12 Tips for Dealing with People in Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a real issue. How do you deal with people suffering from chronic pain?

Chronic pain is not a fun thing. In fact, anything with the word ‘chronic’ in front of it probably isn’t something all that positive. Imagine accidentally banging your head on a cupboard in the kitchen and the pain never goes away. Remember that feeling of the searing pain on your head as you look for a bag of frozen peas to place on the injured area. Well, people with chronic pain are never allowed to forget that pain. They live with the chronic pain day in and day out. Here are 12 tips for dealing with people in chronic pain.


  1. People who live with chronic pain may seem unreliable and perhaps even a little flakey when trying to commit to something. The reality is, they can’t even really count on themselves to be able to commit. They fully intend to follow through with the commitment, however, if they are in serious pain may simply have to cancel at the last minute. Show grace and understanding because they don’t wan to cancel but may have to.
  2. People who live with chronic pain know full well that the activity they may do might result in severe and prolonged pain later – perhaps even the next day. This delayed pain is hard to understand for those who don’t suffer from it.
  3. Chronic pain can alter listening, comprehension and other communication skills for those who suffer. Imagine having someone shouting at you or trying to talk to you with a fire alarm going off – that’s what it’s like to live with chronic pain and maintain a coherent conversation. The effect of pain on ones mind may seem a little like attention deficit disorder to some, but it’s not meant to be anything rude or offensive. You may need to repeat your question or perhaps even write things down for a person with chronic pain to ensure they see or hear your question. Please don’t take things personally as they feel bad enough.woman in pain
  4. Chronic pain can overload the senses to the point where the person suffering may not be able to handle noise or light. What may seem normal to a person without pain may overwhelm someone with chronic pain. Try to keep this in mind if you are planning an event with someone who you know has pain issues.
  5. A person suffering from chronic pain may seem to have a short fuse, temper or lack patience. Wouldn’t you if you were suffering all the time? They find waiting in a long line or a long conversation simply too much to handle at times. Please show grace and patience as they don’t intend to offend.
  6. It’s only natural to ask people how they are doing, right? Well, unless you really are interested in the person and not simply wanting to embark on small talk, be prepared to really listen. Show genuine concern without going overboard.
  7. Chronic pain can sometimes trigger psychological disabilities. They are usually quite temporary, but sometimes can drag on a little longer. When in pain, a simple job like folding laundry can seem like an insurmountable task at one moment and then an hour may seem easy to accomplish. It is normal for a person suffering with chronic pain to suffer from depression.
  8. The pain can sometimes show up quickly and unexpectedly. There are different level of pain and it will sometimes lessen after a short rest. People suffering with chronic pain may appear to be fine one moment and then fade unpredictably. This is normal as the pain can be exhausting. Try to be aware of this need for rest.
  9. For a person suffering with chronic pain, knowing where there is a place they can escape to, such as a couch, bed, or comfortable chair, is almost as important as knowing where a bathroom is. Going out and visiting is much more enjoyable for someone with chronic pain if they know they can escape for a few minutes to recharge their batteries so they can continue on. As above, try to be aware and perhaps have a place already worked out for a pace of respite.
  10. Simple acts of kindness can seem like huge acts to a person suffering in pain. A kind gesture of offering a pillow or a place to sit down can be a very big thing to a person who is feeling temporarily helpless as they suffer in pain.
  11. Not all pain is simple to locate or even describe. Is it dull or a sharp stabbing pain? Sometimes there is simply an overall feeling of discomfort all over the body with pains that are hard to describe that may be in the entire back or in both legs. Quite often, pain is not simply located in one particular spot, so sometimes it’s difficult to discern what the treatment for relief will be. A layperson’s description for pain is somewhat limited compared to the body’s ability to feel varieties of discomfort. Be patient if you don’t understand the pain right away.
  12. A person suffering may not have a “good reason” for the pain according to a layperson. There have been many studies as to the causes of different types of pain and medical science is still limited in its understanding of it. There are many people who suffer from pain that has not yet been classified by doctors. This does not reduce the pain that the person suffers from. All it does is reduce our ability to give it a label.

Chronic pain is not something to brush aside and be ignored. As you can see, there are many different things to consider when dealing with an communicating with a person who suffers from chronic pain. How do you communicate? Are you impatient and roll your eyes every time your loved one says they hurt? Are you short with them and tell them to just ignore it and it will go away. We encourage you to leave a few comments below on some ways you’ve found that are helpful to those who suffer.

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