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22 Signs You Grew Up With Chronic Pain

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As kids, we were just coming into contact with the world and beginning to learn about the way things work – including our bodies. However, if you grew up with a body that was constantly tired or in pain, you might not have recognized at such an early age that these symptoms were unusual. When I was in middle school, I thought it was totally normal to sleep through an entire weekend or have unbearable knee pain that lasted for days after running half a mile in gym class. Sometimes it can take years – decades, even – before we start to think that maybe there’s something going on beyond the typical “growing pains.”

Whether you’ve been officially diagnosed or simply understand the ways your body differs from that of the average, healthy person, looking back on your childhood might make you think, “Hey, that was happening because…!” We asked our community to share some of the “signs” that they grew up with chronic pain, which they now recognize in retrospect. Perhaps some of these “signs” will remind you of moments from your own childhood.


Here’s what the community told us:

1. “I had terrible ‘growing pains.’ I would cry all night because my knees and hips hurt so bad. My mom would take me to doctors but they would just give me calcium pills. As I grew, more joints started hurting too.”

2. “I remember my parents would throw me in ice baths from mystery high fevers. The doctors and hospitals never knew what was wrong with me. It wasn’t until few years ago we found out I happened to be passing multiple kidney stones which can cause infections.”

3. “As a kid I didn’t want to run around and play outside. My very first memories were sitting around drawing, playing video games or playing with Barbies. And it happened very early, at 5 or 6 or 7. If I did run around, I’d get winded, my joints would hurt, my stomach would hurt, my eyesight would go black. But I had no idea any of that was unusual.”

4. “I often had no appetite and was underweight.”

5. “Before I got my diagnosis, I thought it was normal for knees to dislocate when walking or jumping up and down… now I know that isn’t that normal!”

6. “I slept so much when I was younger! Like more than a child should. Also the sun used to make me feel very weak and sick. Now that I’m diagnosed it all makes sense.”

7. “My mom told me I would nonstop cry. And then I slowly stopped because I had grown accustomed to being in pain constantly. I thought others were weird if they didn’t have the same pain as me.”

8. “We went to Disney World when I was 8. I was incredibly excited, but every day, after half a day in the park, I remember having to take constant breaks, complaining of foot pain, leg pain, back pain, fatigue, belly pain, headache, etc. By mid-week, I have a vivid memory of sitting on the ground in the middle of one of the parks and sobbing, telling my parents I just couldn’t go a minute further. I think this was the first time any of us realized how much my pain was affecting me, and how much different my childhood pain and fatigue experience was than that of ‘typical’ children.”


9. “For me it was never being able to sit without back support. Even in kindergarten I’d see my classmates just sit ‘tailor-style’ in the middle of the room and I’d need to be sitting against the wall. I always wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t do it.”

10. “Going through puberty I always felt miserable. I had horrible periods that caused excruciating pain. I would miss school often because of it. I talked to my mom about it and because she dealt with horrible periods too she would tell me, ‘It just runs in the family, your body is getting used to it.’ Almost 10 years later I learned I have endometriosis.”

11. “Never being able to make friends because all your energy was going into trying to understand enough to pass tests.”


12. “I would always run out of breath faster than everyone else at recess and would be super tired from being up through the the night with ‘growing pains.’ So I would spend most of the time just watching other kids play.”

13. “I was always getting sick, whether it was an upset stomach or an actual cold.”

14. “I constantly had to wear a knee brace during the day and while playing any sports. I had horrible pain in my knee all the time and we never figured out why until I was later diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.”

15. “My pain was exaggerated. A simple injury ended up being way worse. After skating on a Friday night I would wake up crying in the middle of the night and couldn’t move my hips.”

16. “I would have trouble running (breathing, heart racing) and was told it was from being out of shape, even though I would insist I wasn’t really tired.”

17. “My fibromyalgia symptoms started when I was about 12. None of the many doctors I saw while I was a teenager had any answers for me, so I gave up eventually and developed coping techniques on my own. Now, in my mid-30s, I still expect doctors not to be able to help me, regardless of what the problem is.”

18. “Gym class was torture. The exercises and sports wiped me out within minutes. I also got horrible stomachaches after every time I ate. I was the kid in nurse’s office after almost every lunch hour.”

19. “I talk about my pain and my fatigue now. I talk about it with anyone who asks or listens. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it or acknowledge it when I was younger. I spent five years being told it was ‘all in my head’ or ‘just puberty’ by my doctors, parents and friends. I refuse to be silent about something so prominent in my life now.”

20. “I always had joint pain. I was terrible at sports and I fatigued easily. I was constantly accused of being ‘out of shape’ and ‘uncoordinated.’ No matter how hard I worked on being active, I never got better. I eventually thought that was just part of who I was as a person. I didn’t think anything was wrong.”

21. “I never played sports. I’d rather stay indoors with a book because I always sprained joints or fell. Looking back, I think it was probably thanks to what doctors are sure is EDS.”

22. “Fatigue. Getting plenty of sleep at night but still barely able to wake up for school. Dozing off in class. Coming home, taking a nap, going to sports practice, then coming home and being able to fall straight asleep again. My parents always chalked it up to ‘growing’ and ‘hormones.’ But now, 20 years later, we know it was related to my diseases.”

What are some of the “signs” that you grew up with chronic pain? Share in the comments below!

22 Signs You Grew Up With Chronic Pain


Originally published: June 14, 2017
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