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Invalidation of chronic pain: A thematic analysis of pain narratives

Nicola, M., Correia, H.ORCID: 0000-0003-2717-2294, Ditchburn, G. and Drummond, P.ORCID: 0000-0002-3711-8737 (2021) Invalidation of chronic pain: A thematic analysis of pain narratives. Disability and Rehabilitation, 43 (6). pp. 861-869.

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Purpose: Many people with chronic pain report feeling disbelieved or disparaged by others regarding their pain symptoms. Given the widely documented relationship between stress and pain, the importance of identifying psychosocial stressors such as pain-invalidation is apparent. This study was designed to identify and illustrate using first-person narratives, the effects of pain-invalidation by the self, family, friends, and healthcare professionals, toward individuals with chronic pain.

Method: A systematic search of five databases was performed using a search strategy consisting of terms related to pain-invalidation. A review of 431 peer-reviewed journal articles, containing narratives from a pool of over 7770 study participants with a wide range of pain conditions, was conducted, followed by a thematic analysis to establish themes of invalidation experienced by those with chronic pain.

Findings: Five major pain-invalidation themes were revealed: Not being believed, lack of compassion, lack of pain awareness/understanding, feeling stigmatized, and critical self-judgement. Themes additional to pain-invalidation included: Threats to Self-Image, Loss of Identity, and Isolation.

Conclusion: Themes were largely interrelated and, together, build a picture of how levels of perceived social unacceptability of pain symptoms can impact on the emotional state and self-image of those with chronic pain. As such, pain-invalidation may potentially impede help-seeking or the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Copyright: © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
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