The Side Effects of Chronic Pain No One Talks About


By Katrina Wilson

It’s normal to talk about the side effects that everyone can see, but what about the side effects that aren’t seen? The ones nobody dare ask because they are afraid of the answer (and then wish they hadn’t asked the question).

Chronic pain is an invisible illness and this means hidden side effects.

Firstly, and sometimes obviously, is weight gain and loss. I’ve not met or spoken to one person with a chronic illness who’s happy with their weight. Let’s face it, few people are really happy with their weight, but having all these medications just to be able to survive one day takes a toll on your weight. Be it steroids, nerve pain drugs or even opioids, prolonged use can have a big effect. But because of our illness, exercise may barely exist, because let’s face it, if you can get out of bed one morning you’ve basically just climbed Everest. Enough said. But it’s a constant battle with medication and exercise, and certainly not a battle any of us are choosing to fight.

Mood. Mood swings are a given, for any human being, it’s what we do as human beings, but add in severe and debilitating pain and medication, and it’s like a ticking time bomb. Everyone has off days, but when your are in so much pain, the slightest thing can make you explode, and for no apparent reason. Certain medications I have taken in the past have made me rage at times, and not having control of your mood is scary. You can almost see it happen — this switch inside you clicks and boom, look out! But in the next breath, you can be so delightfully happy, almost delirious, you forget about the bad moods, until that switch goes “click.”

Patience. Given that most of your time is spent waiting on doctors, surgeons, and everyone else, you’d think patience was a given. No. I have less patience now than I ever did, but not in everything I do. I have less patience for faffing around, being downright rude, general BS and stress. Stress being the main factor of pain in my body, I try to avoid it at all costs – which in itself can be stressful (go figure!). Of course it doesn’t always work, and I will get myself worked up which then causes a massive crash, but I’m learning to deal with things a lot better. But if we all had a little more patience with someone we know who has an illness, the benefit to that person is better than any gift.