Describing Chronic Pain - Quotes from Pain Patients

Chronic Pain Quotes That Pain Patients Can Relate To

When life has you down and you’re not sure if you have words to describe your pain, you can trust that someone somewhere has helped. Chronic pain quotes like these let chronic pain patients know they’re not alone.

Take note of the quotes I’ve included for Ankylosing Spondylitis aka Axial Spondyloarthritis and Fibromyalgia.

I’ve also taken the liberty of highlighting each chronic pain condition and disease with its color of awareness.

Just researching these quotes and reading up about the people who mentioned them have made me feel better.

I hope they do the same for you!

Chronic pain quotes that describe life with pain

Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.”

George Orwell, Author

“With chronic pain, there are going to be days when depression hits and you’re on an island by yourself with all those “why me” questions, thoughts and feelings. You’re allowed to have them for a minute. But you’ve got to pull yourself out. We’ve got one life that’s getting shorter, and we’ve got to live it.”

Kristin Chenoweth, Actress

I couldn’t get on stage. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t sleep at night, I couldn’t perform without standing perfectly still. I couldn’t sit down for more than a half an hour.

Dan Reynolds, Musician

Chronic pain is no joke. It’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel. I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result.

Lady Gaga, Musician and Actress

Suddenly all that stuff about having good looks and being sexy took secondary position to being able to walk without pain.

Kathleen Turner, Actress

I can’t always control my body the way I want to, and I can’t control when I feel good or when I won’t. I can control how clear my mind is. And I can control how willing I am to step up if somebody needs me.

Michael J. Fox, Actor

I was ashamed, and I was doing the best I could. I was really struggling with, how am I going to get by in life. I cried. I had tears. They weren’t tears of panic — they were tears of knowing I now had to give in to a body that had loss of control,” she said. There was some relief in that, ’cause ever since my son was born, I was in an MS flare-up and didn’t know. I was giving it everything to seem normal.

Selma Blair, Actress

I have lost the ability to read, write, or even watch TV, because I can’t process information or any stimulation for that matter. It feels like someone came in and confiscated my brain and tied my hands behind my back to just watch and see life go by without me participating in it.

Yolanda Hadid, Actress

Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.

Audre Lorde, Author

I am not hurt,” she said, “I am in pain.

Talia Hibbert, Author, Get a Life, Chloe Brown

If I only could explain how much I miss that precious moment when I was free from the shackles of chronic pain.

Jenni Johanna Toivonen

That pain moves when you move; it mutters between every breath; it spikes your ears; it rips. You think pain can’t be any more horrible than that.Until you discover that the well is bottomless. There’s always more.

Ilsa J. Bick,
Author, Drowning Instinct

I started feeling afraid of my own body, like it was a torture chamber I’d been trapped inside.

Talia Hibbert, Author, Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Chronic pain quotes that show why it’s important to have the right doctor treating you.

The erosion of an effective patient-physician relationship has no place when dealing with chronic pain. Worst of all, dismissing the patient’s pain is as devastating as crushing a patient’s hope.

Melissa Cady, Author of Paindemic: A Practical and Holistic Look at Chronic Pain, the Medical System, and the antiPAIN Lifestyle

management I could access – NSAIDS, non-opioid analgesics, neurologic medications, acupuncture, laser therapy, physical therapy, prolotherapy, massage, and trigger-point injections. Most of these have been unhelpful; others provided temporary relief, often at great expense. At the end of the day, when my body is fully depleted of its resources and in the most pain, a single dose of Percocet is the only tool that silences the pain enough for me to fall asleep. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if Percocet became unavailable to me, and the very thought scares me. I’ve been taking it for five years. To avoid any chance of addiction, I only take it at night and have stayed on a consistently low dose.

Michael Bihovksy, Film Director

Often the pain that makes us feel most stuck is not our suffering; it is experiencing distress in the presence of people who expect us to get better faster than we can.

K.J. Ramsey, Licensed Professional Counselor/Therapist and Author

Surrender is an incredibly difficult topic in light of chronic illness, because loss is often continued and sustained.

Cindee Snider Re, Author
Finding Purpose: Rediscovering Meaning in a Life with Chronic Illness

A common misconception is that some people are only in pain because they are weak, anxious, depressed, or do not deal well with stress. This is not correct.Every experience you have — touch, warmth, itch, pain — is created by the brain and thus is all in your head, but it does not mean they are not real.Things like fear, anxiety, or depression can increase pain levels and can increase the chance of persistent pain. But often, these feelings only develop after a person already has chronic pain.

Tasha Stanton, Associate Professor in Clinical Pain Neuroscience

Chronic Pain Quotes and Inspiration

I see possibilities in everything. For everything that’s taken away, something of great value has been given.

Michael J. Fox, Actor

“Suffering has been a larger part of my life than I ever could have imagined. As most of you know, I became ill at 20 years old as a junior in college. Though illness has not been the only thing in my life since then, it has dramatically shaped and formed my experience for nearly nine years…

Suffering can catalyze joy. And it happens through relationships. I hope and pray my story touches your own, bringing possibility alongside your great sorrow.”  

K.J. Ramsey, Licensed Professional Counselor/Therapist and Author

Those of us with chronic pain have something unique to offer, not in spite of our pain, but because of it. It’s okay to grieve the losses of chronic illness. It’s okay to be broken; everyone is in some way. Just because we’re unfixable doesn’t mean we’re worthless.

Allison Alexander
Author, Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness

It’s so hard to watch the person you love be in pain. It’s a natural impulse to want to fix it, and not being able to is uncomfortable. Remaining in that state of discomfort over time is even harder. Being in a relationship with someone in chronic pain is like a chronic pain condition in and of itself.

Karen Havelin,
Author, Please Read This Leaflet Carefully: Keep This Leaflet. You May Need to Read It Again.

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation: it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.

Michael J. Fox, Actor

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.

Susan Sontag, Author

When all you know is pain you don’t know that that is not normal. It is not a woman’s lot to suffer, even if we’ve been raised that way.It is not OK to miss a part of your life because of pain and excessive bleeding.It is not OK to be bed-ridden for two-to-three days a month. It is not OK to pain during sex. It is not OK to have major bloating or nausea.

Susan Sarandon, Address, 2011 Endometriosis Foundation of America Blossom Ball

“For some reason the word “chronic” often has to be explained. It does not mean severe, though many chronic conditions can be exceptionally serious and indeed life-threatening.

No, “chronic” means persistent over time, enduring, constant.

Stephen Fry

It’s not easy to diagnose because depending where the endometrial deposits are, the symptoms can be quite different. It’s an unrecognized problem among teenage girls, and it’s something that every young woman who has painful menstruation should be aware of … it’s a condition that is curable if it’s caught early. If not, if it’s allowed to run on, it can cause infertility, and it can really mess up your life.

Author Hilary Mantel on being asked about being a writer with endometriosis, Nov 2012 NPR interview

I will be living with chronic pain for the rest of my life. I don’t have the mobility, energy or life options I used to have. I work hard to manage the pain, and I want the medical system to be a respectful and effective partner, not a jailer. The opioid crisis is not my doing.

Sonya Huber, Writer and Activist

“But for pain words are lacking. There should be cries, cracks, fissures, whiteness passing over chintz covers, interference with the sense of time, of space; the sense also of extreme fixity in passing objects; and sounds very remote and then very close; flesh being gashed and blood spurting, a joint suddenly twisted – beneath all of which appears something very important, yet remote, to be just held in solitude.”

Virginia Woolf, Author

I’m not just offering chronic pain quotes today. I’m also offering this beautiful and honest poem written by Sonya Huber about pain.


by Sonya Huber

Pain wants you to put in earplugs because sounds are grating.

Pain has something urgent to tell you but forgets over and over again what it was.

Pain tells you to put your laptop in the refrigerator.

Pain runs into walls at 45-degree angles and ricochets back into the center of the room.

Pain resents being personified or anthropomorphized.

Pain is a four-dimensional person with fractal intelligence.

Pain want to be taken to an arts and crafts store.

Pain likes to start big projects and not finish them.

Pain wants to clean one countertop.

Pain asks you to break itself up into neat square segments like a chocolate bar.

Pain makes a hissing popping hum like high tension powerlines.

Pain has ambition but is utterly unfocused.

Pain will get its revenge if you ignore it but sometimes forgets what it was angry about.

Pain wants to watch a different channel than you do on t.v.

Pain looks at you with the inscrutable eyes and thin beak of an egret.

Pain stubs out the cigarette of your to-do list.

Pain will first try to do some things on that list but will end up with socks on its antlers.

Pain demands that you make eye contact with it and then sit utterly still.

Pain folds the minutes into fascinating origami constructions with its long fingers.

Pain leaves the meter running.

Pain asks you to think about the breath flowing in and out of your lungs. 

Pain will ask you to do this three hundred and seven times today.

Pain does not mean any harm to you.

Pain is frustrated that it is trapped in a body that is ill-fitting for its unfolded shape.

Pain has been born in the wrong universe.

Pain is wild with grief at the discomfort it causes.

Pain wants to collect bottle caps to show you the serrated edges, which mean something it cannot explain.

Pain keeps pointing to serrated edges and scalloped patterns but cannot explain how these will unlock it.

Pain emphasizes that it is not a god, but then makes the symbol for “neighbor” over and over, and you do not understand what it means.

Pain puts its beaked head in its long-fingered wing hands in frustration and loneliness.

Pain winks at you with its dot-black eyes and tries to make the sign for “I love you.”

Pain folds up its wings and legs and spindles quietly and blinks up at you when you say, “I know.”

Pain understands that you cannot say “I love you” back but that there is something bigger behind “I love you” that you do not have the words for.

Pain also understands that the background to “I love you” is something like a highway.

Pain licks at its hot spots like an anxious dog.

Pain, when held in place, spirals down into drill bits, so it has to keep moving to prevent these punctures.

Pain asks you to breathe deeply so it can zing about and not get caught on the edges and corners of calendars, books, and electronic rectangles.

Pain’s favorite music is the steel drum, and its favorite flavor is fig.

Pain prefers any texture in which tiny seeds are embedded.

Pain shakes its head—no, it says, that is you that likes that texture—and will have nothing to do with spheres.

Pain wants only for you to see where it starts and you stop, but you are a transparent bubble.

Pain and its kind have waited patiently for humans to evolve into the fourth dimension but they are worried the project is failing.

Pain feels as though Earth’s gravity is as strong as Jupiter.

Pain has something metallic in its bones and is captured by the magnetic core of our hot planet.

Pain envies flesh and its soft strength and ease of movement.

Pain inhabits curved soft bodies in hopes of fluid movement and then cries when it breaks them.

Pain would like french fries and Netflix.

Chronic Illness Directory - My Several Worlds

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!


  • Claire

    I find it helpful in some ways that people in the public eye are speaking out about the pervasiveness of pain, as it may help others understand it more. It felt helpful when Lady Gaga gave / gives interviews about fibromyalgia as more people got to know of the condition.

  • Lee

    OMG! So many great and eloquent quotes about pain, all in one place. Thanks Carrie, it is a great collection. It makes me feel not so all alone. Today I am in a lot of pain and cannot even walk, lying here flat in the bed. The pain also affects how I think and how I make decisions and how I interact with others. I can realte to each and everyone of these quotes. It does not matter what condition is causing the pain we are united in it… sadly.

    • Carrie Kellenberger

      I put this post together from bed on a high pain day and I also found it really helpful. Funny how just hearing someone else’s experiences, especially when it’s a celebrity who chooses to share, can make such a huge difference. I hope you found some relief. I’ve been really up and down a lot these past two months, more so than usual. I don’t normally feel pressure at the end of the year, but this year is different. I’m trying to catch up on things I’ve missed while being off meds. Normally I don’t put that stress on myself, but I think I’ve mentioned that we almost lost our company this year and I’m holding onto the program that is still going by the skin of my teeth. A very stressful year! Take care, Lee!

  • Lucy

    What a briliant selection of quotes, thank you for putting them together in one post Carrie. It’s sad how many well known people struggle with chronic pain, I had no idea just how many. The only people who can describe what it’s like and understand the impact it has are people also struggling. I agree with everything said, being in pain is hard but being doubted and judged is harder. What a brilliant poem Sonya wrote. Thanks again Carrie for all your efforts to raise awareness and help educate others on what chronic pain and illness is like.

    • Carrie Kellenberger

      Hi Lucy! Thanks so much for stopping by again. Yes, I really love this group of bloggers and this is our second article together. I love hearing all the different perspectives and of course, everyone benefits when we share this way! The stats for chronic pain are dismal. I feel a little relief here in Taiwan since there is no opioid crisis here and I can access pain meds when/if I need them, but I am constantly blown away by what others are going through elsewhere. It’s important for all of us that we find different techniques for coping with pain.

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