they can continue to perform this action indefinitely.
5. Look for signs of pain
Although it can be challenging to determine if and when someone is in excruciating pain, there are some indicative symptoms that can give you a hint as to when your loved one is in pain. These include decreased activity, teeth grinding, poor concentration, sleep disturbance, mood swings, moaning, wringing of hands, irritability, restlessness, and grimacing.