Meaning out of chaos: a way to understand chronic pain

Scand J Caring Sci. 2003 Dec;17(4):325-31. doi: 10.1046/j.0283-9318.2003.00244.x.


Pain is a multidimensional phenomenon lying at the intersection between biology and culture. The modern understanding of pain takes into account emotional, psychological, socio-political and existential aspects of pain as well as physiological, anatomical factors. Our aim in this study was to deepen the understanding of psychosocial, existential aspects of pain and to discuss how clinicians can better understand and treat patients with chronic pain. A focus group was formed consisting of a researcher and a group of clinicians (n = 3) with various backgrounds working at a specialized pain clinic. The group met once a month during a 6-month period. Questions concerning the life-world of the pain patient as well as inquiries into the conditions for 'the good clinical encounter' were investigated. The results of this study consist of a systematization of the data (focus group meetings) collected and analysed in a collaborative effort between the researcher and group participants. The findings are presented in terms of themes. The main metaphor used to describe the path from the seeking of medical help to successful rehabilitation was order out of chaos. Ordering chaos was a process moving from diagnosis through a phase of heightened self-awareness towards responsibility-taking on the part of the patient. Related themes presented, illustrated and discussed in the paper concern problems of linkage, the role of flexibility and creativity in the healing process and the kind of clinical encounter conducive for the journey from chaos to the creation of new meaning.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Chronic Disease
  • Existentialism
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Clinics
  • Patient Care Team
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Psychosomatic Medicine / methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Care / methods
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Sweden