Skip links and keyboard navigation

Caring for someone with chronic pain

Monday 24 July 2017

A middle aged couple, sit on their couch, the woman's arm over the man's shoulders. They look pensive and sad.
Understanding what chronic pain feels like can be difficult, do your best to listen when the person you care for tells you how they feel.

If you know or care for someone who has chronic pain, there are things you can do to help support them in managing their condition.

Learn – what is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is pain that continues long term, after the illness or injury which caused it has healed. It can be mild to severe, and can have a big impact on quality of life.

Chronic pain refers to different types of ongoing pain, including nerve pain, pain from bones, muscles and joints, and also cancer pain. Sometimes the cause of chronic pain can be traced back to an illness or injury, but other times it’s not easy to determine what has caused chronic pain.

Listen

Understanding what chronic pain feels like can be difficult without experiencing it yourself. Do your best to listen when the person you care for tells you how they feel. Don’t brush off their condition by saying it’s “all in their head” or by telling them how great they look or are performing at their job even though they have chronic pain.

With their permission, you might speak with their medical team or go with them to appointments to get more understanding about their condition, possible treatment strategies, medicines and expectations. While you might be keen to research and find out more information that could help, beware of any products offering ‘one-step’ or miracle cures: managing chronic pain is a complex process that will often involve several different types of treatment.

Encourage teamwork

Chronic pain isn’t something anyone should have to manage alone. If you’re caring for someone who has chronic pain, or you think might have chronic pain, assist them to access medical support. This might start with a visit to their GP, and involve other specialists who can advise on their specific condition. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists might also assist with pain management.

A lot of people living with chronic pain find having a supportive team helps them to manage their condition. You might help communicate with and coordinate this team, which could include medical professionals, colleagues and bosses, exercise coaches, teachers, family, friends and community members.

A mother and daughter sit on the couch, talking.

Continue to treat them as a person

It’s often helpful for people with chronic pain to learn to recognise that their pain doesn’t define them: it’s part of them but it isn’t all they are. You can help with this by remembering to treat them not just as a person with pain, but a rounded human being. While you will show concern about their pain and comfort, you can still be interested in other facets of their lives like their hobbies, job and family.

Look after yourself

You are best placed to help someone else when you take good care of yourself. Take time out to focus on yourself and your own interests and goals, and take care of your physical and mental wellbeing.

Just like having chronic pain can be emotionally trying for the person with pain, you might experience strong emotions while caring for them. You might feel sad, frustrated or angry that this has happened to them and mourn the changes in their lifestyle or future plans, particularly if the person you are caring for is a partner or family member. If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious, it’s important to speak to someone about how you are feeling, for example your GP or an organisation like Carers Australia.

More tips for carers and those with chronic pain can be found from:

Share:
Last updated: 27 July 2018