19 Unexpected Things That Can Be Painful When You Have a Chronic Illness


When people hear that you have a chronic illness, they might expect things like walking or climbing stairs to be painful for you. But chronic pain can manifest in so many different ways, making everyday tasks and things healthy people wouldn’t even expect to be painful to be absolutely excruciating. Things other people take for granted, like getting dressed or laying in bed, can actually be quite painful when you have chronic health challenges.

Because chronic illness and pain are so often misunderstood and even dismissed by others, it’s important to raise awareness of the “hidden” ways it can affect a person’s life — hopefully increasing compassion and, at the very least, showing other chronic warriors that they aren’t the only ones dealing with these types of pain. We asked our chronic illness and chronic pain communities on Facebook to share a source of pain for them that others may not expect. Do you experience any of these painful scenarios, too?

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Wearing Clothes and Jewelry

When I’m in a flare, certain types of clothing can make my skin hurt.” — Christine S.

“Can’t wear a bra anymore. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it causes crazy amount of pain and I can’t breathe.” — Candace C.

“Wearing jewelry. Necklaces give me headaches, bracelets and rings cause pain through both arms and shoulders. I have to stick to very small earrings and lightweight necklaces on special occasions. I can’t even wear a wedding ring and ended up getting a tattoo instead.” — Sammi K.

2. Hair

“When I first got sick with lupus and started talking with others with autoimmune conditions, some of them complained about their hair hurting. I thought that was odd. I figured they either meant the scalp or were exaggerating. Fibromyalgia symptoms developed in me, and sure enough my hair started to hurt. I apologize to those I did not believe before. I get it now.” — Sarah N.

“When I have a flare-up, the crown of my head hurts like crazy when I brush my hair.” — Heather B.

3. Shoes

“Putting on my shoes and socks.” — Jo D.

Wearing sneakers that tie. I’ve had to start buying slip-on shoes because the pressure of the laces is too painful.” — Joanne S.

4. Taking a Shower

“A shower. I can’t shower, it feels like millions of little needles hitting my skin. I have to have a bath or a strip wash instead.” — Bethan W.

“Showering is so painful all over. Water stings, reaching around to wash my skin hurts, it’s exhausting and I have to rest afterwords.” — Sheryl C.

5. Going to the Bathroom

“This may be TMI but… simply going to the bathroom. When I’m having an endometriosis/irritable bowel syndrome flare it can be extremely painful to go to the bathroom. I cramp so badly.” — Laura F.

6. Sitting

“Sitting. I can stand (for short periods) or lay down, but sitting causes so much pain.” — Michaelle B.

“Sitting on my floor — my hips dislocate and it can be almost impossible to get back up!” — Elizabeth S.

“Sitting. I am like Goldilocks when it comes to sitting. If it is too soft I have to use my stomach muscles to get up. If it is too hard it sends pain surges. If it is too low to the ground I have to look around to see how I will get back up.” — Acadia M.

7. Preparing Fruit and Vegetables

“Peeling potatoes, or preparing vegetables generally. All the fine hand movements make them ache and cramp. It makes having fresh vegetables regularly very difficult.” — Cassie F.

8. Holding Utensils

“Holding a coffee cup by the handle. My fingers aren’t stable enough to hold it without pain.” — Jackie L.

“Holding cutlery and trying to cut up food. At home my hubby cuts up my food and I eat it with a spoon.” — Jill C.

9. Using a Smartphone

“Looking at my phone. If I’m on Facebook too long, I end up with a killer migraine and spasms in my neck. I have amber tinted glasses to prevent the migraines, but sometimes just 10 minutes will trigger a migraine, sometimes an hour. It’s either wear my glasses every time I’m on my phone, or gamble.” — Jaque V.

10. Car Rides

“Getting in and out of cars – the lower they are the more I hurt after getting in and out of them.” — Samantha M.

“Those frost heaves and pot holes… which are everywhere right now. Driving is the absolute worst right now and even being a passenger still hurts like crazy.” — Tamara W.

“Driving more than 30 minutes.” — Keri P.

11. Opening Packages

“I have trouble opening simple things, like water bottles. Also just moving wet laundry from the washer to the dryer can cause pain and rib dislocations.” — Kerrie W.

12. Sneezing

“I have a spinal cord injury and when I sneeze muscle spasms consume me. The pain is jacked up for several minutes just because I sneezed.” — Amy M.

“Sneezing. It’s horribly painful! I get stabbing, sharp pains in my back, chest and ribs.” — Linnea S.

13. Strong Scents

“Certain smells are painful, ones other people might consider good like perfume or even just certain shampoos.” — Jocelyn C.

14. Laying in Bed

“Laying in bed, when I try to turn over my back locks up and I have to stand up just to change my position. Causes a lot of sleepless nights and pain, frustration that my husband can sleep so well and I can’t.” — Camara B.

“Laying down to try to sleep. I can get into a million positions and no matter what I’m still in a ton of pain. I roll, turn, cuddle a body pillow, lay on the body pillow try to sleep in any position I can I’ve even tried sleeping on my dogs bed since I got her one of those special ones for arthritis…” — Elizabeth B.

“Readjusting the comforter when I’m in bed. I’m out of breath afterwards!” — Ren K.

“Sleeping in any position. My back is not strong enough to lay on my side or belly without causing subluxations. Laying on my back is painful for my back also. My best sleep position is propped on a 45-degree angle. Even this is painful because it puts tension on my unfused coccyx and sacroiliac joints. It’s difficult to rest in pain.” — Llana H.

15. Brushing Your Teeth

“Brushing my teeth. Bending at a stoop over a sink is just the wrong angle to pop SI joints and back. I’ve had to start brushing my teeth in the shower standing upright.” — Marie S.

16. Stumbling

“Stumbling just slightly on a raised bit of sidewalk or something similar. Most people stumble and just keep going, but I am in a constant state of carefully moving my sore, inflamed joints and muscles. The slightest jarring pain like that sends sharp pain all through my body and it can actually wind me from pain sometimes.” — Samantha A.

17. Speaking

“Speaking. It often hurts my chest and throat to bring my voice out loud enough for most people to hear. Even then, usually people misunderstand or can’t hear and I end up having to repeat it. On bad days, it can actually exhaust me.” — Candida K.

18. Being Hugged

“Being hugged. I have fibro-type symptoms and when it’s bad I can’t be touched at all. Hugging is excruciating and it makes me cry.” — Gemma C.

“Hugs are horrible. I used to love them but now, even a gentle hug can send shockwaves of pain through my whole body. When someone pats your shoulder or your arm. Pure hell.” — Melanie C.

“Hugs. I have complex regional pain syndrome and the allodynia makes every touch hurt.” – Rachel H.

19. Breathing

“Sometimes just breathing is really painful.” — Cheryl M.

“Today, just walking from my bed to the bathroom (around 12 feet) is excruciating. Breathing hurts, too.” — Patricia H.


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