Posted in Chronic Pain

The Faces of Chronic Pain

Yesterday, in the elevator on my way to my office, there were two girls in their early 20s discussing a male employee in their office who lives with chronic pain.  One of the girls made a comment saying that there was no way he could possibly live with so much pain, hold a job, and have a normal life.  She noted he had to be lying about the extent of his pain to get sympathy.  The second girl agreed that it is way not possible to live with chronic pain unless he was addicted to pain medication.  Generally, this was a conversation that I would have intervened in and corrected.  However, I was dealing with my own pain levels to say anything.
What I felt was frustration at the ignorance of people. How is possible not to understand the significance of chronic pain when over 40 million Americans are affected by some form of arthritis and have chronic pain that limits their daily activities. Nearly 40% of Americans suffer pain on a daily basis. Therefore, that means that 80 million people in this country live with pain.
Chronic pain is everywhere but it is personal because every person is affected differently.  Think about all the conditions that cause chronic pain: arthritis, migraines, carpal tunnel, nerve pain, back pain, injuries, and many more and this makes it hard for me to see that our society is still ignorant about the affects of chronic pain on people just like them. Chronic pain has no bias.  It affects adults and it affects children.  It does not care about race, age, or ethnicity.  
Sadly, there are no medical tests to prove how much pain a person is in. Doctors look at person’s history and the type of condition or conditions that a person has.  In addition, so many pain sufferers deal with family, friends, coworkers and even doctors who do not understand the extent of a person’s pain and treat the sufferer as a hypochondriac, a drug addict, or simply insist that the pain is in a person’s head.
Since my RA diagnosis, there has not been one joint in my body that have been spared from inflammation and pain.   My muscles ache on an almost daily basis from my fibromyalgia and I accept that this is now my life.  I live and work with chronic pain on a daily basis. I take Advil and use hot/cold compresses when my pain levels are high.  I go into work everyday despite the pain, take care of my children, continue to work on my master’s degree, and continue to advocate despite my levels of pain.  I don’t complain about my pain unless it is extreme or I am to a point of frustration.  I am not a hypochondriac and I am not a drug addict.  I am a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and an employee and I am all of these things despite chronic pain. 
Pain takes the joy out of life and it makes getting through each day hard.  People who live with chronic pain have a quality of life that is altered. Do I think that the employee that the two girls were discussing is a hypochondriac or a drug addict?  Of course, I don’t.  Do I think he exaggerates his pain? I most definitely do not because I don’t know what it is like to live in his shoes because, again, pain is personal.  What I do believe is that our society is ignorant when it comes to chronic pain and the conditions associated with it.  If you were to walk past me in the grocery store, you wouldn’t see chronic pain affects my life on a daily basis because my pain is invisible to you.  At the same token, don’t simply push my pain aside unless you have walked five minutes in my shoes or in the shoes of anyone who says that they are in pain.

5 thoughts on “The Faces of Chronic Pain

  1. If you think it's hard to imagine how people don't understand others' pain, imagine when the patient is a doctor. Have a look at the prostatitis surgery video posted by a radiation oncologist who had severe symptoms for 13 years. And how his doctors treated him. (video on the lower right). The lack of compassion is basically a double burden on top of the first.

  2. Isn't it amazing what we are capable of accomplishing while we are in constant pain, Lana? But isn't it terribly sad that we are judged and belittled if we try to express to others what we are experiencing? It has caused me to internalize the struggle more than I probably should. It's the attitude like that of the women you overheard that adds to this. And also what makes the awareness for (invisible) chronic pain so important. Praying this finds you in good spirits today and that today is a better day for you in terms of pain. -Kelli

  3. Doctors, family, & friends are concerned when ever someone is on prescribed narcotics for long periods because they fear the person becoming addicted, which is a possibility. I find myself that the narcotic medications I take go directly to relieving SOME of the pain. I get NO HIGH from the medication & do not even use it daily or as much as I am prescribed daily, EXCEPT when the amount of my pain is so bad, the quality of my life deteriorates to the point I am not able to function without the medications. I remember a friend of mine had terminal cancer in the late 70s and her doctor refused to increase her pain medication because he was “afraid she would become addicted to it.” The fact she was terminal, had only weeks to live, and the quality of her life was nonexistent did not sink in. Many docotrs today are still of the same mind set unfortunately & would rather have a patient suffer than prescribe an appropriate dose of medication to relieve the patinet’s suffering. Though we have learned to cure many diseases and lower the death rate from others, the medical community is still in the dark ages when it comes to relieving the suffering of its patients.

  4. I would like to commit on Laurie’s post.
    I really is sad how even the medical professionals at times dont care because they dont want the patient to become addicted..Some of these people are dying what is the difference if they do become addicted,they already have no quality of life like you said, lets at least make them comfortable and keep them out of pain.
    AND even worse is close family members…
    I was a nurse for years before I become disabled and I delt with people who were terminal or in cronic pain in hosptal settings. So I guess working in the field made me understand along with some great professors and instructors in my nursing school.

    I can give you a perfect example. 3 1/2 years ago I was living in Houston Texas and all of my family was lives in Ohio. My father had cancer,and he wantedd to die at home,so he and my mother informed me they put me health care power attorney over both of them.m Wekk ge was gettubg much worse and my mother asked me to come to Ohio and help her,she was 80yrs and my father 74. When Igot there my mother informed me she was done she just couldnt care for him anymore. He was on a lot of med and of course pain med that were highly addictive. He was on a moraphin patch and vioden well my mother didnt want him takeing the pain pills because she siad he couldnt be in so much pain wearing the patch,even when he would ask her for one she wouldnt let him have them..Now my father worked hard all his life,not easy if my father said he was in pain HE WAS IN PAIN..So of course I wasnt gonna let my daddy be in pain (I was always daddys girl) he would ask me to get one of his pain pill and I would go get one and my mother would HAVE A FIT..He doesnt need them dont you give him them..Of coure I ignored her and went about my business..I always gave him two Vicodin RX was for 1-2 every 4 hours. Really he should have taking them all the time not just when the pain is bad..
    Reason why doc’s want you to take your pain meds as perscribed is you have to keep the pain at bay, if not it gets out of control and hard to get back down to managable levels.. She had brought hospic in,but I was main nurse. they provided me with the liquid morphine when he was bedridden. she had a fit over that of course and I kept explaing to her so what if he becomes addicted to them..HE IS DYING>>KEEP HIM COMFORTABLE.. I finally had to have Hospic head D,O,N, tell her what I had been saying all along so it would be a fight, she settled a bit but still gave me hell about it some….
    How sad, a wife married to her husband almost 50 years and didnt beleive he could be in so muh pain….

    Oh an another point I wanted to make I see on here a lot of people talk abut becoming addicte. There is a difference in being addicted and being dependant.
    Addiction is when your abusiiing your pain meds for the HIGH, dependant is your body getting use to them. Both ways if you stop taking them cold turkey, you WILL go thru withdraw, which isnt a pretty site..But your doctor can and will,if he is any doc at all, lower your dosage slowly so you can go off them and not withdraw or crave thm..Now if you are craving the drugs and your taking them for the high then you have a problem of addiction and need to seek help asap.

    Also PLEASE everyone who is pain, dont be afraid to take your pain meds because your afraid of becoming Addicted..If you take them as persribed you will be fine and when it’s time to go off them if you ever do they willl take you off slowly..
    ANd PLEASE thake them as your suppose to, NEVER MORE….
    You HAVE to keept he pain under control and not let it get out of hand then try to get it to a managable level….That just makes your life worse…

    For along time I did the samething,know better with being a nurse…We nurses have a tendancy to do as we please and not as we preach…LOL
    But I do now take my meds the way they are writtten,never more…Because I have just let the pain get sooo out of control, that I thought I was gonna die…So I do as I preach now…LOL

    Just a story of how people dont understnad….
    I did what I thought was best for my father, Kept him out of pain until the day he died, and I didnt care who thought wrong of it…NO ONE Deserves to be in so much pain, NOONE…

    Thanks for letting me tell my story
    Soft Huggs to all

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