Living a life with chronic widespread pain
Chronic widespread pain has been described as a major health problem in the Western
world, but we know little about the experiences of people who live with this condition. The
broad questions explored in this thesis are how people with chronic widespread pain
experience, understand and give meaning to their 'condition', and how people with chronic
widespread pain attempt to influence or exert control over their pain.
The methods employed are located within a qualitative approach, using a 'psychosocial'
perspective to explore individuals' experiences in a social context, and an interpretative
perspective, to focus on the meanings and interpretations of participants. It also draws on
a narrative approach, using the stories told by participants to illustrate the experience of
chronic widespread pain in their everyday lives. Data was generated through lifegrid
interviews, follow-up interviews, unstructured diaries and diary interviews with eight
people with chronic widespread pain. In addition, five family members were interviewed.
Findings focus on the experience of living with chronic widespread pain in the different
realms in which pain arises, is experienced and managed, namely bodily, social,
household, family and biographical. In exploring these areas, a number of themes recur
which characterise the experience of living with chronic widespread pain. These themes
include uncertainty, which manifests itself on a day-to-day basis and in the longer term;
tensions arising in managing chronic widespread pain; the impact of experiencing and
managing chronic widespread pain control on self and identity; and the effect of the
invisible and contested nature of chronic widespread pain on sufferers' experiences.