By Joshua Iaquinto. | Physiotherapist | www.PhysioCall.com.au
Did you know, when you suffer from acute or chronic pain, others (especially close family members) can sense and feel it too. Humans possess mirror neurons that allow us to replicate what other people are experiencing (1). Side note, this is one of the main reasons why I don't watch horror movies, my brain can't figure out the difference between reality and cinematography scariness.
If pain is affecting you, who else is being affected by your pain?
Pain in the family can have a ripple effect — not only does it interrupt your life and challenge you to endure your pain, but it can also impact on your partner, children, family, and friends too.
The effect chronic pain has on your family has a lot to do with the amount of pain you are in, as well as how close your relationship is to each person in your life:
Partners of those experiencing chronic pain, develop their own challenges with their partner's pain. Obviously, there is a need and want to help the discomfort and pain that their partner is feeling, but often they can feel helpless as it is beyond their abilities to help. The supporting partner may need to do more for the hurt/sick partner in ways that can increase their own stress load. Things like, physically assisting to bed or the toilet, doing extra chores like cleaning, cooking or even taking up a second job to make up for loss of income.
These situations can put a strain on the supporting partners:
- relationship time
Intimacy and communication can often suffer depending on the origin and severity of pain.
It’s difficult for children to see their parents in pain. Apart from the lack of understanding why their parent has pain, sometimes the child’s thoughts can unnecessarily worry and create beliefs that aren’t true, like believing a parent will get cancer or die because of pain when it may just be a temporary flu or injury. People who have pain for long periods can withdraw from contact with outside groups of friends, which can sometimes carry into the family circle. Children can also assume that they are the reason for the pain or the lack of family connection and develop emotions of guilt or anger.
Top 2 things that people in Pain can do to keep your family close:
Family always want to know how you are feeling, so let them ask you and keep them updated with how things are going. Talking about the pain can improve the family unit, reduce feelings of isolation and improve overall communications within the family dynamic. But, try to find the right balance between sharing and complaining, sometimes oversharing by complaining, or exaggerating, can lead to stress and feelings of helplessness for others.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It’s surprising how others are willing and wanting to help you, if you ask them. Human’s inherently want to help other people. If you are like me, then you probably find it difficult to ask for help as well. Common issues why we don’t ask for help:
- It’s a pride thing
- you may suffer from an “I can do it myself attitude” or
- you are embarrassed or ashamed
- or you just have never said the words “I need help with….”
The trick to letting others, help you, is to ask for help. Often family does not know WHAT to do; they can't read your mind. If they knew, they would probably just do it. Simply, you’re going to have to overcome your hang-ups and just ask. FYI, helping the person in pain, also makes the helper feel special too, don't deny them the opportunity to share their love for you.
Dealing with pain can be so much easier if these two simple steps are performed regularly.
Keep your loved ones loving you despite your pain by communicating and asking for help.
PhysioCall.com.au is a Physio Clinic based in Gladstone, QLD.
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1. Osborn, J., & Derbyshire, S. (2009). Pain sensation evoked by observing injury in others. Pain. DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2009.11.007.