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18 Photos That Show What a Chronic Pain Flare Looks Like

If you live with chronic pain, you may experience flares that greatly impact your ability to get work done or do activities that you enjoy. While chronic pain flares are awful on their own, it can also be difficult to have others understand what you are doing through because people cannot always “see” chronic pain.

Chronic pain flares often present differently from person to person, even for people who have the same chronic conditions. Some people who have chronic pain flares rest in bed, while others try to push through their day masking how bad their flares are. For Mighty contributor Kylee Grace Schmuck, bad pain days involve going to work and trying to hide how severe her pain is. She wrote:

Sitting up in my bed sends stabbing pain straight to my hips. Sitting too long, my legs will go numb, and, due to nerve damage, I won’t feel any sensation in my legs at all. Bad days, I still must go to work. I still have a job, which I need and love, where I am pretty much stuck at my desk from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you haven’t dealt with hip pain or injuries, you may be unaware that sitting can be a painful and difficult position. I live in Seattle, a city now plagued by traffic, and my commute is often somewhere around an hour. Sitting in traffic on bad days is one of the most painful things I have experienced. Trapped, alone and in pain.

To try and capture what bad chronic pain days look like, we asked the Mighty’s chronic pain community to share photos of what a chronic pain flare looks like for them. If you live with chronic pain, you may find the coping methods, frustration and need for rest relatable.

Here are the photos The Mighty community shared with us.

1. “The previous day was a good day for me, but I paid for it.”

A black and white photo of a woman lying down in bed

“I have multiple sclerosis. This was during a four day get-away with my husband. The previous day was a good pain and energy day for me, but I paid for it the next day! This is me on the couch in our hotel room, from which I didn’t move all day” – Adrienne P.

2. “No medicine could help the pain at all.”

This image is of a tan leg that is swollen

“When the pain comes in, my leg swells up and the pain is beyond words. No medicine could help the pain at all. Whenever the weather changes or if I’m on my feet too long, I flare up in my leg. ” – Jae M.

3. “Too much pain, nothing I can do but rest!”

A woman with brown skin lies down in bed with a blanket

“This is what a flare-up looks like for me. Too much pain, nothing I can do but rest! I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.” – Dafne R.

4. “This is what people see despite my pain.”

A selfie of a woman smiling in her job's uniform

“This is what the customers see despite the fact that sometimes I can only use one arm, or that it hurts for me to lift the coffee pots.” – Jamie W.

5. “It physically hurts to eat or drink anything.”

A person with short brown hair sits at an urgent care

“Sitting at urgent care, hooked up to an IV because it physically hurts to eat or drink anything.” – Samantha V.

6. “Laid out on the couch with a cozy blanket.”

A woman with a tattoo with the word "strength" lies on a couch with a blanket

“Laid out on the couch with a cozy blanket.” – Terri D.

7. “Looking totally ‘normal.'”

A woman with pale skin and blonde hair sits on a couch with a hoodie

“Looking totally ‘normal.’ This was my birthday. I was in too much pain to officially go out to dinner, so we picked up some to go and came right back home to eat it.” – Ky L.

8. “My poor dog can tell the agony I’m in.”

A woman lies down in bed with a white dog lying on top of her

“I missed three Remicade infusions for Ankylosing spondylitis. My poor dog can tell the agony I’m in.” – Joanna B.

9. “I couldn’t even have carer do anything to help.”

A woman lies down with her eyes closed with an ice pack on her head

“Every condition of mine was flaring. I couldn’t even have carer do anything to help that day.” – Kate N.

10. “Even my cat knew I couldn’t handle the pain.”

A cat rests on a woman with pale skin and brown hair

“Most flare days look just like every other day because I have to keep going, but on this particular day, even my cat knew I couldn’t handle the pain.” – Joanne S.

11. “I was shaking from my chronic pain more than the surgical pain.”

A blurry photo of a woman trying to smile in a hospital bed

“Trying to take a smiling picture for my family after my sixteenth surgery, but I was shaking from my chronic pain more than the surgical pain.” – Michelle C.

12. “Hot chocolate, blankets and Netflix.”

A person holds a mug in front of their television

“Hot chocolate, blankets and Netflix.” –Miranda M.

13. “A TENS machine and lots of perseverance.”

On a desk, there is a TENS unit and exam materials

“Trying to study for exams with severe pain. A TENS machine and lots of perseverance.” – Melize M.

14. “Ice packs and heating pads.”

A woman lies down with heating pads on her shoulder and an ice pack covering her eyes

Ice packs and heating pads.” – Lindsay W. 

15. “The pain is too bad to clean up.”

A pile of colorful clothes on the floor

“Clothes on my kids’ floor because the pain is too bad to clean up clothes that get tossed.” – Michele M.

16. “In horrendous pain and sleep-deprived.”

A person with short blond hair lies down, looks on the verge of tears

“This was on day four of a Complex regional pain syndrome flare, in horrendous pain and sleep-deprived”

17. “High pain day, but I am still able to smile.”

A woman with red hair smiles at the camera

“High pain day, but I am still able to smile.” – Jessica N.

18. “Lots of extra rest needed”

A woman with brown hair and glasses lies down on a bed.

“Living and working through a fibromyalgia and functional neurological disorder flare. Lots of extra rest needed.” – Kristin D.

You can share what a chronic pain flare looks like for you by posting a Thought on The Mighty.