Physical pain is not the only thing that those who live with chronic pain manage on a daily basis. Over 100 million Americans coping with chronic pain know just how true this is. This seems to be especially true for women. While both men and women can suffer from a variety of chronic pain conditions, experts agree that women who live with chronic pain “may suffer more and longer than men.”
Between the financial stress of affording long-term medication and the social stress of often having to skip out on fun activities, women who live with chronic pain often have to put up with quite a bit of invalidation. Even well-meaning family and friends can play a role in this experience. Trusted healthcare providers often play a much more frustrating role, one that causes disparities in care.
Talking about medication and handling unsolicited advice
Treatment and unsolicited advice are two topics that often go hand-in-hand. For example, you may be discussing managing your chronic pain and the high cost of prescription medication that you need with your family. Even if they are well-intentioned, they may jump at the opportunity to give you tips you never asked for and don’t want:
- “But have you tried yoga?”
- “Oh! I read about this magnificent herb that’s a better alternative to western medicine!”
- “Just try not to think about it.”
Such remarks can be annoying and feel judgmental.
It’s hard to handle unsolicited advice without sounding snarky, especially when you’ve received the same tip so many times. The Invisible Disabilities Association has a number of helpful responses you can give to politely decline advice, including:
- “Thank you for your concern, but I’m satisfied with my current treatment plan.”
- “I am glad that works for you. There are so many different ways of doing things.”
- “I’ll ask for advice if I need it.”
If the conversion continues to be disrespectful and dismissive, it’s perfectly fine to change the topic or to end the conversation.
If your medication is indeed costly and you are researching more cost effective solutions, international and Canadian pharmacy referral service Rx Connected can be of service. They offer affordable and accessible medications used to treat chronic pain like Cymbalta and Celebrex. Many countries have strict pricing regulations that make their drugs significantly cheaper than drugs in the U.S.A. Rx Connected can ship medication straight to your door and only sources from international and Canadian pharmacies that have met stringent regulations.
Talking to friends about pain management
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation about your chronic condition as well as how you experience pain. Talking about something that’s bothering you can be incredibly cathartic, and a good friend will listen attentively and validate your concerns.
A friend may even be inspired to share their own health challenges, so you may even empower someone. However, if you have friends who offer unwanted advice, be prepared to respond or even to walk away from the conversation if need be.
If your friends invite you to an outing that may trigger symptoms that are too severe for you, don’t be afraid to say no. Emphasize that your friends are not the cause for your saying no. You may suggest an alternative like inviting them to come over to your home for a relaxing movie night. Or you can let them know you’ll be happy to meet up with them at a different time for an activity where everyone will be comfortable.
Talking to your workplace about pain management
Many women with invisible disabilities are hesitant about discussing their condition with their employer. They don’t want to look like they’re making up excuses for shoddy work. Or they may not want to out themselves as having a disability, possibly be discriminated against and/or subsequently seen as less competent.
These are understandable concerns, but it might be helpful to your pain journey if you’re more transparent about it. Try to talk to your supervisor as early as possible and before a flare-up when you need to request the day off. Avoid feeling as if you’re there to dump a pile of unresolved problems into your boss’ lap. Instead, approach this conversation as a means to find solutions.
Consider ideas such as:
- suggest that you work from home during flare-ups
- ask for office supplies and accessibility modifications for your workspace
- move your desk to an area that doesn’t require stairs to access are reasonable to accommodate
Such solutions may make managing your pain and managing your work responsibilities easier. They may even boost your productivity.
Talking to your health care team about pain management
Doctors treating women who live with chronic pain and need care differently than they’d treat men is a documented problem. Unfortunately, some of the skeptics who are most difficult to convince can be our very own health care providers.
Women who live with chronic pain go to doctors about unexplained pain are often dismissed, told it’s a simple psychological issue or even labeled as drug seekers. So how do you combat the disparity? Be prepared to take a stand and to thoroughly describe your symptoms. Brainstorm the words you’ll use and what questions you have:
- What does the pain feel like? Stinging? Stabbing? Sharp? Dull?
- When does it hurt? When you sleep? Sitting at your desk? When you walk?
- What does the pain prevent you from doing? Work? Sleep? Sports?
Bring with you the attitude that you are open to different methods of treatments. Try to stay calm and ask specific questions about your options.
The bottom line about chronic pain in women
Be assertive in your requests for understanding and for care. Nowhere is this more applicable than when you’re reflecting upon yourself. Engage in positive self-talk. Don’t discredit your own pain. Your suffering is real and valid. You deserve to be heard and to receive care that fits your lifestyle and addresses your needs.
What steps do you take each day to manage your chronic pain?
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Pain management starts and ends with health awareness and dedication. Click here to read more.