How to support someone living with chronic pain

It’s important to listen and be receptive when your loved one shares their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with you. Showing empathy can help them feel understood by you. This is critical because the impact of chronic pain is very person specific. For some, it can be an overwhelming experience that could lead to frustration or sadness while others may be able to cope with the pain even if it is still challenging at times. Anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation can exacerbate pain while on the other hand, open, and non-judgmental conversations in a supportive environment may offer the best chance of recovery and healthy coping habits.

If you know someone experiencing chronic pain, here are a few ways to show your support:

Offer to help your loved one with everyday tasks

Your loved one may be experiencing physical pain that limits their ability to perform activities of daily living, such as cooking, grocery shopping, or cleaning. Performing these tasks alongside your loved one not only helps the individual, but may also improve bonding and alleviate anxiety. In general, however, the bias should be towards activity and movement.

Spend quality time and try a new activity together

Pain can take a toll not only physically, but mentally as well. To help with this, you can suggest doing some low-impact activities with your loved one. Physically demanding activities can be an option as well but should be introduced slowly, to avoid exacerbation of their symptoms or triggering flare-ups. A few suggestions for low-impact activities include:

  • Curling up together on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and watching your favorite TV show (or movie)
  • Going for walks around your neighborhood, using a cane or a sit-down walker if needed
  • Gardening together while enjoying nature
  • Gentle Yoga
  • App and virtual reality based cognitive therapy—mindfulness have been demonstrated to decrease pain and improve function.

Be patient and offer emotional support

When someone you care about has chronic pain, it’s important to take a patient approach while also providing strong, emotional support. Don’t try to rush them through the stages of grief that they’ll inevitably go through as they come to terms with their condition. Instead, listen patiently as they work through their feelings. Offer encouragement and be understanding when they ask for space. 

Finally, watch for signs of depression or other mental health issues; if you think someone struggling mentally, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional who can help them find solutions or support groups.

Most importantly, find time for yourself

When you’re taking care of someone else, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. In fact, it’s common for caregivers to feel guilt and worry when they spend time away from their loved one because they think they should be at their side 24/7. But spending some time focused on yourself is important for any caregiver.

Some ways of caring for yourself may include meditation, socialization outside of the home environment (such as joining clubs or volunteering) or practicing relaxation techniques like massage therapy or yoga. Whatever it may be, it’s important to find an activity that you enjoy while also improving overall well-being. A structured approach to doing activities for yourself can be very effective.

Pain management resources for caregivers

For additional caregiver resources and information on chronic pain treatment, you can browse our library of pain management resources to find the answers you need. If you would like to learn more about treatment options, you can take a quick assessment for your loved one to see which Boston Scientific pain management solution may be right for them.

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