An old adage reads, “Two things are sure in life: death and taxes.” But I suggest to you there is at least one more item that is as sure as death or taxes, and it is pain. It might be physical pain, emotional pain, or both, but it is certain that all humans will experience pain in some shape, form, or fashion in their lives.
Unfortunately, there are many people who experience a lifetime of physical pain, which is known as chronic pain. According to WebMD, more than 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, which is roughly 15% of the national population.
Unluckily, I consider myself somewhat of an “amateur authority” on chronic pain. No, I am not a doctor nor do I have official medical training. But I have received firsthand experience, which is instruction that formal education cannot provide. For years, I have personally lived with chronic pain.
What is chronic pain? Chronic pain is different from temporary pain, known as acute pain. Chronic pain is not a passing discomfort, but rather, it is pain that is experienced over extended periods of time. Again, WebMD defines chronic pain as pain that lasts over six months. However, in many cases it lasts a lifetime; unlike acute pain, medications are often ineffective in its treatment.
It is not possible to summarize all the causes of chronic pain in one short article, but it is necessary to understand that its catalyst could be numerously different events. Its initial source could be injuries sustained during a major event, such as a parachuting accident; on the other hand, it could begin with a seemingly minor event, such as a strained back resulting from overexertion.
In truth, chronic pain can take many forms. It might be back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, foot pain, fibromyalgia, or arthritis. Possibly, it is sciatica or even bursitis.
Still, one thing is certain, chronic pain is real and it is not merely imagined by the sufferer. Even so, I have crossed paths with plenty of people who consider chronic pain to simply exist in the mind of the sufferer. True, it is the brain that registers pain signals, but even most clinically trained experts would not conclusively declare it imaginary.
No, it is very real to the sufferer and its impact on lives can be devastating. Nonetheless, those of us who experience chronic pain can help spread the notion that it is simply imagined by the sufferer.
Let me explain how this happens. Like many who live daily with chronic pain, I have learned to hide my physical pain over the years. Despite having a fused left ankle, along with hip and back problems, I can often appear normal to the outside observer. The onlooker might never pick up on the fact that many of my joints are screaming with pain on the inside. In fact, many who know me closely could vouch that I rarely complain and they can hardly ever interpret my pain level.
Since I often appear normal, by and large, on the outside, most people make the assumption that I feel normal on the inside. As a result, people fail to understand that those of us who live with chronic pain are continually impacted by its everlasting presence.
In the end, those who live with chronic pain can verify that at least three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and pain. So do not assume that all those who cross your path feel physically normal on the inside. Many people who come into your life might be living daily with chronic pain.