12 People Describe What It's Like to Live With Chronic Pain


While experiencing physical pain from time to time is part of life, chronic pain is something entirely different. With chronic pain, pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years, instead of stopping eventually like with acute pain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Because a large misunderstanding of the disorder still exists, people with chronic pain often get dismissed as “dramatic” or “lazy,” when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

To better understand this chronic disorder, The Mighty asked people with chronic pain to describe what it’s like to live with it.

This is what they had to say:

1. “[It’s] like having mono and the flu combined. Your body feels like concrete — heavy and impossible to move. You know the type of flu… where the sheets hurt your toenails and your pillow feels like rocks under your throbbing head? The kind when you can’t stop writhing in pain because it hurts so bad, but it also hurts to move? Like that. On a regular basis. No joke.” — Tracy Boyarsky Smith

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2. “I wake up feeling like I’ve been in a cage fight and have fire ants arguing over nonsense in my joints. Every movement is heavy and protested. Despite the pain I look fine and happy on the outside, but I’m counting down the minutes till I can go home and crawl into bed and just not have to pretend anymore.” — Molly Kelsey

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3. “My pain has been mainly neurological. I describe it as like shaking a bottle of fizzy water and keeping the cap on. The busy pressure is often what my mind is like.” — Ric Salinger

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4. “I don’t know what it’s like not to be in pain, to have a refreshing, unbroken sleep, to do things without causing pain somewhere. On a bad day, I can’t do my hair because it hurts too much.” — Mirella Joy

5. “[It’s like] walking painfully through a jungle, completely engulfed in a thick, disorienting fog, and you feel you need to sit down and rest, and your body won’t let you, but nor will it let you continue.” — Laura Vago

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6. “On a good day I wake up with the pain most people would stay home from work or school for; on bad days I live in a bathtub to relieve the intense pain and spasms; on the worst days I’m in the hospital on IV fluids and pain meds. It’s amazing how well one can fake feeling OK on our so called good days.” — Gretchen Lightcap McLachlan

7. “On my best days, it’s an unyielding static of discomfort. Your week’s allotment of energy can be used up in a single morning so you’re sure to make every moment count. When a flare hits, every joint aches and vibrates incessantly. You feel like you have been encased in quicksand, and the fatigue hits you like a strong sedative.” — Lisa Dickinson Gastaldo

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8. “Imagine someone with a rubber mallet keeps dropping it on your bare foot repeatedly, over and over, for an hour. Now imagine that in every joint. That is what my pain is like, often on a daily basis, for most if not all of the day.” — Julie Pruitt

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9. “It’s the nagging person in your life who never goes away no matter how much you tell him to or try to ignore her.” — Alison Taylor

10. “It’s like having a small child constantly tugging at your sleeve, desperate for your attention, and you do all you can to keep him happy and stop him from having a toddler tantrum. Sometimes, however, you can no longer reason with him and he has a full blown tantrum and you just have to leave him to get it out of his system.” — Winifred Kakouris

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11. “I’m 37 years old and at a healthy weight, and my body feels like I’m 90 years old. It hurts to move, washing my hair hurts… it’s a good day if I can lift my arms.” — Melissa Cote

12. “It’s like watching a Christmas tree with the twinkly little lights going off and on, with the twinkly lights being the aches and pains you feel in your muscles.” — Lakshmi Rajagopalan

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