Communicating with your loved ones about your pain and support for caregivers.

Chronic pain, like any chronic illness, can easily take a toll on relationships. We can’t control how others act or react, but we can learn ways to communicate more effectively.

Effective communication sounds like it should be instinctive. But all too often, when we try to communicate with others something goes astray. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, and misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts ensue. This can cause problems in Communicating more clearly and effectively requires learning some important skills. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, learning these skills can deepen your connections to others, build greater trust and respect, and improve teamwork, problem-solving, and your overall social and emotional health.

As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what’s being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.

To learn more about effective communications, review the Toronto Academic Medicine Institute Pain U module of Communication:

Tips for communicating your pain effectively

  • Be as clear and direct about your needs, concerns and experiences as possible. Don’t expect others to read your mind.
  • Remember that others will see your behaviour (such as withdrawing from interactions, holding painful parts of your body), and without clear communication they will be left to try to interpret what your behaviour means. Some will interpret incorrectly. You can improve this situation by explaining reasons for your withdrawal and agreeing in advance how you will indicate that your pain has increased, etc.
  • Living with chronic pain can impact mood, emotions, the ability to cope and how we react to others. If you are struggling with feelings of sadness, frustration, irritability, anger or other negative emotions speak with your doctor or nurse practitioner on how this is impacting you and your relationships. If you are wanting to better understand how much impact pain is having on your mental health and life here is a self-survey that may be helpful. Link:
  • Balance is important. Talking too much about your pain will likely overwhelm others. It is also important to be clear with others about what is going on for you.
  • Try to take an interest in others and the world around you. This can be difficult with chronic pain.
  • Remember that chronic pain is difficult for loved ones as well. It can also be important for them to talk about their feelings, experiences and concerns.


Caregiver support

Caregivers play a vital role by providing hands-on care, assistance and emotional support to family members or friends who need them.

Caregivers are also often so busy providing care for others that they do not pay close attention to their own needs. It is important for caregivers to remember to actively care for their own physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Tips to manage caregiver stress

  • Have realistic expectations. Learn all you can about your loved one’s condition and be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  • Ask for and accept help. Share the care. Most people are willing to help when you take the step to let them know what you need.
  • Bring humour into your life. Laughter helps put things in a more positive perspective. Seeing the lighter side of things may help you cope.
  • Connect with others to help ensure that you do not become isolated physically or emotionally. This could mean finding someone you trust who you can talk to, joining a suitable support group, being involved regularly in a hobby or recreational activity.
  • Learn to control what causes you stress. Establish limits. Identify what you can and cannot change. Practice slow, deep, mindful breathing. By regulating your breath, it is possible to slow down all physiological activity, including heartbeat. Blood pressure lowers, pulse rate slows and tense muscles releases.
  • Recognize your physical signs of stress. Eat well, get adequate amounts of rest and visit your doctor.
  • Accept and share your feelings. It is normal for caregivers to experience a wide range of emotions. Find someone you are comfortable with talking to about how you feel and what is troubling you.
  • Take time for yourself so you can find the renewed energy to return to your tasks with the care, dedication and inner strength that bring you to this role of caregiving in the first place. Identify and engage in activities and interests that have a calming effect on you such as walking, music and reading. Research respite options in your community.

Resources for caregivers