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Experiences and attitudes about physical activity and exercise in patients with chronic pain: a qualitative interview study

Authors Karlsson L, Gerdle B, Takala EP, Andersson G, Larsson B

Received 23 August 2017

Accepted for publication 17 November 2017

Published 5 January 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 133—144

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S149826

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr E Alfonso Romero-Sandoval


Linn Karlsson,1 Björn Gerdle,1 Esa-Pekka Takala,2 Gerhard Andersson,3,4 Britt Larsson1

1Pain and Rehabilitation Centre, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 2Work-related Diseases, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland; 3Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 4Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychiatry Section, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe how patients with chronic pain experience physical activity and exercise (PA&E).
Method: This qualitative interview study included 16 women and two men suffering from chronic pain and referred to a multimodal pain rehabilitation program. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the interviews.
Results: One main theme emerged: “To overcome obstacles and to seize opportunities to be physically active despite chronic pain.” This main theme was abstracted from five themes: “Valuing a life with physical activity,” “Physical activity and exercise – before and after pain,” “A struggle – difficulties and challenges,” “The enabling of physical activity,” and “In need of continuous and active support.”
Conclusion: Although these participants valued PA&E, they seldom achieved desirable levels, and performance of PA&E was undermined by difficulties and failure. The discrepancy between the intention to perform physical activity and the physical activity accomplished could be related to motivation, self-efficacy, and action control. The participants desired high-quality interaction with healthcare providers. The findings can be applied to chronic pain rehabilitation that uses PA&E as treatment.

Keywords: chronic pain, experiences, physical activity, rehabilitation, qualitative content analysis

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