"They don't want anything to do with you": patient views of primary care management of chronic pain

Pain Med. 2010 Dec;11(12):1791-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2010.00960.x. Epub 2010 Oct 1.


Objective: Chronic pain is one of the most frequent complaints of patients in primary care, yet both patients and providers report low satisfaction with chronic pain care. This study was designed to explore the views held by a diverse sample of patients with chronic pain complaints about their care experiences to identify ways to improve care.

Design: Qualitative analysis of 17 patient focus groups (size 3-7 participants). Groups used structured questions and were tape recorded, transcribed, and coded using qualitative software. Eleven groups were conducted in English, six groups in Spanish.

Patients: Convenience sample of 72 adult patients (68% female, 44% Latino, mean age=48.1 years) recruited from four diverse primary care practices in Central Massachusetts.

Results: Across all 17 groups, and all gender, ethnicity, and age groups, most patients reported suboptimal interactions with their providers when seeking care for chronic pain. Subjects acknowledged feeling disrespected and distrusted, suspected of drug-seeking, and having their symptoms dismissed as trivial and/or not warranting medical care. Patients reported more satisfaction when they felt a provider listened to them, trusted them, was accessible to address pain concerns between visits, and used patient-centered approaches to establish goals and treatment plans. Patients also recommended some management techniques related to the chronic disease management model to improve pain care.

Conclusions: Implementing patient-centered approaches in caring for individuals with chronic pain and using principles drawn from the chronic disease management model to improve care systems may improve both patient and provider satisfaction with chronic pain care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics