First declared in 2001 by the American Chronic Pain Association, the main goal of Pain Awareness Month is to raise public awareness in the areas of both pain and pain management. For the last 17 years, Pain Awareness Month has joined forces with a number of different organizations to make this happen, raising awareness through mass media, public forums, and other resources so that chronic pain can be more readily recognizable, better understood, and appropriately treated and managed – all without stigma attached.

Some of the key issues when it comes to addressing pain today include women and men in pain, kids in pain, pain in the workplace, pain and how it affects families, pain and culture, acute and chronic pain, cancer pain, and psychosomatic pain. The common key found when addressing these various issues is that there is an increased need for better communication and education when it comes to pain and how to deal with it. When it comes to raising awareness, it’s important for those who are suffering to get involved. This means initiating dialogue with friends, family, and healthcare providers (such as doctors and any specialists or homecare nurses who may also be responsible for your care.) Good communication is one of the best tools to get the help you need, as well as to live well despite your pain.

Patients with debilitating pain conditions will often go to the emergency room for treatment, for one of many reasons. For example, their pain could be out of control and they were unable to make an appointment or speak with their own healthcare team (in some cases, a physician may send a patient to the ER), or they may have noticed an increase or difference in their pain and thought it may be due to an unrelated medical problem. Unfortunately, because emergency rooms are more designed to treat urgent or shore-care problems, they’re not likely to be able to diagnose any long-term problems, do any extensive testing (unless they deem it absolutely necessary and think your health may be in harm’s way without it), or provide you with an ongoing treatment plan. This is something that is generally left up to a patient’s team of healthcare providers, as they can communicate with each other and correlate the best plan for you. To go the extra mile and help those responsible for your care even further, it can be a good idea to keep a log of your pain; track it, note down any triggers, anything that gives you relief, and anything else that you think that provide your team with a big enough picture so they can not only have a better understanding of your pain, but give you a plan that is well-suited for you and one that will (hopefully) work.

When dealing with chronic pain it’s also important to understand your basic rights, as well as your responsibilities. Anyone living in pain is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, just as they should promote the same to others – as well as be taken seriously when expressing how you feel. It’s also okay to do less than you are humanly capable of doing, especially on days where your pain is so severe that you don’t even want to get out of bed. Sometimes you’re simply bound to have days where it’s just far too difficult to push yourself, and no one will judge you for it; or they shouldn’t, at least. Also know it’s okay to make mistakes, change your mind during any course of your care and speak to your healthcare team with your views and opinions, as well as ask for help when you need it.

While it may be difficult, chronic pain is oftentimes something that a patient has to accept. There are ways to better help you do this and help you cope with the pain you’re experiencing, such as setting goals and priorities, recognizing emotions, reducing stress, and reaching out to either get or share insight with others.