Family help with chronic back pain

After chronic pain sets in, a person with back pain usually has many important questions:

  • “Will I need surgery?”
  • "What can the doctors do to get rid of my back pain?"
  • “Should I exercise?”
  • “What can I do about work?”

These concerns about back pain can worsen due to fear of increased pain, frustration from not being able to do work or recreational activities, hopelessness about the future, and loss of financial security from missed work opportunities. The situation affects not only the patient, but his or her entire family.

What your family should and shouldn’t do

Family members are key to providing encouragement, empathy, and compassion for those who deal with chronic back pain. There is a fine line between being helpful and enabling a family member to be completely disabled and neglect their family obligations. Being helpful includes providing psychosocial support in times of need.

Chronic back pain should not lead a person to become totally disabled and dependent upon family members to perform their daily personal tasks. Even putting on shoes, while painful for some, requires a certain amount of muscle flexibility. If a family member tries to be helpful in assisting a person with back pain with such common tasks, one runs the risk of depriving the person of exactly the muscle activity that is helpful for their recovery.

Teaching patients and their family members about the effective treatments for chronic back pain is extremely important. If your loved one is too distraught to understand this material, you can take the time to review, explain, or analyze this information for him or her. You can also do additional research on chronic pain on your own.

Last reviewed: 
April 2018

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