Getting Out

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The Neuroscience of Pain
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Pain Rehab
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Family & Parenting

Why is it Important to Have a Social Life?

Humans are social creatures by nature. This is why we feel depressed when we are alone for too long1. Chronic pain conditions can make social life difficult. Physical limitations can make it hard to move around and meet other people2. Unpredictable symptoms can also interfere with making and keeping plans.

To make things worse, people without chronic pain may not understand your condition either because they hold misperceptions about the experience is like, or they simply do not believe you are in any pain. It can be difficult to maintain social activity with people who do not understand chronic pain. However, this does not mean all is lost!

Communication with friends and loved ones can allow them to better understand your condition. If they can understand your experience, they may be able to help maintain your social connections. These bonds are a great way of dealing with chronic pain, as positive interactions decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and potentially self-destructive behaviors.

Isolation from other and negative feelings about living with chronic pain can create a negative social cycle. Loss of connections can lead to feelings of grief which lead back to feelings of isolation. Working with your friends so that they can understand your needs helps breaks this cycle, leading to more positive life experiences.

How do I Maintain a Social Life if I am in Pain?

Communication is absolutely crucial in social maintenance. Start with letting your friends know what you need and what your limits are so everyone can plan accordingly. Not everyone may be understanding and patient with your limitations, but people who really care will be more than happy to meet you halfway.

If you are unable to physically meet with your friends, communication over technology is amazingly easy. Even if you are not able to speak, a quick electronic message can convey a tremendous amount of meaning.

Additionally, there are many online and real-life support groups for people with chronic pain conditions. Even if your friends do not understand your experience, you can meet and talk with others who are in the same situation as you.

Communication may not be feasible every day, but keeping those channels open can make chronic pain experience a little bit easier.

Why is it Important to Go to School if I am in Pain?

In addition to maintaining academics, attending school is a great way to keep up with social life. Being present in a public social sphere causes feelings of isolation and alienation from friends and peers to decrease3. Attending school provides a regular schedule to life, as well as a distraction from pain.

Although there are some days where going to school may not seem possible, it is important to go as regularly as you can. Chronic school absence can put you at risk for poor performance and dropout, which is correlated to a higher risk for unhealthy behaviors and poor long-term health outcomes4.

Research is still being done to investigate how much school attendance impacts chronic pain, but the current conclusions indicate that having a regularly scheduled time to interact with peers and get out of the house proves a good enough distraction from pain. If returning to public school is too difficult to manage, homeschooling can still provide a mental distraction while maintaining academics until you feel more able to return.

How do I Go to School if I am in Pain?

If you need assistance with returning to school, here are some great resources for how to get accommodations and advocate for your needs.

Boston Children’s Hospital: Advice on how to gradually reenter school life with the needed accommodations.

http://www.childrenshospital.org/centers-and-services/programs/o-_-z/pain-treatment-center/programs-and-services/school-support-for-children-with-chronic-pain

Get Schooled on Concussions: Advice on self-advocacy to return to class focused on how to explain to teachers what your needs are.

References

1 La Buissonnière-Ariza, V., Hart, D., Schneider, S. C., McBride, N. M., Cepeda, S. L., Haney, B., … Storch, E. A. (2018). Quality and Correlates of Peer Relationships in Youths with Chronic Pain. Child Psychiatry & Human Development49(6), 865–874. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-018-0802-z

Forgeron, P. A., Evans, J., McGrath, P. J., Stevens, B., & Finley, G. A. (2013). Living with difference: Exploring the social self of adolescents with chronic pain. Pain Research & Management, 18(6), e115.

3 Randall, E. T., Smith, K. R., Conroy, C., Smith, A. M., Sethna, N., & Logan, D. E. (2018). Back to Living. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 1. https://doi.org/10.1097/ajp.0000000000000616

4 Allison, M. A., & Attisha, E. (2019). The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health. Pediatrics143(2), e20183648. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-3648