By: Cyrus Sepahbodi

Chronic pain can make a person feel lonely, isolated, and even depressed. Most people know someone with chronic pain, but most don’t fully understand, can see the effects of living with pain, or feel it the way you do. It can be incredibly difficult to connect with people who don’t know what you’re going through. That is why many people take advantage of joining a pain support group. This article will explain not only the purpose of a pain support group, but also the different types and why support groups are so worthwhile. 

There are pain support groups and organizations which provide support for people living with chronic pain. Some are for specific conditions while others are generally based for all types of pain. If you have never sought out a pain support group you can start by asking your general physician, by listening to local radio, visiting your neighborhood clinic, by looking online, or pulling out that good old local telephone directory. The internet is a popular source of support as well as information for people living with chronic pain. It can bring support to your own homes through email, chats, forums, and message boards. 

The idea of a pain support group might seem scary and may not be for you but whatever type of support works for you, it is vitally important to seek it out!

Chronic Pain Support Groups Can Help

Prioritizing your emotional health is important. They allow you to connect with others and share your experiences. That is why pain support groups are so worthwhile. 

You may be thinking, I don’t know about that… I’ve always dealt with my pain on my own before, why do I need support now? Being part of a pain group is a healthy way of seeking support during your journey with chronic pain. Group leaders and other members don’t take the place of medical professionals, but they may have answers to your questions and can offer emotional support. Sometimes just having people to talk to about your experiences with chronic pain can be helpful. For some the idea of a support group may seem as an avenue to listen to others complain about their pain, but the truth is that chronic pain support groups can be lifesaving. It’s easy to become isolated and have feelings of depression when pain removes your ability to work or participate in social settings. But pain groups can bring you out of isolation and help you connect with other people that understand what you are going through.

Being part of a pain support group gives you the opportunity to share your experiences and gain valuable information. Group members may know of community resources for food, childcare, classes, and other common needs. Some groups have organized lessons. Another great aspect of joining a pain support group is that they provide a social connection. Feeling supported and seeing others succeed can motivate you and change your daily life challenges.

Different Kinds of Groups

There are millions of people in the United States living with chronic pain. In response many patients and professionals have developed all kinds of groups to provide information and emotional support. The primary differences between them are whether they are professional or peer-led, structured or open-ended, in-person or online, and whether they cater to general pain or specific conditions. 

Some support groups are highly structured programs that teach set curriculums. Often, they ask group members to make action plans every week. This option is great for people who prefer having structure or rely upon time management for their daily lives. Structured groups do have an advantage, you’ll know exactly what you are getting throughout the experience. Most structured groups are developed by professionals and are known to work because they have a history of successful participants. Whereas structured groups have a set curriculum, unstructured groups are more about providing social and emotional support. This option may or may not appeal to you though, at which point you may want to create your own emotional support system of friends and family. 

Some people prefer social contact and meeting other people who understand what it is like to live life with pain. The ability to share and get to know others can be incredibly rewarding and not only for the perspective others can offer, but because they will intrinsically understand what you may be going through. But what if you find in-person groups intimidating? Or hard to get to? Or perhaps they are physically demanding? In that case, it may be a better idea to find an online group as an easier way to connect. Perhaps the greatest advantage of online pain support groups is that they are readily available. Some people might like that they can obtain support by simply using their smartphone or laptop. For people with mobility issues an online group is a great option for seeking support. Just remember, there is no wrong way to finding a group that is right for you.

Some pain support groups serve people with general pain whereas others are specific to the condition those members are dealing with. A general pain support group is open to all who live with chronic pain. Other groups specifically invite people living with conditions and are more attractive for that very reason. There are groups for almost any pain condition. A condition-specific group is more likely to give you information that is specific to your needs and will likely to be more relevant to you. Regardless, both types of groups are useful, and what you decide will really depend on what you prefer.

What You Should Look for in a Pain Support Group

A good way to start is by asking yourself: 

  • Do I like the people here? 
  • Do I identify others in the group?
  • Does the structure work for my needs?
  • Is this group well facilitated? 
  • Is it organized or chaotic?
  • Is the time and place convenient?
  • Do I get useful information?
  • Do I feel welcome?

If your answers are positive, the group you are part of might be a valuable resource for support. If your answers are not positive, don’t give up! Keep looking for a group that will better suit your needs.

Finding the Right Group

Depending where you live, you probably can find groups for people with chronic pain or for people who share your specific condition. A great place to start is by asking your health care provider. If they specialize in pain treatment, then they likely know the nearest pain-management center or groups in your area. Many pain support groups operate out of churches or community centers. You can also open a browser on your phone or personal computer and do a google search for pain support groups in your area. 

The American Chronic Pain Association sponsors groups that are peer-led. They numerous resources on their site for finding a pain support group, and even starting one of your own if your local area doesn’t have as many resources. Another great resource for finding pain support groups is the U.S. Pain Foundation. Their site has numerous resources as well to get you started. Need something more thorough? Here is a list of 50-Plus Resources, Including Groups for Veterans, to Help You Live Better with Chronic Pain.

Don’t forget online groups! Online support groups are everywhere on the web, and they’re available any time of the day or night. Start by doing a search on google for nearby pain support groups. Social media is another great resource for finding online groups.

Don’t Be Afraid!

You are not alone. There are millions of people just like you who are dealing with different types of pain. You don’t have to bear the emotional burden alone. If groups aren’t your thing, that is understandable. Each person’s process is different, and you may want to form your own group or create a personal system of emotional support consisting of your family and friends. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone!