One of the frequently asked questions we get at KindlyMD is what makes us different from other pain management clinics. The question is rooted in the reality that patients feel as though they are being judged or looked down on when seeking relief from chronic pain. We find the stigma associated with chronic pain to be disheartening, to say the least.
The sad truth is that our patients frequently talk of how their friends and family say their pain is all in their heads. That says nothing of strangers who look down on them because they are not fully functional.
We understand the stigma. We see it every day. In fact, offering a way to overcome it was one of the motivations for establishing KindlyMD in the first place. Having to live with chronic pain is bad enough. We don't want patients to have to live with the stigma, too. We come alongside them with alternative treatments, education, and support – all with the goal of helping patients take their lives back.
Pain is unlike any other symptom or medical condition. It is an incredibly personal thing that cannot be measured by a blood test or medical imaging. In fact, the only way clinicians can gauge pain is with an arbitrary scale based on patient reports. If a patient tells a KindlyMD clinician that they are in excruciating pain, we have to take the complaint at face value.
We don't mind being in that position. Acceptance and compassion are part of our mission. We get the fact that family members and friends do not always react the same way. Their reactions are understandable to a certain extent. Why? Because they cannot see the pain. They do not feel it themselves. All they can do is observe the patient. And unfortunately, sometimes what they perceive doesn't match reality.
People who have never experienced chronic pain have trouble wrapping their brains around another reality: pain does more than hurt. When chronic pain is part of your life, what you feel in your body can have a devastating impact on how you feel emotionally.
Chronic pain can also affect you mentally. It can inhibit your ability to think clearly. Pain can make it difficult for you to understand your surroundings, plan for the future, or even make decisions that come easy for other people.
All of this may sound bizarre to someone who has never experienced chronic pain. It might even sound a bit far-fetched. Please believe us when we say that it is all real. And it all adds to chronic pain's stigma just because people don't understand it.
You might be reading this post even though you've never experienced chronic pain yourself. You are curious because a loved one experiences chronic pain. If that's the case, here's some good news: you can help your loved one start feeling better, work on overcoming the stigma, and begin the process of taking their life back.
The KindlyMD approach to treating chronic pain starts with acceptance. From there, we move to exploring plant-based medicines, managing current medications, and taking advantage of the help behavioral health clinicians can offer. Ours is a holistic approach that doesn't seek to merely write prescriptions and send patients on their way. We believe it is a better approach.
If you or a loved one knows the stigma of chronic pain, we hope you will reach out to us for help. We genuinely want to do what we can to make a difference.