Francine Toye, Joletta Belton, Erin Hannink, Kate Seers, Karen Barker
There is a large body of research exploring what it means for a person to live with chronic pain. However, existing research does not help us understand what it means to recover. We aimed to identify qualitative research that explored the experience of living with chronic pain published since 2012 and to understand the process of recovery.
A synthesis of qualitative research using meta-ethnography.
We used the seven stages of meta-ethnography. We systematically searched for qualitative research, published since 2012, that explored adults’ experiences of living with, and being treated for, chronic pain. We used constant comparison to distill the essence of ideas into themes and developed a conceptual model.
We screened 1,328 titles and included 195 studies. Our conceptual model indicates that validation and reconnection can empower a person with chronic pain to embark on a journey of healing. To embark on this journey requires commitment, energy, and support.
The innovation of our study is to conceptualize healing as an ongoing and iterating journey rather than a destination. Health interventions for chronic pain would usefully focus on validating pain through meaningful and acceptable explanations; validating patients by listening to and valuing their stories; encouraging patients to connect with a meaningful sense of self, to be kind to themselves, and to explore new possibilities for the future; and facilitating safe reconnection with the social world. This could make a real difference to people living with chronic pain who are on their own healing journeys.