When your back hurts all or most of the time, it can affect more than just your body. There's an emotional side to chronic pain. You may need a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to. You need support.
Support groups—where you meet or talk to people who are dealing with the same issues you are—can be a great source of comfort and advice.
Some support groups focus on education. These groups often are led by a professional, such as a teacher or a doctor who shares information about the problem. Other groups focus on support. They often include only people who have the same problem. These are called peer groups.
In a peer group, you'll find people who are going through the same things you are. You'll see that you're not the only one and that others have the same feelings and challenges as you. Group members can give you support, advice, and encouragement. You can see what is working for others and decide if it might work for you.
You can help others in the group by paying attention and letting them know you are listening and by sharing your thoughts. Your experiences and ideas may be new to them. Being able to help others is rewarding and helps you gain self-confidence.
Peer support may include consumer providers and consumer-run services.
- A consumer provider is someone who has been trained to help others with the same type of problems. You can find consumer providers in clinics. Because they know what you have gone through, they can be good role models and coaches.
- A consumer-run service is a group, or part of a group, in which people with the same problem provide services. These services include support groups, peer counseling, telephone help lines, and drop-in centers.
How to find a support group
Here are some ways to find support groups:
- Ask other people who have chronic back pain.
- Ask your doctor, counselor, or other health professional for suggestions.
- Ask your religious leader. You can contact churches, mosques, synagogues, or other religious groups.
- Ask your family and friends.
- Contact a city, state, or national group for back pain or chronic pain. Your library, community center, or phone book may have a list.
- Search the Internet. Forums, email lists, and chat rooms let you read messages from others and leave your own messages. You can exchange stories, let off steam, and ask and answer questions.
Look for a support group that works for you. Ask yourself if you prefer structure and would like a group leader, or if you'd like a less formal group. Do you prefer face-to-face meetings, or do you feel more secure in Internet chat rooms or forums?
Support from your social network
You may not have good social support. Perhaps you avoid other people. This may be because:
- You feel ashamed and don't want to talk to anyone.
- Your condition makes other people wary of you. For example, if you rarely leave the house because it hurts too much to move, people might think they shouldn't bother you.
- You feel too sad to want to talk to people.
- You have no family and few friends where you live.
If you can improve your social support, it can help you deal with your pain. Here are some ways you can make your social support stronger:
- Know that social support is a two-way street. You count on your social network for support, and its members also count on you. Ask them about their families, jobs, and interests. And help them when you can.
- Know your friends' limits. You don't have to see or call your friends every day. If you're going through a rough patch, ask friends if it's okay to contact them outside of the usual boundaries.
- Don't always complain or talk about yourself. Know when it's time to stop talking and listen or to just enjoy your friend's company.
- Be clear when you talk with others. Ask questions to be sure you know what people want. If you ask for something, be sure you make yourself understood. Listen to what your friends have to say, and don't judge them.