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Pain as an assault on the self: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the psychological impact of chronic benign low back pain

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This paper presents an in-depth, idiographic study illustrating how chronic benign low back pain may have a serious debilitating impact on the sufferer's sense of self. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six patients and the resultant transcripts subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. The analysis points to the powerful ways in which chronic pain has negative impact on patients' self and identity. This impact is made worse in the public arena. Some of the participants describe how the ensuing derogatory self image also seems to lead to their directing negative affect towards other people. The results section gives a detailed account of these processes at work. The results are then considered in relation to relevant constructs in the extant literature, including work on illness and identity, shame and acceptance.
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Keywords: Pain; back; interpretative phenomenological analysis; self; shame

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, Birkbeck University of London, UK 2: Pain Management Unit, University of Bath and Pain Clinic, Royal United Hospital, Bath, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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