Things NOT to Say to Someone with Chronic Pain


Just the right words can help ease someone’s pain.

Of course you mean well. You see a friend or family member who’s suffering and you want to offer advice and encouragement. Unfortunately, some of the most common comments people make have the opposite effect. Don’t fret; it’s easy to turn a potentially hurtful question or comment into the warm sentiment you meant to give. Read on to find the right words.

DON’T SAY: If you got out of the house more, I’m sure you’d feel better.
IT SOUNDS LIKE: You never want to do anything. You’re just wallowing in your condition.
DO SAY: I know your pain level varies, so is it OK if I keep inviting you to do things, and when you’re up to it you can say yes?

DON’T SAY: You don’t look sick or But you look so good!
IT SOUNDS LIKE: If you were really in pain, I would be able to tell.
DO SAY: I never realized that pain could be so invisible. I admire how well you’re able to cope while still managing to look good.

DON’T SAY: Go back to work; it’ll give you something else to think about.
IT SOUNDS LIKE: I wish I could stay home on the couch all day too, but I have to work.
DO SAY: It must be really difficult to have to give up working.

DON’T SAY: Is it really that bad?
IT SOUNDS LIKE: Come on, I’ve had pain before. It didn’t hurt that much.
DO SAY: I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I’m here for whatever you need.


Written by: Lisa Copen, author of Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend (Rest Ministries, 2005)
and the founder of the pain support organization Rest Ministries.

Originally published by: Pain Solutions Magazine, Spring 2010
Photo Credit: by Retrodiva88, courtesy of Stock Free Images

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