World Day Against Pain

89% of people with chronic pain have avoided discussing it with family and friends

To mark World Day Against Pain on Saturday, 1st October, the ‘mypainfeelslike...’ campaign has compiled a list of 10 things NOT to say to someone with chronic pain so they feel empowered to talk about it and are encouraged to seek help and talk to their doctor.

Research announced by the ‘mypainfeelslike…’ campaign found that 89% of people living with chronic pain have avoided discussing it with family and friends so as not to bore them or seem annoying. 26% admitted to regularly avoiding talking about their pain with loved ones.

A lack of belief around the severity of their pain and a lack of understanding of its impact are daily issues faced by people living with chronic pain. According to a European survey, around 30% of people living with chronic pain feel that no one believes how much pain they are experiencing.[2]  About one in four felt that colleagues, employers and doctors were unsympathetic to their pain or did not think it was a problem.

To support your friend or loved one this World Day Against Pain, 1 October, share the ‘10 things NOT to say to someone with chronic pain’ video

  • But you look so well 
  • Do you still have pain? 
  • You depend too much on your medication 
  • It’s all in your head
  • Have you seen a psychiatrist?
  • It’s just a matter of time 
  • You should learn to live with it
  • You should try and get out more
  • You should feel better by now 
  • Everyone has pain 

“Living with persistent pain can severely impact someone’s life. It is an invisible illness that compromises both quality of life and emotional health”, said Orla Spencer, Clinical Psychologist, Tallaght Hospital, Dublin. “Many people can feel isolated with their pain and think that others do not understand the impact it has on their life. They often struggle to explain the effect is having on their lives. While intentions are good, comments like the ones listed can be hurtful and inappropriate. Moreover, they can often silence someone at a time when they need support from the people around them to be empowered to find new ways to cope with their pain. I encourage people to adopt a non-judgemental approach to someone with pain and to share the 10 things NOT to say to someone with chronic pain video on World Day Against Pain, Saturday, 1st October”. 

In describing her pain, broadcaster Andrea Hayes said “It feels like a crushing feeling at the top of my neck that pushes down on my body all the time. But sometimes there is a shooting pain as well, almost like electric shocks. My pain is real but it’s also invisible and I often hear things like ‘but you look great' and ‘you don't look like you're in pain'. It can be exhausting explaining that although I can look well, I have persistent pain and the reality is I have to work to manage my pain every day through a range of means so I can live my life to the fullest. Simply saying ‘I believe you’ can really help someone with chronic pain.” Watch Andrea tell her full pain story on

“The stigma of chronic pain is one of the most difficult aspects of living with it. Our members have reported these types of comments for a long time and while they know people are just trying to help, it often has the opposite effect and can make them feel like they are being judged”, said John Lindsay, Chairperson of Chronic Pain Ireland. “We aim to support people to talk about their pain through support groups, pain management programmes and online tools like the ‘mypainfeelslike…’ pain questionnaire so they can better understand their illness, communicate effectively with their doctor and have an appropriate pain management plan in place”. 

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* Compiled from over 50 responses from the Chronic Pain Ireland member network. September, 2016