One of the hardest things to deal with when suffering from chronic pain is isolation.

No one can truly feel your pain but you. Your family and friends may even not believe that you are suffering, especially when there is no medical diagnosis or specific cause of pain. Even patients with the most supportive of families sometimes struggle with their own guilt and doubt.

But there is hope. Chronic pain sufferers can now look to research that shows that positive activities and interactions online can help with management of mild to moderate chronic pain.

These new research findings were published by The Journal of Pain, a peer-reviewed publication of The American Pain Society. Researchers recruited participants and developed positive online activities for this project. They believed that chronic pain sufferers assigned to complete two, four, or six positive activities online would should fewer chronic pain symptoms than those assigned to do no such activities. Participants were randomly assigned a number of positive activities over six weeks, and follow-up assessments were made at the end of the six weeks and then again at one, three, and six months after the study.

The activities included talking about positive things that happened during the time period as well as learning how to respond to the good news of other people. Researchers asked participants to focus on the positive things instead of the negative. They found that participants who completed at least four positive activities reported less pain than those participants who completed no positive activities. These results indicate that not only can chronic pain sufferers achieve some relief simply by thinking positively but they can also achieve long-lasting relief and potentially build community at the same time, affordably.

The positive results of online interactions may change the way chronic pain is treated.

Until recently, pain management has consisted of a patient and a doctor, and maybe a support group if one was available, but the internet has opened up a new realm of possibility. The isolation that pain patients feel can be a result of not knowing anyone like them, or thinking that they are alone in their struggle. Simple online groups can help combat that.

One such group is Faces of Pain, a website that is devoted to encouraging chronic pain sufferers to share their stories. As we discussed earlier, those suffering from chronic pain can read the stories of other chronic pain patients who are inspired and motivated by their children, their art, and their desire to help others who are going through similar issues.

Online support groups in general can be a great resource. For some chronic pain sufferers, the anonymity of an online group may make it easier to discuss their issues, fears, and troubles. Sometimes face-to-face interactions are difficult because they want to put their best “face” on. This can be difficult and discouraging. When you reach out online, you can be wherever you are that day, good or bad.

Another plus for online support groups is the encouragement and support you can receive for a variety of issues. Chronic pain can also be accompanied by other ailments, such as mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Mental Health America has a wealth of resources on their website, including a link for local support groups, online options, and even a crisis hotline if you need to speak with someone immediately.  Scroll down and you will find 100+ links for specific issues that include stress, grief, issues for primary caregivers, and much more. This can be a lifeline if you need support but don’t know where to go.

This brings up the next and perhaps most important benefit of online support.

In addition to all of the positives listed above (relief from pain, in the case of the study, and positive support and kinship on Faces of Pain), online support groups and forums generally have someone available any time of day. The internet is a global resource that knows no time zones, so if pain wakes you in the middle of the night, someone will be there to hear you. Someone will be feeling what you feel, or have felt it and understand.

In order to reap all of the potential benefits of online support, it is important to find a healthy group that will be supportive, kind, and compassionate. Daily Strength is a great site to start with. You can search a list of over 500 communities of support. Here are some other tips for finding online help for pain management.

Look for a moderated group

A moderator is committed to keeping conversation civil and appropriate. Unmoderated groups can sometimes be cruel or host “trolls,” people who are online specifically to cause trouble or hurt people.

Make sure the group is active

Some groups are founded and then just tail away. Look for posts in a forum that are frequent and recent.

Look for groups that are sponsored by a trusted organization

Groups that are run by pain clinics or hospitals or those that are run or organized by non-profits specific to chronic pain will be more likely to offer legitimate help than those started by unknown individuals.

Ask for help finding a support group

Your doctor may have suggestions for online support groups that have been helpful to patients in the past. Additionally, other patients can be helpful in finding online support. You just have to ask!

Trust your gut

If you join an online forum and feel harassed, bullied, or dismissed, and the moderator is unresponsive, leave the group. There are many options, and there is no need to participate in a forum that makes you uncomfortable.

Don’t divulge specific personal details

Yes, discuss your pain (that’s why you are there!), but avoid giving your full name, location, or treatment facility name. If you can, protect your identity online by using a different user name, and never give out details about your family or where you are located. This is a basic safety precaution that applies to all online activity but is especially important if you are feeling vulnerable.

Online help with pain management can make a huge difference in your life. What online support groups have you found to be helpful?

Image by electricnude via Flickr


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