Chronic Pain: Help Others Help You

Chronic Pain: Help Others Help You

By sharing what makes us better with those closest to us, we can help ourselves and help them, too.

Pain is just that, a PAIN. It’s hurtful. Millions of people deal with some kind of pain every single day, and every single person is going to deal with their pain differently. Some will lash out and yell and scream, while others may withdraw and become isolated. There is no right or wrong way to cope with pain, but what is apparent from living with chronic pain is that it takes a village to survive. It’s hard to cope with pain alone, but in order to get the support you need, you may need to help others learn to help you.

How many times have you had someone ask you “How can I make it better?” Or simply “What can I do?” And you responded with something like “I’m okay, I don’t need anything!” Humans are not made to read each other’s minds, (thank goodness) so we shouldn’t expect those around us to just suddenly know what we need. In fact, by not being open about how others can help you, not only do you miss out on valuable support, but you miss out on the opportunity to educate people about chronic pain.

pincushion heart

It’s easy to think that we are the only ones impacted by our pain — to assume that since we are the ones actually feeling the pain that we are the only ones affected by it. However, our pain can also be hard for those around us. It hurts our families to see us struggle! It’s easy to get all wrapped up in what’s going on and forget that those closest to us are hurting too. Helping us makes them feel better. But in many cases, they just don’t know how to help or how to make it better, no matter how much they want to.

And when they try to help in ways that aren’t really helpful, it’s easy to lash out. If you try to pet an animal at the zoo and it almost bites your hand off, you won’t do that again. The same is true when you get mad at someone trying to help — chances are they aren’t going to reach out again. We can’t expect those closest to us to keep trying to help if their well-meaning but off-base attempts at help constantly result in failure.


Only by being honest about what we are feeling, how we are feeling, and what we need to feel better, can we help people in our inner circle of support help us. For instance, if you would prefer to be alone during high pain times, just be upfront and let your support team know so it’s not a shock when you check out. Or if you would like your spouse to take care of the kids for an evening when your pain is flaring, tell them!

I know it’s easy to feel like no one else could ever understand exactly what you’re going through. To an extent that is true. Someone who doesn’t have a chronic pain condition won’t be able to understand that pain. But what they can learn understand is how that pain makes you feel and what they can provide to help you feel better. 

Start by explaining to them exactly how you feel when your pain is at its worst. Try to relate your pain to their experiences. Maybe they remember that time they had the flu and the aches were so bad and their head was throbbing? Or remind them of the time they suffered a major loss and experienced depression. This won’t make them understand exactly how you feel, but can at least give them a reference point.

Living with pain of any kind is hard. And it’s easy to assume that the people who care about us should just know how to make things better. But that’s simply not the case. The best thing we can do for ourselves and our families is to be upfront and honest by telling them exactly what we want and need. By sharing what makes us better with those closest to us, we can help ourselves and help them, too.