For Pain Awareness Month in September, we took a good look at the ways ordinary people live their daily lives, even with pain. Education, awareness, and conversations with healthcare professionals can help guide those daily decisions and choices for the better. With even more education and public awareness, pain sufferers can also find more avenues for support and treatment research. Let’s take a look at how we spread pain awareness this month.
Days for pain awareness
Our focus this month was especially guided by the observation of Pain Awareness Month, a program established by the American Chronic Pain Association in 2001. One of the main goals for Pain Awareness Month this year was “bringing the issue of chronic pain to light.”
To help in this effort, we published a post that looked at a few of the unfortunately common misconceptions about pain. These include:
- If there is no obvious cause of pain, it must be “all in the sufferer’s head”
- Some people complain about pain for attention or sympathy
- If someone looks okay, he or she can’t be in pain
- Ignoring or pushing through pain will make it go away
- People who take opiate medications for pain become addicts
Our post attempted to debunk all of those misconceptions by providing scientific evidence refuting many of these claims. One blog post, one social media message, and one conversation at a time, we can help change the way the public thinks about pain.
September was also host to two other national observances that were indirectly related to pain. Our discussion of Labor Day focused on many of the aspects of work and labor patients with chronic conditions and disabilities must deal with in their careers. As we noted:
- In 2012, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was three times the rate for people without disabilities
- Less than half of disabled people in the United States have education beyond high school
- Sixty-three percent of disabled people earn less than $25,000 a year, compared to 23% of people without disabilities
- Disabled people are nearly four times as likely to rely on federal or state benefits for the majority of their income
- People in the U.S. with disabilities are twice as likely to be living in poverty than those without disabilities
The post discussed three areas of activism that could help change these statistics. These were a better understanding of disabilities, the laws surrounding disabilities, and how employers can think about the person before the disability itself.
We also discussed National Yoga Awareness month and how engaging in the practice of yoga can be used to ease stress and pain symptoms.
In addition to a general appeal for better pain awareness and research, we focused on two conditions that are increasingly diagnosed, if not yet understood: fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
A recent report studied the link between childhood chronic pain and fibromyalgia. Researchers found:
“Of the patients interviewed, one in six new patients, most of whom were female, reported pain in childhood. Those pain patients who reported pain in childhood were most likely to be treated for fibromyalgia and were also diagnosed with higher levels of anxiety. Patients with pain in childhood also had lower levels of functioning and were less able to cope with their pain.”
Since chronic fatigue syndrome is even less understood and discussed, we dedicated a post to examining the statistics of people affected by the condition, its risk factors, recent research about the condition, and treatment options currently being tested.
Living with pain
Finally, we dedicated the majority of this month’s posts to living with pain. We hope that there were some actionable pieces of advice within these posts that you were able to use in your daily life in order to help prevent pain and find relief.
Our most popular post, “5 Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Reduce Chronic Pain,” introduces these five guidelines for managing chronic pain.
- Improve sleeping habits
- Make positive diet changes
- Increase exercise
- Manage stress
- Drink more water
These tips seem simple enough, but as we discussed, implementing many of them can have a profound effect on your life with pain.
Rehabilitation is another area of importance for pain patients. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation are obviously important aspects of this practice, but physical rehabilitation is just as important. Like our Pain Awareness Month misconceptions post, we aimed to break down some of the stereotypes about rehabilitation and explain how it was important to the majority of people in its most original sense: “to make fit again” from the Latin word from the term.
Since both lifestyle changes and rehabilitation efforts are unsuccessful without support, we created two posts about finding support when in pain.
Our “Online Resources for Chronic Pain Support” post touched on popular chronic pain forums, as well as Facebook groups, Pinterest boards, Twitter accounts, Tumblr sites, and Instagram users that are talking about pain. On those sites, you’ll find support from others, inspiration, and advice from those who may suffer from similar symptoms or challenges.
Lastly, we covered the support that caregivers for chronic patients need. As support systems for pain patients, caregivers can begin to develop their own sources of pain and stress. Therefore, it’s imperative that caregivers are able to get connected, ask for help, stay organized, and take care of their own health.
What did you learn from the blog this month? Did you have any more questions about pain awareness and support?
Image by anurag agnihotri via Flickr