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23 'Habits' of People With Chronic Pain

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After living with pain for a period of time, you may start to notice you’ve developed some new “habits” — things you do, sometimes without even thinking about it, that help you get through the day. Perhaps you’ve developed certain ways to stand, walk or sit to minimize pain; or, maybe you have go-to responses you always give to people who ask how you’re doing. It could even be a coping technique, like watching your favorite show on Netflix every day.

We wanted to know what other habits people with chronic pain have developed, so we asked our Mighty community to share the little things they do because of their chronic pain. If you’ve noticed these habits yourself, you’re not alone. Let us know what habits you’d add to this list in the comments below.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “I constantly pop my toes on my right foot. I mean constantly. While sitting, walking, bathing, trying to go to sleep, you name it. I have tried everything to end the habit. I’ll start because of pain or due to anxiety and keep going until it literally feels like my toes or ankle are going to break off. It hurts really badly in my shin when I pop for hours, so it’s really not a good thing to do! It’s just an outlet rather than screaming, I guess.”

2. “Playing video games helps distract me and calm me. I usually play Animal Crossing or Minecraft; they’re the easiest games I’ve ever played and don’t usually take much thought.”

3. “I always set my alarm 30 minutes early if I have a morning appointment. It usually takes that long to get the pain below an eight and to where I can move.”

4. “I take my phone everywhere, so that way I can call for help if I fall or something.”

5. “Anytime I plan something, whether it’s for fun or a doctor’s appointment, I first have to make sure I have at least the next day, or sometimes the next two, free to recuperate.”

6. “I’ve been collecting fuzzy socks for years now. They offer my feet an added layer of softness when I’m walking and have been very helpful since my newest symptom: extreme pain on the bottoms of both of my feet when I step.”


7. “I squeeze my nails into the palms of my hands to try and distract from the other pain and walk close to a wall in case I fall.”

8. “When someone comes to hug me I automatically put my forearms up and against my chest, in case they squeeze too tight. It used to insult my boyfriend a bit, but now he understands, and with him I only do it on bad days. He says it’s his bad-day detector now.”

9. “I can’t sit still in any one place for more than a few minutes. Nightmare if you’re out watching a film.”

10. “I sit in an odd slouched position and then remain completely still and calm. Otherwise my muscles around my kidneys spasm up and the kidneys hurt more. The more still I am, the more calm I look, the more pain I’m in. ”

11. “I stay decently ahead on my homework. If my fibromyalgia flares or if I end up in the ER for some random reason I know I won’t fall too far behind.”

12. “Near constant kicking of my feet when sitting or reclining. It keeps the nerve pain and itch down.”

13. “Tracking my symptoms/pain levels/routines daily. What types of action makes pain better/worse.”

14. “Bad habit is when I go days without bathing because it hurts too much to stand or let the water touch me. Good habit is finding ways to distract myself from the pain, whether with a book or movie that may require my full attention or a certain game.”

15. “I put my hair up in a bun or ponytail and often use dry shampoo as it’s exhausting just washing and drying it. I also have a habit of keeping a lot of things next to me in bed, like drinks, snacks, magazines and books because I wake up in the early hours.”

16. “Smiling and saying, ‘Yes I’m fine’ when really I want to scream and say, ‘Actually the pain never stops!’”

17. “I have a habit of saying no to events long before they come up because I already know that ‘at that time of day’ or ‘in that weather’ or ‘for that amount of time’ will be excruciating for me. It’s a negative habit for sure that I’m constantly trying to break.”

18. “I always write when I’m in pain. Whether it’s my own stories, or poems, or I’m just copying down quotes from other people that I’ve loved and saved, I always write. It’s a great distraction.”

19. “I lost so much control over my own life that now I’m much more annoyed when I can’t control things that are considered trivial, like someone using my hairbrush.”

20. “Clenching my teeth. I don’t mean to do it, but when I’m in a lot of pain, it just happens automatically. I’ll realize my jaw is hurting, and that’s when it’ll hit me how much I’ve been clenching my teeth.”

21. “I make a lot of self-deprecating jokes… which make people uncomfortable!”

22. “This isn’t because of my own pain but because of growing up with a mom with severe chronic pain. Because of always doing this for my mom, whenever anyone near me drops something, I zoom over to pick it up… sometimes when they are already half crouched down and sometimes before they are even aware they dropped it. And they look at me like, ‘Uh thanks but I could have gotten that.’ Even though it probably often causes more pain for me to pick it up than for them…”

23. “Volunteer when I’m healthy enough, because I know what it means to need help and want to give back.”

23 'Habits' of People With Chronic Pain
Originally published: July 13, 2017
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