For Caretakers

The Impact of Chronic Pain on Close Relationships

Since so many people are living with chronic pain, it makes sense that chronic pain influences the lives of many spouses and family members.

Chronic pain can put significant additional social and financial stresses on families and it can also be an opportunity to become closer through understanding, compassion and shared goals.

If your spouse or family member is struggling with chronic pain, there are some key things you can do to help.

  1. Be informed - Educate yourself about what chronic pain is and what it isn’t.
  2. Listen carefully - Stay positive and challenge him or her to do the same.
  3. Be supportive - Conflict, stress and criticism all have been shown to increase pain.
  4. Be a good listener - Your partner needs you to understand what he or she is experiencing because he or she may not understand it.
  5. Don't make it a catastrophe - This will increase both pain and disability. Instead, focus less on what your loved one can’t do and more on what he or she can do.
  6. Recognize and praise him or her for effort.
  7. Keep him or her engaged in activities and community and remind your loved one of his or her purpose.
  8. Work together relentlessly to succeed together.
  9. Help your loved one find and follow through with a practitioner who fully understands the biopsychosocial aspects of this condition.


  1. Warner M, Chen LH, Makuc DM. Increase in fatal poisonings involving opioid analgesics in the United States, 1999–2006. NCHS Brief. 2009;22:1–7. [PubMed].
  2. 1994 IASP Press (Reprinted 2002) International Association for the Study of Pain.