Qualitative study of pain of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Heart Lung. May-Jun 2010;39(3):226-34. doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2009.08.002.


Objective: This study evaluated the pain experiences of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Sample: We studied 16 patients with severe COPD.

Design: A semistructured interview was performed to obtain information on patients' experiences with pain and the impact of pain on quality of life (QOL). Data were analyzed using the methodology of Kvale.

Results: Three main themes emerged: incomprehensible and unbearable pain; locked in my body and shut out from the world; and the vicious COPD circle. Patients reported moderate to severe pain located primarily in the shoulders, neck, upper arms, and chest. Patients reported a number of severe symptoms occurring simultaneously, and negatively affecting each other. Vicious circles of pain, breathlessness, sleep disturbance, and anxiety were described as exerting negative effects on patients' QOL.

Conclusion: Unrelieved pain appears to be a significant problem in patients with COPD. Research is warranted to determine if pain is clustered with other symptoms, and how these symptoms affect the clinical management of COPD.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety
  • Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale
  • Dyspnea
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Vital Capacity