The use of the descriptive phenomenological approach to reveal the essence of the lived experience of impaired sensation in the feet related to Multiple Sclerosis

Claire Cook, Pirjo Vuoskoski

Research output: Other contribution


Background: In the UK, a topical issue in recently published research is impaired sensation in the feet, which is a commonly reported symptom by people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Research into this phenomenon has so far focused upon potential interventions to assist with improving balance and gait, as reduced plantar sensation has been linked to a greater risk of falling. To date however, there is no published phenomenological research that has explored the experiences of people living with MS related impaired sensation in their feet. Research Question: What are the lived experiences of impaired sensation in the feet related to MS? PPI: Interested patients and the public were involved from the research design stage to ensure the research was meaningful to all potential stakeholders. Participants: Five English speaking adults (18+) with MS who self-reported impairments in the sensation of their feet (for example; numbness, pins and needles or burning), volunteered to take part in the study. The participants were recruited from a catchment of people living with MS, under the active care of a Community NHS Foundation Trust. Methodology & Method: Descriptive phenomenological research, although a less commonly used approach, is well placed to account for an essential structural description of a phenomenon, precisely as it is lived by patients, without interpretation, or application of theory, to contribute knowledge to the wider evidence base. Participants who provided written consent to take part in the study were interviewed in their home environment. Each participant was asked to describe their experience of living with impaired sensation in their feet, as concretely and in as much detail as possible. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and are being analysed by adopting the phenomenological attitude and reduction, and using the descriptive phenomenological method proposed by Giorgi (2009). An essential structure of the lived-through phenomenon will be created that aims to uncover, not define, how the phenomenon of interest is lived and intended meaningful by people with MS. This poster will focus upon the methodology employed as part of the research process. Outcome: The study itself aims to produce phenomenological descriptive knowledge about the unifying structure of the lived-through phenomenon, based on the qualitative interview data. The findings of the study may have significant implications for the enhancement of meaningful practice; such as increasing the awareness of the phenomenon amongst clinicians, potentially improving therapeutic care and clinical interventions. It may also help to formulate ideas for future clinical research.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMS Society, MS-Frontiers, Edinburgh, 29-30 June, 2017
Place of PublicationEdinburgh, UK
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 the authors


  • Phenomenology
  • Physiotherapy
  • Impaired Sensation
  • Multiple Sclerosis


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