Voices that may not otherwise be heard: a qualitative exploration into the perspectives of primary care patients living with chronic pain
Lorraine S Wallace,1 Randell K Wexler,1 Leon McDougle,1 W Frederick Miser,1 J David Haddox2,3
1Department of Family Medicine, the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA; 2Health Policy, Purdue Pharma L.P., Stamford, CT, USA; 3Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
Background: Although psychometrically sound pain assessment tools are available, there is a paucity of research that comprehensively defines chronic pain from the perspective of patients. The purpose of this study was to examine the utility of a combination of qualitative methods (Photovoice, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups) in examining the daily experiences of primary care patients living with chronic pain.
Methods: A sample of English-speaking primary care patients aged 30 years or older, who had been prescribed an opioid for long-term, noncancer pain management, participated in the study. Each patient took photographs that best reflected both his/her experiences with chronic pain and what he/she would like his/her life to be without chronic pain.
Results: Patients submitted an average of 20.2±3.1 photographs (range =8–27 photographs). Analysis of one-on-one interviews illuminated five dominant themes: daily need for multiple medications, including opioids; difficulties climbing a flight of stairs; struggling to get out of bed in the morning; extreme challenges with participating in day-to-day life activities; and experiencing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness on a regular basis. Seven themes emerged from the focus groups: undesired effects/burdens of medications, loss of/striving for independence, effect on social interactions/relationships, pain effect on activities of daily living, constant search for convenience/a better situation, interactions with physicians, and frustration/depression with pain.
Conclusion: The qualitative methods employed in this study provide deep insight into perceptions and experiences of patients living with chronic pain that is vital for informing future clinical interventions.
Keywords: opioid, Photovoice, qualitative research
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