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Medical knowledge and the intractable patient: the case of chronic low back pain

Medical knowledge and the intractable patient: the case of chronic low back pain
Medical knowledge and the intractable patient: the case of chronic low back pain
Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is endemic in Western societies, and while a good deal of attention has been paid to the lay experience of such pain, much less sociological attention has been paid to the way in which medical ideas about it have been formulated. This paper takes the latter course, tracing the development of clinical notions about the relationship between pathological signs and expressed symptoms from the 1820's to the 1930's, and then placing these developments in the context of postwar notions of ‘somatization'. We point to the extent to which the disparity between expressed symptoms, pathological signs and perceived disability in CLBP has led to the moral character of the sufferer forming a constant subtext to medical discourse about the condition. We also note the extent to which medical ideas themselves have been constructed in intimate linkage with socio-legal questions of compensation and worker's insurance.
low back pain, medical discourse, somatization
0277-9536
523-534
May, Carl
17697f8d-98f6-40d3-9cc0-022f04009ae4
Doyle, Helen
048d75b0-00fd-4f7f-ada1-0f4b804834c3
Grew-Graham, Carolyn
2af8e796-4530-46f6-9a94-605734e82826
May, Carl
17697f8d-98f6-40d3-9cc0-022f04009ae4
Doyle, Helen
048d75b0-00fd-4f7f-ada1-0f4b804834c3
Grew-Graham, Carolyn
2af8e796-4530-46f6-9a94-605734e82826

May, Carl, Doyle, Helen and Grew-Graham, Carolyn (1999) Medical knowledge and the intractable patient: the case of chronic low back pain. Social Science & Medicine, 48 (4), 523-534. (doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(98)00372-4).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is endemic in Western societies, and while a good deal of attention has been paid to the lay experience of such pain, much less sociological attention has been paid to the way in which medical ideas about it have been formulated. This paper takes the latter course, tracing the development of clinical notions about the relationship between pathological signs and expressed symptoms from the 1820's to the 1930's, and then placing these developments in the context of postwar notions of ‘somatization'. We point to the extent to which the disparity between expressed symptoms, pathological signs and perceived disability in CLBP has led to the moral character of the sufferer forming a constant subtext to medical discourse about the condition. We also note the extent to which medical ideas themselves have been constructed in intimate linkage with socio-legal questions of compensation and worker's insurance.

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More information

Published date: February 1999
Keywords: low back pain, medical discourse, somatization

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 163405
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/163405
ISSN: 0277-9536
PURE UUID: c4b216bd-60f3-4064-a6c9-080d1fc5513f
ORCID for Carl May: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0451-2690

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Date deposited: 09 Sep 2010 08:36
Last modified: 17 Dec 2019 01:41

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