The Importance of Pain Imagery in Women with Endometriosis-Associated Pain, and Wider Implications for Patients with Chronic Pain

Christopher J. Graham, Shona L. Brown, and Andrew W. Horne

Sculptures by Fabio Viale

Abstract
Pain imagery is “like having a picture in your head [of your pain] which may include things you can imagine seeing, hearing or feeling.” Pain imagery may offer a unique insight into a patient’s pain experience. This chapter summarises findings from international pain imagery research in women with endometriosis-associated pain. Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition associated with debilitating pain that affects 5–10% of women of reproductive age worldwide.

Our international research has found that pain imagery is experienced by around half of women suffering from endometriosis-associated pain, and is associated with higher levels of catastrophising, depression, and anxiety. However, coping imagery is also reported, and prevalent, at 30%. Pain imagery in women with endometriosis falls into themes: sensory qualities of pain; loss of power or control; attack (by someone, “something,” or self); pathology or anatomy envisaged; past or future catastrophe; pain as an object; and abstract images. Imagery content may therefore reveal the meanings of pain or endometriosis to these women.

This chapter explores pain imagery content and its personal significance to patients, both for women with endometriosis-associated pain and for patients with other chronic pain conditions. The chapter concludes by discussing the clinical application of imagery, with example patient cases to contextualise the practicalities and therapeutic potential of imagery techniques.

Clinical Implications
Pain imagery was reported by half of women with endometriosis-associated pain in our international study and associated with higher levels of catastrophising, depression, and anxiety. Imagery content is extremely varied but can be categorised into themes, which may offer unique insights into each woman’s pain experience. Coping imagery was prevalent at 30%.

We believe imagery techniques may be particularly helpful for women with endometriosis associated pain and discuss these techniques, which should be of interest to professionals involved in pain management.

Keywords Endometriosis · Persistent pelvic pain · Chronic pelvic pain · Pain
imagery · Coping imagery · Imagery-based therapies

Request a pdf copy here.

Published in Meanings of Pain, Volume II. Purchase here.

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