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Some feel they must 'prove' chronic pain

Earlier this month reported on a very interesting pain related story.

It would appear that people who suffer with chronic musculoskeletal pain often find it impossible to ‘prove' to others how bad the condition is.

Musculoskeletal pain refers to pain that affects the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons. For some people, their entire bodies feel pain. There are a number of causes including damage caused by the wear and tear of daily activities, prolonged immobilisation, repetitive movements and trauma to an area caused by, for example, a car accident.

Chronic pain can be described as ‘pain that has persisted beyond normal tissue healing time,' which is taken, in absence of other criteria, to be three months.

UK researchers carried out an analysis of 77 studies that looked at chronic musculoskeletal pain. They found that those affected face a constant struggle with their sense of self, feeling that they have lost ‘the real me'.

They also find it difficult to prove the legitimacy of what they are going through. Most find it impossible to prove their pain, feeling that if they appear ‘too sick' or ‘not sick enough', nobody will believe them.

The research also showed that people feel very uncertain about their future and are constantly aware of their body's restrictions. They also feel that from a healthcare perspective, there is no answer for their pain, with many feeling as though they are lost in the system.

"Being able to collate this vast amount of information from patients paints a worrying picture about the experiences they have with chronic non-malignant pain...Having patients feel that they have to legitimise their pain, and the sense that doctors might not believe them, is something that should really concern us as healthcare professionals," commented Prof Kate Seers of Warwick Medical School.

However, the research did identify a number of ways that patients can move on with their lives. It found that for some, the key is to build a new relationship with their body and change their perceptions of ‘normal', rather than trying to live the same life they did before.

"This paper shows there can be value in discussing the condition with other people who are going through the same experience and knowing that you are not alone. Of course you can learn about your condition from various sources, but sharing your experience seems to really help people to move forward," added Dr Francine Toye of Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Health Services and Delivery Research.

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