(SD-SP) With more than 20 million individuals living with chronic, severe pain in the United States, there is a need to make sure this community gets the recognition, trust and care that they deserve. Here are three ways to help advocate for people living with chronic pain.

Advocate for Understanding

Everyone experiences pain differently and is on a different place on their treatment journeys. One person’s experience breaking a leg, for example, can be totally different than somebody else’s when it comes to pain in the aftermath. Someone who has chronic pain from arthritis may experience the pain differently than someone who has chronic pain from fibromyalgia. Further, chronic pain can be difficult to measure. Therefore, it’s important to advocate for listening and understanding.

“When someone says they are in pain, they need to be heard just like someone would with any other symptom or medical condition,” said Dr. Tom Smith, Chief Medical Officer of BioDelivery Sciences, a company dedicated to driving innovative solutions for the treatment of serious and debilitating chronic conditions. “Understanding and trust is so important as a first step.”

Advocate for Access

Since chronic pain is a disease that can’t be seen, sometimes it can be challenging for those with chronic pain to find the right care and know who to turn to. “People living with chronic pain may often feel misunderstood or unacknowledged, so they may avoid getting the care they need. It is important to advocate and actively encourage people who may be suffering from chronic pain to speak with a medical professional,” said Dr. Smith. Chronic pain specialists, for example, can take the time to understand the daily impact chronic pain has and then can recommend a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a mix of lifestyle modifications and pharmaceutical interventions, keeping each person’s own needs in mind. Also, importantly, medical professionals can adjust treatment plans as needed, either by adjusting the dose or switching the type.

Advocate for Supporters

Chronic pain not only affects the individual who has it, but also their supporters and loved ones who deserve recognition for accompanying those with chronic pain on their journeys. “Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague, medical professional, or even a peer who also has chronic pain, supporters provide stability when daily life is disrupted. They are crucial in helping people navigate how to manage and get back to what they love and enjoy most,” said Dr. Smith.