5 Tips on How to Help Someone With Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain isn’t easy. Luckily, there are some things you can do when supporting someone with chronic pain.

By 
Shannon Dougherty
Reviewed by 
Dr. Abigail Hirsch, Ph.D.
January 4, 2022
6
 min. read

Living with chronic pain isn’t easy. It can restrict movement, affect one’s ability to do their job, play with their kids, or even enjoy life. This type of pain can lead to sadness, guilt, anger, and depression. 

But these struggles aren’t always intuitive to those around us. Pain is often invisible, and chronic pain can be hard to understand for someone who’s never experienced it themselves. 

Watching someone you care about struggle with basic movements like walking, sitting, or standing without knowing how to help them, can be frustrating and disheartening. 

Luckily, there are some things you can do to support  someone living with chronic pain.

How to Help Someone With Chronic Pain

Learning how to support someone with chronic pain starts with the understanding of what it means to be in chronic pain. 

Any pain that lasts over 6 months, regardless of whether the underlying disease is being treated, is, by definition, chronic pain. Often, there aren’t any physical symptoms or even an explanation for having chronic pain—no prior injury, surgery, or illness. This can make dealing with the pain even more challenging  and exhausting. 

People living with chronic pain go through a cycle of heavily charged, never-ending thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This is called the chronic pain cycle. You can learn how to break this ruthless cycle here

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1. When in Doubt, Ask

Everyone suffers with chronic pain differently. Sometimes the condition is obvious as the person has trouble walking or standing. Other times, there may not be any visible symptoms at all. One of the best ways to deal with pain is to get the person living through it to talk about it. 

Ask general wellbeing questions like:

  • Where do you feel pain?
  • When did your pain start?
  • Do you have any underlying conditions, such as arthritis, endometriosis, or depression, that you’d like to talk about?
  • How does your chronic pain affect your daily life?
  • What are some things that help with your pain?
  • Are there certain things that make your pain worse?

Don’t just ask the questions—pay attention and listen to their answers. Learning about their pain and symptoms brings you one step closer to helping them. 

How to Help Your Friend in Pain

Chronic pain can be really lonely, so it’s important to keep it touch regularly with those dealing with chronic pain; 

Make it a habit to call or send a note, or a text to show  your loved one that you’re  thinking of them. Ask them how they’re doing, listen to their response, and go through the well-being checklist to see where they’re at. Ask them if they need anything and if there’s anything you can grab them from the store, in the event that it’s difficult for them to leave the house. . Small things can make a significant impact on someone managing chronic pain.

2. Know the Pain Scale

Use the pain scale method to determine the intensity of pain your loved one is feeling. Tell them to pick a value between 1 - 10, where 1 means “no pain and feeling great” and 10 means “Excruciating pain, feeling terrible.” Once you know where they’re at with their pain level, you’ll better understand how you can help them. 

3. Watch For Signs Of Pain

There are some obvious signs you can look for when someone is dealing with high pain levels:

  • Inactivity
  • Lack of concentration
  • Teeth grinding
  • Restless or broken sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Wincing or moaning
  • Crying or sadness
  • Irritability or anger

How to Help Your Spouse With Chronic Pain

It’s easier to watch for signs of pain when you live with the person who’s suffering from it. Your spouse may not want to be a burden, so take it upon yourself to offer help when they show signs of suffering. 

If they’re upset, listen to them. If they’re angry, ask them if there’s anything you can do to ease their pain. If they want to talk, go through the pain scale, and if they don’t—respect their decision. Your goal is to make their life easier in any way you can. 

4. Be Aware of Physical Limitations

When someone you care about is in chronic pain, they need to listen to what their body tells them. Your responsibility is to respect that there may be limitations to their physical capabilities. 

When someone in chronic pain asks to sit or lay down or take pain-relieving medication, do your best to listen to what they’re saying without judgement - to validate their experience. . Try not to take their lack of energy personally.  Always try to show respect and empathy, and understand that this person may indeed have  reached their physical limitation for the moment. 

Having patience is key when offering support. 

How to Help Your Co-Worker in Chronic Pain

If you see a co-worker showing obvious signs of pain, ask them what you can do to make their job/life easier. Maybe they’re walking slower or with a limp. Or maybe they don’t work as fast as they used to. 

Or it could be something less obvious, like not being as excited to be at work or as happy as they used to be. Offer them a safe space to vent about their pain. 

5. Show Compassion

When you understand what your loved one is going through with their chronic pain, you’re more likely to show them empathy. Empathy is crucial because it makes you see the world through someone else’s eyes. 

When you’re compassionate toward what they’re going through, you can easily see how hard life must be for them. Imagine not being able to talk, walk, or act the way you used to. Having to depend on those around you for help with the simple things that you once never thought twice about. 

You’ll form a deeper appreciation for the amount of effort it takes for a person living with chronic pain to live a “normal” life. They try so hard to be OK, but to no fault of their own, they’re not…yet. .  No one wants to be a burden on those around them - help them understand you’re here to help them get through this. 

It is very important to keep an eye out for signs of depression—hiding their pain, concealing their emotions, and staying isolated are all red flags. If you see these signs, encourage them to seek help

Lin Health: A Personalized Approach to Chronic Pain Management

If your friend, spouse, family member, or co-worker needs additional support for managing their pain, we can help. 

Lin Health will pair your loved one with a personal health coach who’ll walk them through a personalized pain relief program designed just for them. 

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