The stigmatisation of people with chronic back pain

J. Walker, B. Sofaer-Bennett, I. Holloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. This study responded to the need for better theoretical understanding of experiences that shape the beliefs, attitudes and needs of chronic back patients attending pain clinics. The aim was explore and conceptualise the experiences of people of working age who seek help from pain clinics for chronic back pain. Methods. This was a qualitative study, based on an interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA). During in-depth interviews in their homes, participants were invited to 'tell their story' from the time their pain began. Participants were twelve male and six female patients, aged between 28 and 62 years, diagnosed as having chronic benign back pain. All had recently attended one of two pain clinics as new referrals. The interview transcripts were analysed thematically. Findings. Stigmatisation emerged as a key theme from the narrative accounts of participants. The findings expose subtle as well as overt stigmatising responses by family, friends, health professionals and the general public which appeared to have a profound effect on the perceptions, self esteem and behaviours of those interviewed. Conclusions. The findings suggest that patients with chronic back pain feel stigmatised by the time they attend pain clinics and this may affect their attitudes and behaviours towards those offering professional help. Theories of chronic pain need to accommodate these responses, while pain management programmes need to address the realities and practicalities of dealing with stigma in everyday life
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1456-1464
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Chronic back pain
  • stigma
  • interviews
  • qualitative research


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