Living in chronic pain can be isolating. Pain can restrict your daily activities, drain your energy, and leave you feeling disconnected from the rest of the world. Connecting with chronic pain support groups can help you to better understand chronic pain, find new coping strategies and help you make valuable connections with others on a similar journey.
Benefits of reaching out
Chronic pain support group members can be valuable additions to your mental and physical health. Even your closest family members may not fully understand your specific conditions or the obstacles they pose. But when you’re able to connect with a group, you can feel understood, accepted and validated. You can find support groups both online and in-person.
They can help you by:
- giving you feedback on how to communicate with family members
- practicing with you how to ask for accommodations at work
- discussing experiences with the latest treatments for chronic pain
- offering consistent, compassionate, peer-to-peer support as well as support from trained professionals
Finding online support groups
Online support groups offer convenience since you can access them at any time and any place. They also offer a bit of anonymity. This can make it easier for when you need to discuss difficult topics.
Some people find it easier to stay in touch with online groups. They don’t require you to have the energy or ability to leave your house to engage with others.
You have many options to choose from if you’re looking for online chronic pain support groups. Many of them are held as forums. You may find some groups that have been developed through social media, such as Facebook groups. Be sure to check the anonymity of the groups you join if privacy is a concern for you.
The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association also offers a free online community group intended for both individuals and their loved ones who are affected by fibromyalgia.
Finding in-person support groups
In-person support groups offer a different type of engagement with members. These groups are more likely to be led by a professional, such as a trained counselor. They also give you the chance to meet with others in person. This can help to reduce your feelings of social isolation.
Because these groups meet locally, they also provide a chance to get out of the house. If you develop friendships with other members, you could potentially meet up with them more often.
If you’re looking for a chronic pain support group that meets in person, you may need to do a little detective work to find a group that’s local to you. Start by asking your health care team if they know of any local groups. You may also want to stop into your local community center and contact the information desk at the local hospital to see if a local group exists.
The following organizations and associations offer local, in-person chronic pain support groups:
Psychology Today offers a comprehensive listing of groups by state. Even sites such as MeetUp may include local groups.
If you can’t find a local chronic pain support group, you may be able to start one of your own. The American Chronic Pain Association offers guidance on starting such a group to serve your local community.
Starting a group of your own can be a major undertaking. It will likely require ongoing dedication, so make sure that you’re up for the challenge before you decide to take this mission on.
What to look in support groups
To find a group that works for you, think about what you want to get out of a group:
- Are you looking for a space where you can express your feelings to others?
- Is a group that offers detailed tips and advice for coping with chronic pain more in line with your needs?
- Are you hoping to find a relaxed environment where you can just enjoy some conversation with others who have something in common without dwelling on your health?
All of these different types of groups exist, so you can absolutely find different types of support depending on the group that you choose.
For support groups to be effective, it’s important to feel comfortable and to trust the other group members. Look for a group that is supportive, safe and well-regulated. Find an in-person groups led by trained professionals who help to make sure spaces are safe and welcoming.
Online groups can be more difficult to regulate, especially if moderators are not consistently online. If you do join an online group, look for a private group that screens members before admitting them. You may want to sit back and watch the conversation for a few days to get a sense of the group before deciding to engage.
Well-organized groups often create a more engaging atmosphere than groups with less structure. Regularly scheduled meetings and questions to prompt discussion help to keep things organized and spur conversation. For online groups, look for an engaged membership.
Every group is different. If the first group you connect with isn’t quite what you’re looking for, keep looking. There’s sure to be one out there that supports your needs.
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