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    Managing constraint: the experience of people with chronic pain

    Miles, Anne and Curran, H.V. and Pearce, S. and Allan, L. (2005) Managing constraint: the experience of people with chronic pain. Social Science & Medicine 61 (2), pp. 431-441. ISSN 0277-9536.

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    This study describes the experience of people with chronic pain. Using the method of grounded theory, 29 chronic pain sufferers were interviewed at an outpatient pain clinic. A model depicting the basic social psychological process of maintaining a normal life through constraint was developed. This process revolved around people's perception of the constraints imposed by pain: bodily constraint (constraint on the body and its relationship to the environment); activity constraint (the constraint on what people could do); and identity constraint (the constraint on what people could be). The degree to which pain had challenged what people had previously accepted as ‘normal’ was illustrated through their evaluation of the impact of pain. The conclusion of this process of evaluation reflected how people coped with the constraints of pain–whether they were assimilated, accommodated, confronted or subverted. In assimilation, the constraints were absorbed and normal life maintained. In accommodation, the constraints were accepted and normal life re-defined. In confrontation, the constraints were rejected and pre-pain identities and activities pursued despite leading to increased pain levels. In subversion, attempts were made to retain pre-pain identities, and although pain levels were minimized, activities were altered to a significant degree. The limitations imposed by pain often form the focus of people's coping efforts, rather than the pain per se. The desire to retain pre-pain ‘normal’ lifestyles may underlie people's use of coping strategies that exacerbate pain intensity and pain-related disability. Future research needs to explore both the relationship between adjustment to pain and adjustment to the restrictions associated with ageing, and the role of body techniques and identity management in adjustment to pain in order to understand factors which may promote pain acceptance.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 15:31
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:56


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