What is a chronic pain? These two great articles explain how you can tell other people what chronic pain feels like.
New Life Outlook says that it’s almost funny that the single word #pain is supposed to mean all of the different sensations you feel when you live with a chronic pain condition. I find it hard to describe in words how different pains physically feel, especially to someone who does not have chronic pain. Sometimes a metaphorical image captures it best.
Visual metaphors are better able to evoke understanding and empathy in others (G. D. Schott). If I tell you about a large needle being slowly inserted into my eyeball, your reaction is likely to cringe, grimace or squint your eyes. When you hear someone describe an image of something happening to them, your brain will “mirror” that experience – you imagine what it would feel like for the same thing to happen to you. Using visual metaphors can help you to describe your #pain better to your doctors and your family and friends. If you have chronic pain, just reading or hearing descriptions of #pain metaphors might start to make you feel tense and stressed. Images can elicit a very physical response, bypassing the analytical parts of our your brain.
New Life Outlook also points out that using your imagination is a helpful way to distract from focusing on #pain, which is likely another reason that visualization can help to manage #pain. Numerous studies have demonstrated that guided imagery reduces pain and improve physical function.
The National Pain Report says that people who don’t have experience with it seem almost incapable of understanding chronic pain. This is so true. We live it, but we don’t even understand it ourselves, so how can we expect anybody else to? It’s unnatural to have #pain without an injury, it’s unnatural not to heal and get better, but this is exactly what chronic pain is and does. It’s persistent, pervasive, and permanent nature is almost incomprehensible, even to those of us who live with it.
We are expected to “get better”, and people seem to lose patience with us when we don’t. Often we can’t even explain why it hurts, just that it does, and this lack of a clear reason seem to invalidate our experience in others’ eyes. We live in a visual, evidence-based culture. The same doctor that is willing to prescribe us loads of pain medication for a broken bone or after surgery becomes unsympathetic when our #pain isn’t visible. To overcome these obstacles, we must find a way to explain our suffering in a way others can understand.
To start telling someone about your chronic pain, you should explain to them the root of your #pain. You may not feel comfortable giving specific details, and you don’t need to. You may want to tell the person what hurts you, like your back, head, or the entire body. If you don’t feel like going into all the details, you may suggest that the person research the condition. You may also choose to print out basic information for the person to read.
Tell them about the #pain scale. Most people with chronic pain evaluate the #pain on a #pain scale. You should tell the person about this scale so they can understand the intensity of your #pain when you give them a number.
Describe the type of #pain. You could use words like stabbing, dull, sharp, tingling, throbbing, feeling warm/hot/numb, etc. It might also be helpful to compare it to a minor #pain that the other person may have felt (if applicable). “It kinda feels like the pinch from a shot, but never goes away,” or, “It feels like a rubber band snap. This is just like using visual metaphors like New Life Outlook has shown. If your artistic in any way you could maybe draw a person and indicate where you feel the #pain.