I’m frustrated by comments that suggest pain only comes with age
It's important to recognize that young people experience chronic pain, too
“One day, when you’re my age, you’ll understand pain.”
This might be one of the most frustrating and flippant comments I hear as someone in my mid-30s. Many who are older automatically assume that people my age don’t deal with any physical issues. Because my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is largely invisible, other than my bruising, most can’t tell that there’s anything “wrong” with me. So comments like this tend to make me bristle.
Usually, I hear this statement when someone older talks about dealing with arthritis, stiffness after lying or sitting down for a while, or something similar. But believing that pain or physical discomfort is reserved for older populations does a disservice to the 20% of U.S. adults who manage some sort of chronic pain.
I know people don’t intend these comments to be hurtful, but sometimes I want to reply, “Do you know how lucky you are that you didn’t experience regular pain until you were older?”
For years, I’ve dealt with debilitating, concentrated shoulder pain as well as full-body soreness and regular pain flares. And while I don’t think there’s an official diagnosis in my medical file, many physical therapists have told me I likely already have arthritis in my shoulder and my knees after years of walking incorrectly due to EDS.
I’ve since relearned how to walk so that I’m not incorrectly balancing on my bones and destroying my cartilage in the process. However, that doesn’t undo the damage that was already done.
Most of the time, I just let ignorant comments roll off me. When they’re not intended to cause harm, I don’t see the point in getting upset. But for some reason, this assumption about age and pain really gets to me.
After many years of self-reflection, I’ve come to a conclusion: While most ignorant comments simply stem from a lack of understanding about EDS, this statement seems to suggest that I’m not “old enough” to have experienced chronic pain.
I realize people generally experience more pain and soreness as they get older, but why is pain perceived to only increase with age? The reality is that it can fluctuate over time due to illnesses, injuries, life circumstances, and so on.
Even though this particular comment tends to upset me in the moment, I don’t hold on to that feeling. I’ve learned that sometimes the best response is to take a deep breath and make a lighthearted comment that helps them better understand. For example, I might say, “Oh, I totally get it! I’ve had arthritis in my knees since I was in my 20s!” Most people are pretty stunned by this fact, and it’s clear they had never considered the possibility that someone much younger could be managing the same health issues as them.
I hope that by educating others, I can take tiny steps in helping people realize that not all health challenges are visible.
Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.