Chronic pain is usually defined as pain that’s lasted for more than three months. This may not seem like a terribly long time–unless you’re the one in pain. When something hurts for so long, it can easily eat away at every aspect of a person’s life, from mood to friendships.

The loss of a social life can have significant negative effects on a person’s chronic pain and general health.

Not only can constant pain affect an individual’s ability to perform household chores or go to work, but it can create feelings of isolation and loneliness. A person with chronic pain may feel alone or as though no one understands what he or she goes through. He or she might become resentful of those who don’t have to deal with pain on a regular basis. His or her loved ones might become frustrated by their inability to help. These feelings can multiply and eventually damage friendships and relationships.

Patient.co.uk defines “passive coping” as giving up one’s social life and relying entirely on doctors and medications for pain relief. While having a team of doctors and some carefully-chosen medications is certainly important, it’s not recommended to depend so heavily on them that the rest of a person’s social life is abandoned. In fact, passive coping is associated with increased pain, increased disability, and depression.

On the flip side, a strong support system can have big benefits.

According to one study, chronic pain patients who reported having a supportive family did significantly better than those who described their families as unsupportive. Those with a supportive family reported less pain intensity, had greater activity levels, and were less reliant on medications. They also were more likely to be able to continue working.

Support from loved ones, like family and friends, can make a big difference. Even having a loving pet at home can be helpful. However, connecting with others who have chronic pain is just as important.

Everydayhealth.com gives a few reasons for this:

  • Learn from others about ways to cope
  • Help others learn the same
  • Share advice
  • Find that pain and its accompanying emotions aren’t unusual

Being part of a chronic pain support group can provide an outlet for rough days and a place to celebrate successful pain management techniques. It can give people with chronic pain a place to say, “It’s one of those days,” and know that others understand what that means.

Many people don’t realize how many others suffer with pain on a daily basis. A chronic pain support group can make it easier to talk about chronic pain, even with those who don’t have it. This can increase awareness of chronic pain and, by extension, increase support from family, friends, and coworkers.

It’s for these reasons and more that the Faces of Pain support group exists.

The Faces of Pain support group allows people to load a picture and a little information about themselves. The simple act of sharing really can help. Additionally, for anyone having a rough day, reading through the many stories at Faces of Pain will inevitably inspire and encourage. Some of the entries are short and to the point, such as Lisa’s: “The way I cope with Chronic Pain is to just trying to fake it ’til I make it…”

Some entries really drive home why support groups are vital, such as Ivy’s:

“My primary goal is to rejoin life again. I’m afraid to go out anymore because I never know when my back will go out or my Meniere’s disease will hit. I’m so out of touch with people and afraid they’ll judge me for my health issues. So my goal is to move past that and learn to enjoy life again despite my health issues. I need strength and courage to move past it.”

Without groups like Faces of Pain, it would be much more difficult for people in situations like Ivy’s to reach out for support. In addition to posts that allow people to share their pain, there are posts that share people’s goals and inspiration. Many people recount their dependence on faith as a source of strength. Many others list their goals, such as traveling, writing, or animal rescue. A significant number of people at Faces of Pain describe their desires to cope with pain by helping others.

Some people also share their successes, which can serve as inspiration for others. One of these is Jess’s. Below a picture of Jess with her young son next to her, she writes:

“On the right, that was as close as my son and I could get from January til May. Now we don’t have limitations in that way and get super close. Love my little guy.”

In addition to the Faces of Pain site, the Chronic Pain Support Group on Facebook provides a way for those with chronic pain to interact with each other.

The Chronic Pain Support Group currently has 33,000 members. People in this group sometimes reach out for support while experiencing pain. For example, in a recent post, a woman described the pain that was keeping her from sleep. Several people commented, commiserating with and comforting her. Other posts are jokes and jabs to encourage laughter, which can often reduce pain. Also often posted at the Chronic Pain Support Group are requests for advice. Because the group is so large and varied, there’s almost always someone able to provide suggestions.

Chronic pain doesn’t have to be suffered through in silence and isolation.

Are you involved in an online chronic pain support group?

Image by Vincepal via Flickr

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