What People Need to Understand About Chronic Pain This Pain Awareness Month


September is Pain Awareness Month, and the running joke in the health community is that some of us are extremely aware of pain. For many people with medical conditions, chronic pain is a constant, day-to-day companion. It never seems to go unfelt or unnoticed, except to passersby who often see laughter, smiles and energy, not debilitating, agonizing pain. The reality of living with and making peace with chronic pain is vastly different from the picture of health the rest of the world may see.

One of the “job hazards” of living with chronic health conditions that cause pain is never knowing what body you’ll wake up in. You could be fine one day and wake up with shooting, burning pain the next. You could feel agile all morning but have a pain flare-up in the afternoon. You could be energetic one day and completely fatigued the next as you fight against your sore body.

It’s strange to feel like you may not fully know your own body amid its unpredictability, but if you struggle with pain, you learn to treat yourself with care and listen to your needs. You discover what your body craves when it’s hurting. You follow through with managing your pain – no matter how much you’d rather be doing anything else – because you don’t want your physical state to disrupt the rest of your day. You learn to be more gentle with yourself, practice self-care and occasionally say “no” when your body’s aching and anything more than staying in bed proves to be too much to handle.

Living with pain is a delicate balance between living with a health condition and purely, simply living. It may be going out some nights and staying in others, alternating between springing out of bed and lying down all day, wincing and working hard, sleeping and staying up. It may be smiling, laughing and enjoying life’s simple pleasures, even when life seems less than enjoyable. It’s inconspicuous, silent normalcy concealed within challenging circumstances.

Helping those of us who live with chronic pain may seem daunting, but it is far simpler than it appears. See us, listen to us, help us when we ask and respect our needs. Our pain may seem complicated, but at heart, we’re all people, pushing past pain and living life, one day at a time.

Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Pain

sunset photo of woman outside in silhouette

4 Useful Things I Have Had to Learn From Chronic Pain

My chronic pain started out of the blue one Thursday morning more than seven years ago. A lot has happened over the last few years, from major back surgery followed by months in bed, to regaining then re-losing a career, plus all the normal dramas of family life. I am not quite sure exactly where [...]
drawing of woman half in black and gray and half in colorful design

What to Do If You Have a Chronic Illness and Your Family Thinks You're Lazy

With the conditions of multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, I am a part of numerous social media groups with people who have chronic illness. I frequently see posts like, “My partner thinks I am lazy,” “My kids are mad that I can’t do what they need me to do,” and “My parents tell me to get over it [...]
colorful illustration of a woman's eyes

Being in Pain Does Not Make You a 'Failure'

Everyone who has been in pain for some length of time has probably asked themselves these questions: Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong to deserve this? Many of us struggle with feelings of guilt and shame for needing help, for not being able to fix ourselves, for probably asking too [...]
15 Signs Your Chronic Pain Is From an Underlying Condition, Not Your Weight

15 Signs Your Chronic Pain Is From an Underlying Condition, Not Your Weight

“I’m sure if you just lost some weight, you’d feel so much better!” This is a phrase many of those with chronic pain are all-too-familiar with. Although doctors and loved ones may have good intentions by offering up a possible “solution” to your pain, the assumption that your symptoms can be 100 percent attributed to [...]