Troubled bodies--troubled men: a narrative analysis of men's stories of chronic muscle pain

Disabil Rehabil. 2012;34(21):1765-73. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2012.660601. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


Purpose: To examine how men present themselves as patients with chronic pain and how the men's subjective experience of pain interplay with dominant norms of masculinity.

Method: The material consists of qualitative interviews with 10 Norwegian men on rehabilitation from chronic neck pain. The data is subjected to narrative analysis combined with a gender-sensitive perspective.

Findings: The men's accounts of chronic pain were narrated as a series of events, displaying physical impairments and demanding work and troubled private affairs. Through rich descriptions of presumably objective facts, like heredity, physical injury and the character of the men's work, and comparatively little information about the men's personal experiences of pain and distress, a rational and self-controlled masculinity is displayed. However, extrapolation of the analysis also brought out how human suffering, such as chronic headaches, the losing of control and of oneself, is narrated in the men's stories.

Conclusion: Men's stories of chronic muscle pain display a subtle balance between following dominant norms of masculinity, such as being rational and in self-control, and a need to express vulnerability as human beings. We argue that health care professionals should be sensitive to the dynamics of subjectivities and cultural norms of gender within patients' illness stories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anecdotes as Topic
  • Chronic Pain* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Masculinity*
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Neck Pain* / psychology
  • Norway
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Socioeconomic Factors