Chronic Pain? Get On Pinterest

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DIY craft projects, fancy cupcakes, updo ideas... and physical discomfort? One of these seems not like the others, but a new study published in the journal Health Education & Behavior shows that people with chronic pain are turning to Pinterest for help coping — and they’re finding it.

Looking at 502 chronic pain pins, researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond found posters sharing advice, venting about their aches, and supporting each other. Nearly 99 percent of the pins referred to pain severity, and about a third touted the benefits of self-care measures like wearing comfortable clothes, making a soothing play list, and keeping a pain journal. More than 35 percent offered pain management tips — and about 18 percent provided information for friends and caregivers.

Only 22 percent of the pins studied mentioned a specific condition: The top two were fibromyalgia and arthritis.

Cat, pain meme.
Virginia Commonwealth University

About a quarter of them consisted primarily of venting (we get it!), and 15 percent or so were funny (hi, cat memes!). Interestingly, just 5 percent of the pins focused on acceptance. According to the researchers, the only health-related pins with higher engagement than chronic pain were those associated with depression.

Could, and should, Pinterest – the fourth most popular social media site – become a tool for health care providers and organizations to get reliable information about chronic pain to the estimated 1 in 5 American adults who need it? The Virginia researchers say it’s possible. Medical groups like the CDC and World Health Organization use Pinterest, according to the researchers, but not as often as bigger social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Chronic pain differs in men and women, and this is important when considering Pinterest as a platform, as more than 80 percent of active users are women.