What Are Support Groups, and How Can They Help?
November 8, 2018
“There are days when I don’t feel like I’m part of society.”
“Nobody else understands what it’s like being in pain all the time.”
“When it’s hard to fall asleep because of the pain, it seems like nobody else is going through this.”
Unfortunately, these are the types of feelings people with chronic pain may feel. It can be isolating and depressing, and even though we are trained and experienced when it comes to pain management, we cannot feel what you feel happening in your body.
Although we always do everything in our power to help patients, sometimes they just need someone to talk to who has been through something similar or is going through something similar. This is where support groups can come in. They allow you to connect with others and share your experiences in a way that will be helpful.
The idea of a pain support group might seem daunting, and it can take time to decide to go, but they can be lifesaving in many ways. Isolation and loneliness are huge risk factors for other serious health problems.
Here are some valuable things support groups can provide:
- Information. Group leaders don’t take the place of doctors, but they may have answers to your questions. Group members also share valuable information on related issues, such as disability benefits and daily living issues.
- Advice for daily life. Group members may be able to advise you based on their experiences. Do you really need a shower seat? What’s the best way to arrange your pillows for the best back support at night? What foods or recipes help reduce inflammation? Group members may also have suggestions for community resources that may help with food, childcare, classes, and other common needs.
- Education. Some groups have talks, lessons, or classes on topics such as building confidence, sleeping better, nutrition, pain medications, and finding reasons to live. Some groups also bring in guest speakers like psychiatrists or therapists to talk about depression or a pharmacist to talk about issues related to narcotic prescriptions.
- Social connection. Often times, participants list social contact as a major reason for attending support groups. You may find new friends, or you may not, but regardless, seeing and talking with other people going through something similar usually helps.
- Motivation. For some, going to a group is one of the only reasons they have to leave the house. Being motivated to just get out is huge, and many people come to look forward to it. Talking with others and learning about opportunities can also motivate people to do more. Maybe to start exercising, eating better, or even getting out in others ways, such as volunteering for a cause.
So if you are interested in a group, what are the options? What’s best for you?
Structured vs. open-ended. Some support groups are very structured programs that teach a set curriculum. They ask participants to make concrete action plans every week and report back with results. These programs may have a specific duration as well. Unstructured groups are more about social support on an ongoing, regular basis.
In person vs. online. Some people love the social contact of meeting others, sharing, and getting to know them in person. Others find in-person groups intimidating, too difficult to attend logistically, or too physically demanding. Instead, online groups may be easier places to connect. An advantage of online groups is that they are always available at any time, from wherever you are.
General pain vs. specific conditions. Some groups are for anyone living with pain, regardless of the specific issues. Other groups specifically invite people living with a particular condition, such as fibromyalgia, back-pain, headaches, neuropathy, and almost any other pain condition. A condition-specific group will probably give you more specific information, but even general support groups will likely be helpful to everyone.
Finding a Support Group
- The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) sponsors groups facilitated by peers all over the country. The ACPA will also help you start your own group where you live if one is not already available.
- The U.S. Pain Foundation lists support groups by state as well as online groups at www.uspainfoundation.org/support-groups.
- National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association — (435) 752-3551
- Arthritis Foundation — (404) 872-7100
- Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy — (877) 883-9942
- National Headache Foundation
- Online support groups — Many places online, and can be found by searching online or through social media sites.
Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop for pain management with a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs. Southside Pain Specialists follows the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.