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20 Ways To To Help You Understand What Back Pain Truly Feels Like

Back pain, especially lower back pain, is one of the most common conditions among the modern human. There are a lot of different things that can cause back pain, but there are also a lot of different ways to help prevent and fix back pain. In our gallery, we have multiple accounts of people with back pain to see what it’s really like.

The Pain Can Spread To Other Areas

Back pain has the ability to not just affect your back but can spread to other parts of your body as well. According to one sufferer, “Chronic pain is one second, feeling like you’re being stabbed in the back, the next, like your bones are poking one of your internal organs, then your brain is getting hit with a hammer, and so on. Sometimes I forget that there’s pain in one area until it’s moved to another part of my body at a different intensity. It’s sharp, then dull, then crushing. It’ll be your skin, then your bones, then your lungs, and it just keeps changing.”

Disrpupt The Body’s Normal Function

Back pain can also disrupt the signals in your brain. According to one woman, “When I’m having a particularly bad flare-up and my body is overwhelmed with pain, it’s like my brain starts flipping switches off: my hearing usually goes first, then my ability to feel different temperatures, then my speech and motor skills, then my sight gets blurry. Finally, I pass out.”

The Struggle (And Pain) Is Real

Listen to what this sufferer has to say: “Please know that when you doubt someone with chronic pain, it can make them doubt themselves. Sometimes I think, ‘Well, if my doctor, friend, or family member is saying that I’m making this up, maybe I am. And that is ridiculous because the pain is strong and real.”

It’s Seemingly Endless

The pain seems to always be there, never going away. According to this back-pain sufferer, “I feel like the word ‘chronic’ loses its meaning when people are talking about chronic pain. People don’t realize that I literally have a headache every single second of the day. Chronic doesn’t just mean most of the time!”

Pain Tolerance Skewed

Having lower back pain skews your pain scale. According to one woman, “Your pain scale shifts when you have chronic pain. When doctors ask what your pain is on a scale of 1-10 (as they recently did when I had an elbow injury), I had to ask, ‘your 1-10 or mine?'”

Not Just Physical Pain

Not only can back pain affect your physical health, but it can affect your mental health too. One woman said, “I think the hardest part has been being locked in my house all the time and being distanced from my friends. My lack of social interaction is hard and has led me to develop depression, which I think happens a lot with chronic pain.”

Age Doesn’t Matter

Whether you’re 10 years old or 100 years old, back pain can affect you. One sufferer mentioned, “I’m living with arthritic ankle and hip joints that most doctors have only seen in patients twice my age. It doesn’t care what age you are, or that you’re ‘way too young’ to know what advanced arthritis feels like. I do know, and I struggle with it on a daily basis.”

Ups And Downs

Not all days are bad with back pain. According to one sufferer, “When bad days hit, they don’t discriminate. Sometimes I can drink beer, eat pizza and not work out and I feel fine the next day. Other days I take two hot baths, do yoga, take my (prescribed) pain meds, eat all the good foods and still feel like dying.”

Everyone Thinks They’re A Doctor

When someone has back pain, many of their peers chime in and try to give them advice, even though they don’t necessarily have the qualifications to be giving proper advice. Alicia, who suffers from back pain, said it best: “If people could just stop recommending miracle substances in general, that’d be great. Or telling me to work out more. Or suggesting I just need needles in my face or suction cups on my back, or to ‘just relax.’ I’ve heard it all. I’ll, instead, defer to a trained medical professional and my physical therapist.”

Yet, Some Doctors Won’t Take You Seriously

Like Alicia said, it’s frustrating when people act like they’re a doctor. But it can be even more frustrating when your doctor won’t take your pain seriously. One sufferer said, “It’s hard to have doctors who brush off looking into the issue because it’s just ‘pain,’ without considering how bad it might be. Sure, my MRI or X-ray might not show a problem that day, but it doesn’t mean there’s no problem or no pain. It’s terrible to be told by a doctor that you have a ‘successful knee’ when it still hurts to walk and go up and down stairs.”

Sometimes, Nothing Works

In some cases, medication or even surgery won’t work for lower back pain. According to Danielle, who suffers from lower back pain, “I’ve had extremely painful periods since high school. The pain got so bad. Five doctors and many years later, I was diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of endometriosis my new doctor has seen. I’ve had had two surgeries in four years and been on medication that’s put me through menopause twice. I still have constant pain every day.”

It Can Seem Fine, But It’s Usually Not

It can be frustrating, said this back pain sufferer: “It’s hard because everyone says I look fine or I seem healthy. On the outside I’m great, but inside, my body is trying to destroy itself. I’ve gotten really good at hiding my pain and faking smiles but there are days I can’t get out of bed ’til noon.”

Flaking On Plans Is Common

Having back pain can affect your social life due to the pain restricting you from doing activities with your friends and family. According to Melissa who suffers from lower back pain, “People forget very quickly that despite your age and the invisibility of symptoms, that doesn’t mean you don’t have it. A lot of life with chronic pain is also living with the disappointment on someone’s face when you have to back out of plans, or leave early to go home because sitting up hurts too much right now.”

It’s Best To Talk About Something Other Than Back Pain

According to Jen, who is a 25-year-old who walks with a cane due to her back pain, “Please don’t stop me in the middle of my day to ask me about how I’m feeling. Stopping to acknowledge how much pain I’m in, or just how drained I feel, ruins all the great compartmentalizing I’ve been working on.”

Everyday Tasks Are Difficult

Everyday tasks around the house can seem simple from the outside, but with back pain, it can be a nearly impossible task. According to Jenna, who suffers from back pain, “I have gotten sores before on my shoulders from constant turning over and over during each night because of pain. Simple things like brushing my teeth or bathing are hard and require extra mental and physical effort. Even lifting myself out of a chair.”

Even Holding A Job Can Be Tough

Jenna also added that “working a full-time job is taxing on the body, and the pain causes ‘brain fog’ and migraines, which makes it hard to concentrate or retain information. Not to mention the depression and anxiety you get from your nerve endings being out of whack, constantly tolerating the pain.”

Don’t Compare The Pain

It can be frustrating when people compare your pain to their pain. According to another back pain sufferer, “I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, and one of my symptoms is a constant headache. It never stops. It’s not that you can’t complain about pain to someone who has chronic pain, but please be respectful of how I’m feeling.”


Back pain can be exhausting, even when you’re not really doing anything at all. According to a back pain sufferer, “On the bad days, just existing leaves you feeling drained. Even if you do nothing but lay down and surf the web, you can still feel as tired as if you went out and did stuff all day.”

Tough On Relationships

Back pain doesn’t solely affect your body, it can affect your relationships too. According to Amanda, who suffers from back pain, “I wish my husband could understand that I’m not lazy, or upset, or just tired if tasks don’t get done or we don’t have sex. I wish he knew that ‘drinking more water’ or trying fad diets won’t magically cure autoimmune diseases or trauma from a car crash.”

It’s No Joking Matter

Back pain is nothing to joke about when due to how serious it can be. According to another back pain sufferer, “I once had a co-worker tell me that I only ‘suffer’ from fibromyalgia when I don’t feel like working. The fact that some people think I’m lying or exaggerating about my pain hurts worse than all the shit I have to deal with on a daily basis.”

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