Chronic pain can have a wide-ranging toll on both your physical and mental health. However, know that you’re not alone — in fact, far from it. Chronic pain support groups up and down the UK are there to help you.
The relentless daily struggle of chronic pain can understandably leave many people feeling frustrated and unsure where to turn for support. Worse still, many chronic pain sufferers have to deal with this ongoing battle in silence as they try to lead as full and active a life as possible in spite of their affliction.
A 2018 study by the British Medical Journal estimates that a whopping 43.5% of UK inhabitants live with chronic pain, ranging all the way from little niggles to cripplingly painful illnesses. While each individual has to manage their pain on their own, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to manage everything on their own.
There are a number of chronic pain support groups dotted all over the UK. These are a great way to meet people who face the same day-to-day reality as you, learn more about pain management techniques and work out how you can begin to live your life to the fullest.
Let’s look into the different types of chronic pain groups that are out there, as well as the specific groups that operate in your local area.
Of course, not all chronic pain support groups have the same objectives. Some focus on self-therapy workshops that teach you how to manage the ongoing mental struggle of living with chronic pain. Others might focus more on group discussions, allowing you the chance to meet people in a similar situation, share your personal experiences, listen to each other’s stories and benefit from being part of a community. Lastly, there are also some more information-focused groups that divulge the latest scientific research or expert advice regarding living with chronic pain.
It goes without saying that there are no right or wrong chronic pain support groups; when deciding which one to attend, you need to first have a think about what you’re looking to get out of it. Do you want to leave armed with practical ways to help yourself on a daily basis? Are you looking to be part of a community? Or are you looking for the latest medical/scientific updates about chronic pain?
There are a number of fantastic pain support groups around the country. Some large-scale national groups like Versus Arthritis even have their own chronic pain support hotline, while smaller, more local organisations end up cultivating friendly communities of fellow sufferers.
Let’s spotlight a few British chronic pain support groups/charities that do particularly stellar work.
Pain Association Scotland focuses on providing self-management courses to chronic pain sufferers. Their goal is to equip all their members with the practical know-how to deal with pain more effectively on a daily basis, as well as hosting communal meetings where people can talk to others in the same situation (whether you’re a new or long-term sufferer or even a carer).
EPP Cymru is best-known for its CDSMP (chronic disease self-management programme) that brings together 10-16 people for six 2.5 hour-long weekly sessions. To date, they’ve worked with a whopping 6,107 people.
Put simply, their goal is to make you “an expert in living your life to the full with your condition, not about making you an expert in the specific condition you have”.
Preston-based S.M.I.L.E (short for “self-motivation in lasting endorphins”) is a self-help support group that works closely with the Pain Management Clinic at Royal Preston Hospital (RPH).
They put on chronic pain group activities ranging from holistic therapy to nail painting, have seasonal parties where you can socialise with fellow sufferers and have fostered a lovely community of friends.
Run by two registered physiotherapists, The Pain Exchange puts on a series of 12-week-long pain management programmes. Their programmes include exercise classes, advice on sleep management, art sessions and plenty of downtime to get to know one another.
Their mission statement is “to improve confidence in the ability to function day to day, for example: confidence to work, either in a paid or a voluntary capacity, and confidence to engage in social activities with family, friends and/or the local community”.
Alternatively, there’s always the option of joining an online support community. These allow you to access many of the benefits of an in-person support group without having to leave the house — given the unpredictable bouts of intense pain that many people suffer from, this is especially useful for those who occasionally struggle to get out and about.
Having over 2 million users, The Mighty is a digital community that connects people with chronic pain and other health challenges. After creating your profile, you will be able to join the communities and follow topics that might be of interest to you such as chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis or migraine. You will also have the option to write posts and comment, which could be a great way of chatting with people experiencing similar conditions.
My Chronic Pain Team is a social network that creates space in which people experiencing various conditions can find emotional support and practical advice. The platform allows users to connect with others based on their age, diagnosis and location. After joining, you will be able to see the activity page where everyone posts their updates such as describing their day. Another useful feature is the Q & A section, where you can see questions asked by other users and add your own.
Another great option is joining our Facebook group which is a safe space for sharing experiences and asking questions related to the subject of chronic pain. The members offer support and advice to each other, which creates a sense of community and helps them stay motivated. We also share interesting articles about nutrition, exercise, mental health and more which are tailored specifically to the chronic pain audience.
Founded by a chronic pain sufferer herself, Pain Support UK offers a wide range of online support and guidance. There’s advice on how to maintain healthy relationships despite living with pain, how to get the best out of medical consultations, pain relief techniques and which foods to embrace (and avoid), as well as forums where you can chat with fellow sufferers.
Long-term chronic pain can have a highly detrimental effect on your quality of life. However, whilst the pain might never go away, joining a chronic pain support group can help you work out how to alleviate some of the symptoms, learn more about your condition and, above all, make some friends who truly understand what you’re going through.
As the old adage goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. There’s no need to go through chronic pain alone, so check out some of your local support groups, as well as visiting our Facebook page and our Instagram page for the latest chronic pain advice. Alternatively, share your pain story with us — it would be great to hear about your own personal experience of living with chronic pain.