The American Chronic Pain Association declared September Pain Awareness Month as a way for people to learn more about the effects of chronic pain. For people who live with someone with chronic pain, there are many things you can begin doing now to help.
These ten tips are just the start, however. Always take the time to listen to and understand the sufferer’s current needs. By respecting and acknowledging their chronic pain, you’ve already started doing your part to help them with it.
1. Learn more about the person’s condition
One of the first things you can do is to learn more. Talk to the doctor. Research it on your own. Discuss the condition with others who suffer from it. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to help the person with chronic pain.
2. Don’t ask if the person with chronic pain is “fine”
Often we ask if someone is “okay” or “fine” without considering what those words really mean. Ask them about their current pain level on a scale of 1-10 in order to have a better understanding of how they feel at that moment. Better yet, try using the ACPA’s Quality of Life Scale to determine their exact feelings.
3. Listen and watch for signals of advanced pain
Those who suffer from chronic pain may be embarrassed to ask for help or tell others about their pain. Start to watch the person’s facial expressions or body language to better understand how they currently feel.
4. Support the person in their diet
Dairy, sugary foods, caffeine, and carbs may all aggravate a person’s pain symptoms. Support your family member or friend suffering from chronic pain by cutting out the same types of food as they do and focusing on healthy, fresh meals.
5. Slow down and join them at their own pace, on their own time
When chronic pain sufferers feel ready to take on a new exercise program under a doctor’s advice, support them by joining them. Pay attention to how the person is feeling and make sure to always stick to their pace.
6. Lend a hand and think ahead
Consider what the person suffering from chronic pain will have trouble with, such as opening bottles or driving. Try to perform these tasks for them without making them ask. Also lend a hand when it comes to managing medicine and doctor’s visits.
7. Respect their abilities at this place and this time
People suffering from chronic pain experience varying levels of pain throughout the day, week, month, and year. Let the person know that even though their level of pain may change every day, your support will always be constant.
8. Help the person relax
Stress and tension can often exacerbate pain symptoms and overall well-being. Help the person suffering from chronic pain relax as often as possible, through meditation or quiet time.
9. Encourage them to find support groups
When pain becomes really difficult, it helps to talk to others experiencing the same symptoms. Encourage the person to find local support groups.
10. Think past the pain and acknowledge them as a person first
Even when pain is a way of life, still acknowledge the sufferer as a person first. The person still wants to enjoy life, no matter how much pain may put that out of reach at times.
Image by Josep Ma. Rosell via Flickr