Helpful, Supportive Things to Say and Do
Living with osteoarthritis in three levels of my spine has been very difficult and frustrating at times. Although I have learned to deal with the physical aspects of my condition, I often still struggle with other people’s reactions to my physical limitations.
Unfortunately, it has been difficult for many people in my life to understand how difficult is and many people, though usually well meaning, have made hurtful comments. I, along with many other osteoarthritis pain sufferers, often need the understanding and support of others in order to better cope with the disease.
So, what should you be saying to people like me? We’re not looking for pity or radical suggestions on how to get better, and we’re not trying to complain endlessly. Often times we are simply seeking support, validation, empathy, and understanding for the feelings we are experiencing.
The following are a few statements that are helpful and appropriate to use:
"It sounds like the pain is really bad today. Is there any way I can help?"
One of the better approaches to take is to paraphrase back what a person is feeling and let them know that you are there to help them in any way possible. Arthritis sufferers sometimes feel they are alone in their struggle, so letting us know you are there for us if needed is a tremendous statement to make.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the simple tasks of daily living when one has physical limitations, and having help can make all the difference. Sometimes I won’t need help, or my pain isn’t that bad, but just knowing I have help if need be is a tremendous relief.
Many doctors use this technique of recognizing how their patients are feeling to build a positive relationship, and it is a very effective strategy.
“I believe you.”
Sadly, half the battle for an arthritis sufferer is to get someone to acknowledge their pain and let them know the way they are feeling is valid. Arthritis is one of those diseases that can sometimes be brushed off as not serious by others because it lacks the shock value, as previously mentioned.
I went years and numerous doctors telling me that they thought I was complaining excessively because my MRI did not show any noticeable changes to them. Nothing hurts more than to have someone you value dismiss your pain, treat it with skepticism and even resentment.
When I finally met a doctor who told me he believed how much pain I was in, I had tears well up in my eyes and it felt like a load had been taken off my shoulders. Consequently, because he believed me, I was offered proper modalities to alleviate my pain. A lot of times, arthritis sufferers just want to be told that their concerns and emotions are valid.
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