Despite the relatively large number of people in the United States who suffer from chronic pain (approximately 100 million adults), people with pain are still often faced with misunderstanding, preconceptions, and poor treatment. To facilitate change for people who live with chronic pain, September was recognized as Pain Awareness Month.
Since its establishment in 2001 as Pain Awareness Month, September has marked several pain awareness events across the nation each year.
One of these events is the PAINWeek Conference that takes place in Las Vegas during September. This conference caters to professionals and clinicians who deal with pain, from physicians to dentists to social workers. Courses take place on a diverse array of pain-related topics, with some programs presented by groups like the American Society of Pain Educators or the Veterans Health Administration. However, this event is only open to clinicians and medical professionals.
Other Pain Awareness Month events are open to everyone, including patients and caregivers. The Arizona Pain Chronic Pain Expo, for instance, focuses on patients and caregivers specifically. Information is provided about pain management resources, the latest chronic pain treatments, and local support group representatives are available to talk with attendees. Health and wellness vendors are also in attendance with information and special offers for patients and caregivers.
Events like the Arizona Pain Chronic Pain Expo, which emphasize patient and caregiver education and advocacy, are beginning to pop up in other places, too. A quick search for “Pain Awareness Month Events 2015” and the name of your location should help you find any events occurring near you. Attending a Pain Awareness Month event can help you learn how to better manage your pain, communicate with your physician, and advocate for people all over the country with chronic pain.
The goal of Pain Awareness Month is simple and straightforward: to increase awareness about people who live with pain.
Living with pain is a challenge in and of itself. When the people around you know very little about pain, though, those challenges tend to multiply. Friends or family members might not understand if you have to decline an invitation. Coworkers might question it if you take a sick day but don’t “look” sick. However, simply by initiating a conversation about pain, you might change things immensely.
The Spoon Theory, by Christine Miserandino, is a short account of her own experience telling her friend what it’s like to have a chronic condition (in her case, lupus). In it, she compares spoons to the energy she needed to get through the day. Some days she had enough spoons to get everything done. Some days she had to “borrow” from the next day’s supply of spoons. Some days she was so low on spoons that she could barely get out of bed.
In the beginning of this account, Christine touched on why it’s so important to talk honestly with others about your health or pain condition, stating:
“[My friend] then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?”
A lot of people may be like Christine’s friend. Although they’ve seen the effects of chronic pain, they’re unaware of what it’s truly like to live with. This is why living with pain is so isolating: no one else seems to understand what it’s like.
By sharing your own experiences with the people closest to you, though, you can change this. Your friends, family, and coworkers might become much more compassionate and supportive. Maybe your friends won’t question it when you say you need to rest for a while, or perhaps your spouse will go out of his or her way to bring you an ice pack or give you a massage more often.
At HolisticPain.com and PainDoctor.com, we try to make it easier for you to spread awareness about your pain condition.
Education is important when it comes to any health condition, including pain. Knowing as much as possible about your condition can help you manage it to the best of your abilities. Also, knowing more about your pain condition will make it easier for you to talk about it, because you’ll know enough about your condition to answer most questions. Subscribing to the blogs and social media at HolisticPain.com and PainDoctor.com can help you stay up-to-date with the latest information in pain research.
Not only will you be able to answer quite a few questions if you’ve read up on your condition, but you’ll know a couple of reliable resources to suggest to friends and family members who want to learn more. You’ll also be armed with more knowledge when you speak to your physician. With this specific knowledge, you’ll be able to ask your physician specific questions to better understand what he or she tells you, which can lead to better care and pain management.
Utilizing social media is also a great way to spread awareness about pain.
It’s easy to share information from HolisticPain.com and PainDoctor.com. The links to share blog posts or articles are always right on the screen for you. If you’re not quite comfortable sharing your own experiences, or if you think a particular blog post summed up a topic really well, all you have to do is click. That can be all it takes to get a conversation started about pain.
To really boost the information you share with friends during Pain Awareness Month, consider sharing information on social media sites on a regular basis throughout the month. Tweet a quote every other day, or share a blog post to Facebook once a week. Do what you’re comfortable with.
If you’re on Twitter, you might already be familiar with #chroniclife and #spoonie. Both are about what it’s like to live with a chronic condition, such as pain. Following these conversations, reposting others’ tweets, and generally getting involved in increasing awareness about pain on Twitter could help the people you care about learn more about pain, but that’s not all. Maybe no one nearby knows what it’s like to be kept awake at night by pain, but someone online does. Support in numbers can do wonders for morale.
Also, the more you do to increase awareness about pain, the more you may be helping others with pain conditions. If others become more familiar with and empathetic toward people with pain conditions, the more support and understanding they’re likely to give people in their lives who live with chronic pain.
How will you increase awareness during Pain Awareness Month?
Image by mkhmarketing via Flickr