The Power of Storytelling: A Human Perspective of Chronic Pain

The Power of Storytelling: A Human Perspective of Chronic Pain

By Leda McDaniel.

“Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine” -Oliver Sacks1

The use of creative mediums to express human experiences of pain and suffering are ubiquitous throughout history. One such medium-creative writing- and in particular storytelling can be an incredibly useful and healing form of expression for those in pain (physical or mental). Storytelling, as a first-person account of recovery from illness and injury can serve to illustrate not only the lived experience of an individual, but also as a way to inspire hope for others going through similar struggles. Communicating the perspectives of those suffering from chronic pain via stories, can serve to benefit both patients as well as to inform clinicians treating these patients.2

My personal journey of recovering from pain has included multiple examples of using writing as a creative outlet for coping as well as communication to others regarding my personal experiences. I have written numerous blog posts (See: SapiensMoves & FarmerLeda blogs) about my process of recovery and experiences through my journey of recovery and healing from 3 years of chronic knee pain- including 12 months of being unable to walk due to pain. This year, I also published a book about my journey of healing: (“Moments From A Year of Healing: A Book of Memories and Essays”). One of the reasons that I wanted to publish this book was to provide a way for clinicians to better understand the day-to-day experience of someone in chronic pain from a patient perspective.

Clinicians can benefit from such storytelling via what has been called “narrative reasoning,” in which a patient’s perspective can illustrate their lived experience and inform future clinical practice.2 Also, the practice of discussing and writing about “case studies” has been a useful and accepted way to inform clinical practice and advance successful treatment strategies throughout many sectors of medicine: from neurology to oncology and physical therapy practice.1,3,4

The other main reason that I wanted to chronicle my experiences in my recent book was to serve as an inspiration and way for others struggling from chronic pain to hear an example of healing and recovery. In my book, I do not seek to “sugar coat” the process or struggle, but rather, try to provide a vulnerable look at the lows and also the tremendous highs of ultimately finding successful methods to lead me on a path of healing. I am now pain-free and able to pursue many of the recreational activities that bring me joy including trail running, weightlifting, and yoga.

Patients or those struggling with chronic pain can benefit from writing via the chance to share accounts of their experiences as well as the act of writing itself. Certain clinicians recommend the use of “expressive writing” as a part of a comprehensive treatment strategy for chronic pain.5 Additionally, research has shown that writing about emotional experiences for just 15-30 minutes for 3-5 days can have numerous mental and physical health benefits.6

I encourage you to turn to storytelling, whether you are a patient or clinician, for the myriad of richness it can provide as a method of communicating poignantly about human moments of hardship. I hope that this practice of storytelling improves the way that you relate with others either personally or professionally and that it promotes each of your journeys towards good health!

Leda McDaniel is a Student Physical Therapist and Doctorate Candidate in Ohio Universities’ Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.


  1. Sacks, O. The River of Consciousness. Knopf; 2017.
  2. Courtney CA, O’Hearn MA, Franck CC. Frida Kahlo: Portrait of chronic pain. Physical therapy. 2016;97(1):90–96.
  3. Sacks, O. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. Picador; 1986.
  4. Doidge, N. The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. New York: Penguin Books; 2015.
  5. Dr. David Hanscom.
  6. Pennebaker, JW. Writing about Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process. Psychological Science, 1997; 8, (3) 162-166.

Editor’s Note: Leda McDaniel is a Student Physical Therapist and Doctorate Candidate in Ohio Universities’ Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and has written a memoir that chronicles her journey of healing after she contracted CRPS following a sports injury.

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Authored by: Leda McDaniel

newest oldest
Notify of

Becky u r right! I’m the same can’t cook bake or sew if and I say if I can get out of bed for morning coffee I’m happy. After sitting 2 hrs I have to go to bed I’m on my stomach 95% of time if I try to vacuum I tell out in pain try to wash dishes and sever pain in upper back worse pain in groin when I was in townhouse I would crawl up the steps, that was in 1997!! I had to retire 8 yrs ago. I moved home from tx couple yrs later they put me on perkacets, sorry can’t spell..I was able to do things I use to lay on sofa but pain too bad. Oh I could say more but guess this enough oh went several times for injections it helped some but only couple weeks and I’m on SSD and cannot afford pain pills were on few dollars. Got to go. Also landlord sold my place new owner raised rent $225.00 a month trying to find assist living where I live 2 yr wait list checked up and down coast, I live on east coast I found 1 place in Florence SC over. 6 hrs away!!


If one “recovers” from chronic pain, then it wasn’t chronic pain. Wasn’t a health situation that could not be fixed. Period. Start doing your homework about the illnesses out there that cannot be healed. When I read this type of thing, I have to laugh at the ignorance and cry for those alone suffering with no one to fight for them. It is best to not address this blog with your success story of your temporary pain event if you have ‘recovered’ or are able to daily shower, buy food, able to chew food, able to walk, able to drive, able to have friends, go to movies, go to events, have a pet and care for a pet, or have a significant other. It is a no brainer for people with temporary pain of options. They are able to do research how to do that, that is if they also are not stuck with Medicare which does not provide help for those who have true unending top of pain charts chronic all over pain. For shame.


There is no RECOVERY from CHRONIC illness or pain, hence the term “chronic”. People don’t want to hear about something they can’t help or fix.

Mona Mallory

These politicians 401ks are all tied up in the new drugs and it’s a conflict of interest for them to be making law on this matter. Why isn’t the Inspector General of each State being notified of this conflict of interest. Also, we need a White House petition going now, if a given number of people sign it; the President must respond.


Steven, do not leave us posters to continue without your realistic view of this horrible situation. You tell it like it is, in your frustration giving voice to many of us in pain. When you vent your anger, we understand and we would miss you. Don’t let them win!


Please start posting your stories, on facebook if you must, and you are NOT worried about repercussions from viewers, also TWITTER is on fire, with thousands of pain refugees, tell your story,screenshot it, whatever you must do. We must tell the “healthy” world, the stories of loved ones & friends, (privacy needed), we must demand the same care & respect gifted to patients not suffering from pain, We must Demand that pharmacist stop discriminating against patients & DENYING legitimate prescriptions, we must demand the CDC publicly acknowledge they inflated the OD numbers, that they illegally formed the “guidelines ” we must demand, they admit to scaring Drs into, NOT TREATING PAIN, with jail time, we must demand they announce the group who created the “guidelines ” were & currently are NOT qualified to mandate medical Care, they announce the conflict of interest & profits, from the “experts”we demand our HIPPA rights to STOP being violated, we must let others know, those that are blind to the truth, & tell the stories of those whome have been permanently silenced, from forced suicide from pain, we must NOT stop demanding justice, WE must stop the discrimination that is being enforced on us, by the very people whome took an oath to protect us. WE MUST learn to not worry about what people will say, when we share our stories, we must send our stories of the Gov, Dr & Media, inflicted torture, to every major news station, newspapers,social medias, start using everyday hashtags,
Such as #HurricaneFlorence #chronicpain #chronicillness #CDC
#FDA, #truth #OPIOID #suicidefrompain #opioidhysteria #opioidcrisis #HumanRights #humanrightsviolation #love #foxnews #CNN #baddoctors
#CPPcodeRED #CDCgenocide #HHS2018 #vote2018 #fakecrisis #killerkolodny #jeffsessions #lies #fakenews #cvs #wallgreens #wallmart
#veterans #Vietnam #abandoned
These are just some follow me
Share the correct d

If marijuana helps your chronic pain then you have no chronic pain. Mabe all in your head that marijuana helps you. I have been there and done that.At my age of 70 who should care that I take a pain pill to get relief.


Steven, we understand,
please try to hold on, im not one 2 change peoples minds, in this day of American Genocide, i have No solutions to offer those, who jave been abandoned and left to die. Other than, write a letter /something, with your struggles in getting medical help and being a pain patient, share your story,
ALL STORIES ARE IMPORTANT, even though the Government of America, has decided your life is an acceptable casualty, in the fake disguise of saving the drug addicts, or worse, saving you, from a life of pain, be removing YOUR pain medication.
YOU ARE IMPORTANT, start advocating on twitter, its beginning to beva greag source of information, and a way to tk spread the truth, #cpp


Here is my story . Help ! Withdrawal is not the problem for me as the opiate tapering continues. Pain, pain, pain. One more pill and I’m afraid I’m out of here. This is just pathetic stupid and I’m sick of it. Just swim around the pool and take a yoga class and it’ll take the place of your opiates no problem. [edit]. I’m just sick of this rhetoric. All chronic pain patients that have a real pain problem or as good as dead. I’m sorry to be so blunt but I’m afraid our time is near out. Oh and I forgot to mention the stimulator that may keep you off opiates all together. Hahaha. If that’s true, then why can’t we leave my opiates where they are until I can get through the line to get the stimulator. This just all stinks! I’m sorry to my family. I just can’t hold on any longer.


I write songs

Signe Topai

I agree ! But there is another reason for sharing your story and where! Let me explain…
The other day , after all the excitement of the rallys, I accidentally posted my frustration and level of pain on Facebook. My daughter sent instructions on how to post on the , ” Don’t Punish Pain” site instead of Facebook. I felt embarrassed, shame and guilt! Now everyone knows on Facebook my struggles. After sitting in my shame for an hour, I realized since the rally is gone until next year, I have settled back into my misery, voice silenced and enthusiasm back to disperse. Why?
I strongly feel we need to get our stories out in the public view. Few normies go to our support sites and read our struggles. How are people going to know what day to day is like for us! We due have a few movies out but we are missing out by not using other social sites. For example Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook and not in the private sections. How tired are we really of not being heard?


OK day 6 of Opiate Tapering
Withdrawal sucks..I’m weaker than a 100 yr old anemic with blood loss!!!!!
2 surgeries on took my rt pelvises c crest to form bone.
28 years ago
Then The KAISER Chronic pain mngmt program…after that aRX of 120mg of Morphine daily…then a severe Domestic violence Kidnap & beating…my ex..I put him in prison.
Now Diverticulitis due to Opiates longterm..
So…Tapering off now
Sweating..freezing..on t sleeping..all pain I ever had has come back all at once like a freight train from hell!

And not a thing I can do but Most ndfullness meditation..and fluids by the gallon..and try to exercise..walking ONLY.

Did I make the correct choice? system after longtime opiate RX use was shutting down my system as I aged ..I’m go ing to be 60 …so yes I chose to rid my System of the opiates ..and suffer the consequences.

I’ve got a listening..caring..Kaiser team in Chronic pain..and a Pharmacist who calls to see had w its going too…he and my Team keep me going as its a hard..painful..e cruciating..anxious ..tough going .
I’ll be Opiate free by Christmas !!!
Hopefully then I can use a CBD oil or Marijuana to help my pain.

I’ll keep ya posted…Kathy. OConnell
The Russian River in N. California
Oh yes…I’m a new Grandmother !!!

I wish you all the best