Some things are hard to talk about. Some things are hard to think about. But good communication will usually make life easier, even if it is awkward or hard in the moment. It’s good to know the people we need to talk to will usually be on our side. Often they want to help, but just don’t know how.
When pain or health problems create challenges, we need to let people know. So the first step is clarity. Often pain or poor health can make us grumpy, so we don’t even recognize why we are upset or frustrated. We need to recognize the real problem and be able to name it. An easy way to recognize a problem is to notice the next time you react with a strong emotion. That emotion is your cue that something is going on. Take a moment to ask yourself why you felt that way and why you reacted. There is often something beneath the obvious. For people with chronic health conditions or pain, it can be fatigue, lack of sleep, underlying pain, feeling out of breath, nausea, and other physical cues that can lead to over-reacting emotionally.
If you know pain is a problem, there are four ways to talk about it. Identifying your pain in these four ways can make it easier to describe to a doctor or to a loved one.
The first is pain intensity — a doctor might ask you to rate pain on a 10 point scale from mild to excruciating.
Second, think about pain duration. Is the pain brief, fleeting, rhythmic, intermittent, or constant?
Next try to describe the pain. There are hundreds of words to describe your unique sensation (stinging, dull, nauseating, splitting, radiating, etc.). Think outside the box to let people know how you feel.
The fourth way to talk about pain is to describe how your pain impacts your life. This is particularly useful for communicating your needs and helping people understand what is going on. For example, your pain might make it hard to get dressed, get out of bed, or leave the house. But if you still want social interaction, you can explain. You might say, “You know, I’m having too much pain to make it to our lunch meet-up today, but I would still like to see you. How would you feel about picking up lunch to-go and bringing it over to my house so that we can still visit?”
As holidays approach, stress levels can rise alongside the benefits of the busy season. You can reduce your stress with better communication and clarity, so that problems don’t snowball. And if you want more support for managing pain, USU Extension is launching pain education programs and support groups in 2021 that will give you the extra tools to make pain less of a burden. Please contact Melissa Flint for more information on USU’s free pain education programs: melissa.Flint@usu.edu
Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County Office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at email@example.com.