If we had our way, there would be no such thing as Pain Awareness Month. We wouldn’t need to work hard to build awareness and education of the fact that over 76 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain. We wouldn’t need to call for more research funding for more effective diagnosis, treatments, and therapies for chronic pain.
The beginning of Pain Awareness Month
The fact remains that even with nearly 12% of the country suffering from some form of chronic pain, many still don’t understand the impact that chronic pain has. Pain Awareness Month began in September of 2001, with the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) establishing Partners for Understanding Pain, a coalition of more than 80 organizations dedicated to raising awareness and fostering compassion for those who suffer.
This September, here are 12 ways to get involved for Pain Awareness Month.
1. Don’t buy in to damaging myths about chronic pain
Chronic pain patients have heard it all before: The pain is only in their heads. Simple life changes will fix everything. A pill will help. Or not – because then you might be an addict, right? Whatever the myth, take some time to educate yourself about the realities of what it means to live in chronic pain.
2. Be a supportive friend or family member
It can be difficult to support a person in chronic pain. Some days they retreat into silence, shutting you out. Others, they may be active and smiling. Still others they may be angry and irritable. It can be hard to know how to support a friend or family member in chronic pain, but they appreciate everything you do to make the effort.
3. Spend time with someone in pain
Whether it’s eating a meal that you have prepared or going for a walk, time is the most valuable thing you can give to someone during Pain Awareness Month. Isolation can be intense for those who suffer. Taking a few hours to connect with a person in pain is a great way to show them you haven’t forgotten them.
4. Stuff envelopes
Nothing glamorous but still necessary, stuffing envelopes with fliers for events, making copies, and cold calling to publicize Pain Awareness Month events is another way to support the cause.
5. Lobby your local government
Use ACPA’s educational tools to raise awareness of chronic pain in the government at the local level. Lawmakers can’t promote and fund what they don’t know about. Use Pain Awareness Month to bring their attention to the pain in their communities and lobby for more funding, research, and attention on this issue.
6. Use social media
The main goal of Pain Awareness Month is education. Chronic pain is an “invisible” illness and often disregarded. Posting on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms raises awareness among friends and family. Encourage them to like and share your posts to reach a wider audience. Follow the ACPA on Facebook to stay updated on research and events near you.
Also, follow and share Pain Doctor on Facebook to get updates from our blog and read about new research into diagnosis and treatment. You can also visit, follow, and share Pain Doctor’s Pinterest account for hundreds of posts on chronic pain.
7. Use local media to spread the word
Contact local TV, radio, and newspapers to get the word out about Pain Awareness Month. Use the ACPA’s press tools that include:
- Press release
- List of partners
- Fact sheets on chronic pain
- And much more
8. Donate money
If you cannot spare the time and have consciously unplugged yourself from social media, consider making a monetary donation to the American Chronic Pain Association. This money is spent in advocacy and education. You can also donate to other chronic pain organizations to further their specific missions.
9. Advocate in real time
If you hear or see something that discriminates against those with chronic pain, speak out. Ask for handicapped ramps or better parking for those who struggle with chronic pain. Share your own story as it relates to situations that could be potentially discriminating. The more who speak out, the better.
10. Talk to your doctor
Doctors may be well-intentioned, but if they are not specifically trained in chronic pain diagnosis and management, their best intentions may fall flat. Use ACPA’s chronic pain communications tools to have frank conversations with your doctor. You can also provide them to your doctor’s office as a resource for other chronic pain patients.
11. Take care of yourself
If you have lived with chronic pain for any length of time, you may have forgotten how important it is to care for yourself in a meaningful way on a daily basis. Use Pain Awareness Month to start self-care rituals that include things like massage, journaling, daily walks in nature, or daily breaks for tea. These may seem like small things, but if you institute them as a commitment to your health and wellness they can really add up.
12. Know your rights
Chronic pain doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. Know your rights as a pain patient, and live them every day. Know that every day you have a choice in the way you react to pain, the actions you take, and the words you speak. You may feel out of control when you are suffering. You may not be able to choose to be pain-free, but you can choose the manner in which you deal with the daily challenges you face. Share your struggles, and choose to be present and alive in the world every day. Show up to your own life, no matter what each day brings.
If you or a family member suffers from chronic pain, how will you educate others and build compassion during Pain Awareness Month?