Aim: This paper is a report of a study exploring the impact of neuropathic pain on family, social and working relationships among patients at a pain clinic serving a large urban area.
Background: Neuropathic pain is a particularly distressing type of chronic pain which is extremely difficult to manage successfully. It produces a range of unpleasant symptoms and adversely affects patients' quality of life, but little is known about its personal impact.
Method: A descriptive and exploratory approach was used and 10 participants participated in three focus groups in 2005. Because of the low response rate of 20% from the initial sample, a second sample of 16 patients was invited to participate. However, only one person responded and therefore it was not possible to convene an additional group.
Findings: The unpleasant and bizarre nature of neuropathic pain underpinned much of its impact in terms of respondents' difficulties in maintaining a range of relationships. For closer relationships, key difficulties centred on the reduction in quality and/or number of personal relationships. For more distant relationships and those with professionals, frustration at the invisibility of their pain and their own failure to communicate symptoms and its consequences were central.
Conclusion: More extensive work is needed to improve our understanding of how neuropathic pain is experienced, how it affects close and more distant kinds of relationships, and how healthcare professionals might best support people with persistent neuropathic pain to maintain personal and social relationships, and to communicate their pain effectively.