When you’re suffering from chronic pain in your neck, back, or joints, it can take a toll not only on your physical and mental health, but also on the quality of your relationships. Helping your friends, family members, and coworkers to understand or respect your limitations can be difficult. It’s especially difficult if your pain is “invisible;” that is, you don’t have an obvious visible illness or injury and/or medical practitioners have had difficulty finding a definitive diagnosis. In these cases, sufferers sometimes have problems with people who might not “believe” the severity of their symptoms or understand their limitations. This can have a ripple effect, as feeling that you don’t have the support of those around you can have a negative impact on your mood, your wellness, and even your ability to recover.
If you haven’t had a conversation about your pain with someone in your life, it can be hard to start. If you feel like a friend or family member isn’t being supportive, it can be even more difficult to actually talk with them about it. Keep in mind that most of the time, communicating openly about the issue is the first step to gaining their support. Here are some ways that you might approach issues surrounding your chronic back pain when you’re talking with a family member, friend, or workmate.
“Looking sick and feeling sick are not the same.”
It may seem obvious to you, but sometimes this just needs to be said out loud! You may not show outward signs of debility — or they may be subtle — but that doesn’t mean that your pain is not there.
“If you ever have any questions about how I’m feeling, please just ask.”
Sometimes, people aren’t sure what to say or how to act when they’re around someone dealing with a chronic pain problem. If you’re willing to have an ‘open door’ policy on questions like that, it can help alleviate this awkwardness. It doesn’t mean you have to tell them every last detail of how you feel, it just establishes that you’re comfortable sharing. This can also help if your friends or family members aren’t sure if and when you may need help with various activities.
“Just because I’m able to do an activity one day, it doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do it the next time.”
This can be a tough issue for children and teens in particular to understand. You want to keep living your life, so it’s natural that if you feel up to the task, you’ll do just that. But there are times where the pain is too much, or where you start an activity and then realize it’s too much. Chronic back pain often leaves you — and those around you — with this kind of uncertainty. Make clear that it’s frustrating for you, too.
“I want to be sure I’ve researched the risks and benefits, and that I can make an informed decision.”
Back pain is a common health concern, and so you’re likely to hear unsolicited advice or anecdotes about miraculous cures. It’s important not to be dismissive — the person is trying to help you, even if they aren’t doing it in the best way. Make it clear that you appreciate your concern, but you don’t have to give the impression that you are necessarily going to take my advice.
These talking points underscore the difficulty of living with chronic back pain, and how much it infiltrates every aspect of your life. If you’re tired of waiting for a referral to a specialist, you’d like a second opinion, or you simply want to get back your life, call the Spine Institute Northwest at 888-712-0318.