People suffering with ongoing chronic pain may not look ill. They might not have a visible injury that will alert you to the fact that they are sore, but this does not mean they are not feeling pain in parts of their body almost every single day.
It can be hard to comprehend the pain that someone else is feeling, especially if there is no obvious cause for the pain. This can sometimes lead others to say things that can be hurtful. It’s not that they are trying to upset the individual with the chronic pain; most of the time they are trying to be helpful. In fact, they are very often saying things that they feel will help. The doctors who work at KindlyMD, one of Utah’s top pain clinics, say the following are some of the things you should try to avoid saying to someone dealing with chronic pain.
It Could Be Worse
Telling someone struggling with pain that it could be worse, or that ‘at least you don’t have a terminal illness’, only serves to minimize their feelings and make them feel as though they should be grateful to ‘only’ be dealing with chronic pain. You might think that you are helping by telling them to look on the bright side, but all you are really doing is making them feel guilty for complaining about their pain. It is much better to acknowledge their feelings and ask them what you can do to help instead.
You Don’t Look Ill
Telling someone in pain that they don’t look ill might be your way of trying to make them feel good, but it can make the individual feel as if you don’t believe them when they say they are in pain. Chronic pain cannot be seen, and just because a person does not look ill does not mean they are not suffering. If you want to tell a person with chronic pain that they don’t look ill, try telling them that they look well and ask if they are having a good or bad day.
I Know How You Feel
If you have suffered with chronic pain in the past, then you will know how someone feels, but if you haven’t then it is highly unlikely that you know how they feel. Also, avoid trying to make their illness about you and something ‘comparable’ that you have suffered with in the past. It’s better to ask them how they are feeling and telling them that you cannot imagine how hard it is for them. Then ask if there is anything you can do to make them feel better. Better yet, make an offer to do something specific to ease their burden, such as their grocery shopping or the laundry.
Just Put it Out of Your Mind
In a bid to try to help people we love who are suffering with chronic pain, we often suggest things that we think might help. It is not uncommon to assume that by just not thinking about the pain, it will go away. Telling someone to put their pain out of their mind suggests that it is psychological rather than physical and may make them feel as though you don’t actually believe them. You could try talking to your loved one and asking them if they have thought about visiting a pain management physician for a more tailored treatment plan. Sometimes, chronic pain will respond better to alternative therapies than it does to medication. It might be worth mentioning this and asking your friend or family member if they have considered this type of action.