Chew, C.A. and May, C.R.
The benefits of back pain
Family Practice, 14, (6), . (doi:10.1093/fampra/14.6.461).
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Background: Chronic lower back pain (CLBP), without definable cause, is a symptom commonly presented to GPs, accounting for a significant proportion of their workload; it is also a common reason for sickness absence, and thus of national economic importance.
Objectives: This qualitative study aims to explore how sufferers of CLBP describe their pain and its impact on their lives, and how their problem is dealt with in the consultation with their family doctor.
Method: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with a sample of attenders at a back pain clinic set up in general practice. Transcription and analysis was carried out using a grounded-theory approach.
Results: Sufferers of CLBP describe withdrawal from normal social obligations, including work. They view their GP as being unable to help and, because of this, the doctor becomes a resource through which their social and economic inactivity can be legitimated.
Conclusions: Presenting with CLBP permits the patient a good deal of power over the GP: it is difficult for the GP to challenge the patient's ideas without damaging the relationship. GPs are forced to collude with the patient's definition of ill-health, which may not be in the best interests of the patient or society.
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