Chronic pain

I never know what to say.

After working with cancer survivors for years, I moved over to the chronic pain world. To a world where one out of the five people I see every day are suffering from chronic pain…50 MILLION people in the United States have chronic pain, defined as suffering from pain most days or every day for at least the past six months (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018).

I often feel tongue tied when wanting to ask how they are doing because most of the time I am told “I’m fine or great, or things couldn’t be better.” But I know they aren’t great. We know what words feel good, and what words make us want to punch a hole in a wall somewhere. So, wonderful, well-intentioned people who don’t know what to say to a friend or acquaintance who has chronic pain, here is a helpful cheat sheet written by Liddy Grantland, a fellow chronic pain sufferer.

Don’t say this:
“How are you doing?”

Say this instead:
“How are you doing today?”

Don’t say this:
“Have you tried this chiropractor/pain medicine/meditation/aromatherapy/acupuncture/positive self-talk/massage therapist/exercise routine/etc.”

Say this instead:
“Read this if you feel like it.”

Don’t say this:
“God has a plan.”

Say this instead:
“That sucks.”

Don’t say this:
“You’re too young/pretty/happy/healthy-looking to be in pain!”

Say this instead:
“Silence.”

Don’t say this:
“I’m sure it’ll get better soon.”

Say this instead:
“I’m about to go to the grocery or a restaurant; can I bring you something?”

And most of all – just be there, even if it is in silence.

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