Top 5 Things I Learned From Battling Chronic Pain

1- Everybody Needs Help at Some Time in Their Life

Seek help early: lose the “get tough” mentality: It is okay to speak up about pain and hardship and will actually be more helpful than if you keep it to yourself. This also makes it more likely that you’ll get the help and support you need early when your pain is more treatable (don’t be afraid to be vulnerable). I have gained some very valuable moments of connection with close friends because I have chosen to share some of my most vulnerable moments. It is incredibly scary, but also incredibly freeing to let others see you in extreme moments of pain and suffering.

2- Pain is Different from Discomfort

As healthcare professionals, we must understand and educate those that we work with on the difference between pain, a “danger signal” from our brain versus “discomfort” or soreness that may be reasonably expected after exercise. You might use the phrase: “Sore but Safe” to reinforce this principle. I remember for me as an athlete, there was an “Aha!” moment as I was talking to my athletic trainer and he was trying to assess how my recovery from an ankle sprain was coming along. He discussed the difference between pain and discomfort and made me realize that much of the time when the public says “pain” what they really mean is discomfort. It is okay to be uncomfortable and move anyway. It is NOT okay to ignore pain and not adjust movement with this is mind. We must use our words carefully and respect pain as a danger signal.

3- Being in Pain Does Not Make You a Bad Person (Nor is Pain a Sign of Weakness)

“A Broken Body Isn’t A Broken Person” TED talk:

Simply put: you are not your pain. As I have written about before, YOUR PAIN IS NOT YOUR FAULT and if you are currently struggling with persistent pain I highly recommend seeking out a healthcare professional support team that strives to treat based on this idea. Just like any other healthcare issue that you seek treatment for, you should not be blamed for the condition that you present with but should be empowered to pursue health and take action in ways that are reasonable for you.

4- Not Everyone Who Loves You Will Get It

One of the hardest lessons to learn from this experience is that different people have different capacities for providing support—both verbal and behavioral (i.e., actions). Also, some of the people that are closest to you will not understand what you are going through and may have reactions that are pretty emotionally hurtful. Strangers will not always get it either. This video I think captures some of these ideas:

“What people say when they don’t know what to say” TED talk:

5- Pain is Treatable

(despite some healthcare providers suggesting that management is more realistic- this is an outdated view)

If I had a dime for every time a doctor told me that my pain was “untreatable” and I was just going to have to learn to manage it….well, I wouldn’t be rich, but I would definitely have a pile of dimes.

According to contemporary pain science, even chronic (“persistent”) pain IS TREATABLE! If you are in pain, I would encourage you to seek out a clinician with up to date understanding of pain science and who believes and treats based on this knowledge!


Butler, D.S. & Moseley, G. L. Explain pain. Adelaide, Australia: Noigroup Publications; 2003.

Doidge, N. The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. New York: Penguin Books; 2015.

Dr. David Hanscom.

Moseley GL, Butler DS. Fifteen Years of Explaining Pain: The Past, Present, and Future. The Journal of Pain. 2015;16(9):807-813.

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