• John Coletti

15 Things Not to Say to People With Chronic Pain

Rubbing alcohol in the wound

People with chronic pain have heard it all – over and over. Acquaintances say, "You look fine to me," or ask, "Why aren't you better yet?" Doctors and nurses advise, "There comes a point when you must accept a new normal." For someone coping with continual pain, possibly for years, none of this is necessarily original or helpful. You may know someone with chronic pain and just not be sure what to say. Read on as people living with pain share their biggest pet peeve remarks from family, friends and health care providers – and suggest more thoughtful, supportive comments.

You need to take it easy.

Sakiyyah Burwell-Darden has a form of sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disorders cause severe pain episodes and sometimes lasting damage as blood cells morph to rigid, sickle shapes, blocking circulation in the blood vessels, organs and joints. "People just want you not to be in pain," says Burwell-Darden, a community health worker and hemoglobinopathies educator with the Sickle Cell Association of New Jersey. "But at the end of the day, you want to be in control and feel like you have some sort of power. You already feel powerless because of the disease, and you have other people telling you, 'Oh, no, don't do this; don't do that,' instead of letting us decide our limitations on our own." Suggestions from peers are different. "We come together at workshops and I hear other people figure out ways to distract themselves from pain," she says. "That helps." Photography works for her: "I'll just sit on my porch, put up the tripod and start clicking away."

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