Chronic pain is often invisible to others, but it can be overwhelming to anyone who suffers from it. You are not alone.

The American Chronic Pain Association lists more than 100 types of chronic pain, from arthritis to IBS, from migraine to multiple sclerosis. Over 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain.

Chronic pain is often invisible. Those who do not live with chronic pain cannot always look at someone and see that he or she suffers from migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, severe back pain, fibromyalgia, or other painful conditions.

Yet chronic pain can have huge psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social consequences for those who live with it. Unremitting pain can limit or even destroy one’s ability to enjoy life. It may affect your ability to be a good spouse or parent, maintain friendships, perform well at work or even work at all. Living with chronic pain can change you and turn the world as you once knew it upside down.

While your experience – your pain, emotions, questions, and concerns are unique to you – you are not alone. Chaplains On Hand® is here to be a support and resource for you.

With all the similarities that there are between chronic pain and any other serious illness, there are differences.

  • Some pain can be determined to be the result of a specific cause, for example, an old injury, an illness, an infection, or a condition such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, or another condition. But some chronic pain seems to have no apparent cause. If you are dealing with an “unknown” for the reason of your pain, you may wrestle more with your emotions, spiritual questions, and ability to cope.
  • Chronic pain has been shown to be linked to depression and anxiety. Pain can be linked to depression, and depression can be caused by pain; it’s a difficult cycle to untangle. However, this does not mean that your pain “is all in your head”.
  • Sometimes it takes a long time to find a treatment that will work. Chronic pain is difficult to treat and often takes a combination of medications, exercise, physical therapy, emotional support, complementary approaches, and spiritual care and resources.
  • Despite the best of care, the reality is that sometimes chronic pain never goes away completely.

Chaplains On Hand®, and this section in particular, is a place where you can find support in the midst of your pain, with resources for meeting the needs of your spirit in ways that are practical, useful and encouraging.

You may find it helpful to read through the “Four Big Issues” that are found on this site: Spiritual Questions, Painful Feelings, Grief and Loss, and Planning Ahead. Each section has articles that may help in affirming that your feelings and questions are normal.

There may be times when you wonder about the meaning of your pain – or if it has any meaning at all – what will come next, and what your future holds. Beliefs and values that you have held dearly may be challenged as you try to find a sense of meaning or hope or comfort. If you haven’t previously thought about what your beliefs and values are, the Questions to Define Your Spirituality and the Checklist to Determine Your Level of Spiritual Distress can be guides to help put words to describe your beliefs, values, and emotions. Use them to think through what is important to you; there are no “right” or “wrong” answers.

Then what?

First, complete the Questions to Define Your Spirituality. Once that is done, think about how those that bring you a sense of happiness, support, or relaxation can be more incorporated into your life. Below are some examples to help you.