A phenomenological approach to understanding the psychological response to chronic low back pain
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Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is a complex health problem of psychological manifestations not fully understood. Using interpretive phenomenological analysis, 11 semi-structured interviews were conducted to help understand the meaning of the lived experience of CLBP; focusing on the psychological response to pain and the role of depression, catastrophizing, fear-avoidance behavior, anxiety and somatization. Participants characterized CLBP as persistent tolerable low back pain (TLBP) interrupted by periods of intolerable low back pain (ILBP). ILBP contributed to recurring bouts of helplessness, depression, frustration with the medical system and increased fear based on the perceived consequences of anticipated recurrences, all of which were mediated by the uncertainty of such pain. During times of TLBP all participants pursued a permanent pain consciousness as they felt susceptible to experience a recurrence. As CLBP progressed, participants felt they were living with a weakness, became isolated from those without CLBP and integrated pain into their self-concept.