The Mighty Logo

16 Common Mistakes People With Chronic Pain Make

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

When you first develop chronic pain, or are diagnosed with a pain condition, your doctor may be able to provide you with information about the condition, treatment options and an estimated prognosis. But it can be tricky to know exactly what life with chronic pain will entail, and how it will affect you day to day. Learning how to navigate your everyday activities with pain usually happens after much trial and error.

Like most parts of life, mistakes are common, and even necessary at times, as they can teach invaluable lessons. There is certainly no shame in making a few mistakes as you figure out how to best manage your chronic pain! We are all bound to slip up now and again as we discover what works best for us and our health.

That being said, there are some mistakes that are more common than others in the chronic pain community – things many pain veterans wish they (and others) understood at the beginning of their journey. We asked our Mighty community to share some of these common mistakes to hopefully help make the learning curve a bit easier for others with chronic pain. If any of the following sound similar to your own experience, know you are absolutely not alone.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Ignoring the pain

You can’t run from it. You can’t hide from it. You can’t ignore it – for very long. It always catches up with you. By trying to live a normal life, trying to hide it from everyone, all I managed to do was land myself in the hospital fighting for my life. Now I listen to my body and no longer expect too much from myself, life is so much easier for me.” – Donna-Jean I.

I mistakenly thought that if I could just stay active and try to ignore the pain, I could get things done. But some days, I’m in so much pain that it seems like nothing gets done. No matter how hard I try to push it away, it refuses to be ignored.” – Kathie C.T.

2. Justifying your actions to others

Trying to justify what I have to do to get through the day to others and having to let go of the judgment that comes along with an invisible disease. You might see me smiling, eating or participating in life, but it doesn’t mean that I am well, that I am healed and that I am not in pain. I am now even stronger than I ever thought I could ever be.” – Wendy E.

3. Not recognizing how your limits and abilities have changed

Mistake: thinking I can come anywhere close to living the life I used to have, the person I used to be. Forcing myself to push through excruciating pain then come crashing down for months on end. Learned: hardcore compassion and empathy even for situations and circumstances I have never fathomed, because before fibromyalgia, I never fathomed anyone had to live this exhausted, in so much pain for the rest of their life, decades on end. If only I could make that into self-compassion…” – Amy D.

I am learning my own limits. Things that I could accomplish even a year ago, I cannot do now or have to do differently.” – Bailey S.

I experienced the mistake of holding myself to my ‘before’ standards. I would get upset and frustrated when I couldn’t do the things I was used to. I’ve since learned to listen to myself, even if that means leaving a function an hour and a half after arriving, because I know every minute I spend expending energy is a moment of pain I’m adding to tomorrow.” – Megan E.M.

4. Expecting the pain condition to “just” involve physical symptoms

I learned that it wouldn’t go away. I also have learned that I made the mistake of thinking it was only pain. I learned that it’s so much more emotionally and I have to fight off thoughts of suicide and guilt. I have to put on a ‘mask’ and go to work or out with friends (the few times that I do go out).” – Kelly S.

5. Not taking your health seriously

Mistakes I’ve made: not taking my health as seriously as I should have. And not seeing a doctor sooner for the pain I’ve been feeling off and on, especially the last three years after my endometriosis got worse. I am finally seeing a rheumatologist January 31st and hoping to get some answers.” – Aleese W.

Want to connect with other chronic pain warriors? Download our app to more easily give and receive support from people who have been there.

6. Hiding your pain and symptoms from others

My biggest mistake was to not tell how much pain I was really in, especially after surgeries or something. You don’t have to be tough… or keep it together when you’re really in pain. And they tend to not take you as serious if you pretend to be tough…” – Lenthe S.

Definitely biggest mistake was not being honest with myself or sharing with others how bad it was and is. I was not prepared for everything that comes with chronic pain, such as brain fog. I have learned to cut myself slack, to give my energy to only those who are there for me, and to communicate what I am going through with friends and family. Still working on the communicating part and think the biggest piece of advice is to openly share and communicate what you are going through, rather than letting it get to a really bad place and ending up alone.” – Jaye N.G.

My biggest mistake was keeping to myself when the pain gets bad and having suicidal thoughts and not talking to anyone about it. It helps to talk to someone when you feel bad, at least then you’ll know you’re not alone.” – Melize M.

7. Not listening to your body

For a long time, I didn’t listen to the signals my body was sending me. It took time to learn what the signal meant, and what I could do to make the pain better instead of worse.” – Karoline B.

8. Pushing people away

Pushing people away. I would get so frustrated with my body and situation that I’d become very bitter and introverted and shut everyone out. Now I work outside the home two hours a day just to get some socialization and it has done wonders for my pain and depression. I still hurt, but I’m able to push through because I’m no longer trying to do it alone.” – Heather HC

9. Downplaying your symptoms so others don’t feel “uncomfortable”

Downplaying what I’m going through. I try not to burden those who love me because I don’t want to stress them out or feel bad.” – Tamara W.

Trying to make sure other people are ‘comfortable’ with it. I tried to hide my pain from everyone else, especially family, to make sure they were comfortable. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to act differently around me so I’d slap a smile on my face and push past the point of no return so I’d end up paying for it for days. I’m done trying to make everyone else comfortable with my illness. I’ve decided to own my pain and do whatever it takes to make myself comfortable.” – Samantha S.

10. Feeling guilty

Feeling guilty. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few months ago, shortly before my 20th birthday. I’m still learning to stop apologizing when I can’t do something. It’s tough. I hate when accommodations have to be made for me, but sometimes it’s necessary. I so appreciate my friends working to make activities possible for me to participate in, but I always feel so bad for ‘putting them out.’ I know that I don’t have to apologize, but I haven’t figured out how to stop yet.” – Jordan H.

11. Pushing through the pain

Going too hard when I feel good, and then really feeling the ‘aftermath’… sometimes it’s hours and sometimes it’s days I cannot function. I need to always remind myself that in times I feel better, I cannot do crazy doing things because it will eventually catch up to my body.” – Cassidy S.

Fighting through the pain doesn’t mean I’m strong. It can hurt me for days afterwards to push doing something that in the long run doesn’t matter. Before I would ‘suck it up’ and it gave friends and family a false sense of my circumstances. Now I’m honest about how far I can go and it’s so much better.” – Ashley C.

Fighting through it. Screw that. Take a nap.” – Josette W.

12. Thinking you’re better after a “good” day

“I still struggle with tricks my own mind plays on me, namely if I ever have a rare occurrence of feeling pretty good (meaning all symptoms of all my various physical and mental conditions are freakishly low – very rarely happens, and lasts half a day at most), I start thinking, ‘Wait, maybe it isn’t as bad as I think it is.’ But of course as soon as I’m back to ‘normal’ I’m like, ‘No, it is *that* bad.’” – Danielle D.

13. Listening to others’ opinions about how you should manage your illness

Listening to other people who thought I should be able to explain my pain and there should be a fix, solution or at least an understanding of why and when and where and how it is triggered… what am I doing wrong?” – Lisa S.F.

Listening to people that have no idea what I go through when I follow their advice. I tried what they said and guess what? Not only did it not work but it left me in more pain than before.” – Carrie B.

14. Not asking for help

I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. After the diagnosis I still assumed I could do everything I did before, I didn’t need help. I’m a big girl, I can do it all by myself. I’ve learned that I can’t do it all, I do need help and it’s OK to ask for a hand.” – Shayla F.W.

Something I’m still struggling with is asking for help when I need it. It drives my husband crazy when I push myself too hard and end up in severe pain because of it.” – Dana C.

15. Putting other people before your health

“Focused too much on other people and their expectations of me instead of caring for myself. Letting go was most freeing.” – Lisa S.F.

Putting my health in jeopardy to go out of my way for others.” – Sarah B.

16. Not being proactive in treating pain flares

I always wait till I’m in too much pain before I take/do something for it. It makes me feel defeated most of the time and I hate knowing that I can’t fight through it alone and that it doesn’t go away.” – Heather H.

Don’t wait until you’re in screaming pain before taking your pain meds. I’m no hero making myself ‘tough it out’ or ‘suck it up.’ Waiting longer just makes it harder for them to be effective. Be gentle with myself. It’s OK to say I’m in pain and I need some assistance relieving it for now.” – Cindy W.

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Originally published: December 27, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home