Pain Medicine is planning an interdisciplinary Special Issue, “Meaning in the Context of Pain.” I am the lead guest editor; Dr John Quintner and Prof Milton Cohen are guest editors.
Meaning is an essential dimension of the experience of pain. Empirical evidence from qualitative and mixed method studies suggests that pain is not only associated with a common meaning of “threat” or “danger,” but also is experienced as immediately distressing or unpleasant. If this combined meaning persists over time, people’s concerns may shift from the experience of pain onto themselves as persons. As a result of this shift, powerful existential meanings such as hopelessness or loneliness may develop. Such experiential meanings interact with desires to reduce or eliminate pain, and with expectations about the perceived efficacy of a particular treatment for pain. These meanings may in turn result in a spectrum of negative moods, such as depression or despair, and negative beliefs such as fatalism. Such negative components of the emotional dimension are often at the core of the lived experience of pain.
Despite this evidence, the preference for and consequent overwhelming dominance of biomedical explanations in pain clinical practice and research has meant that this other dimension of the experience of pain has been overlooked.
Special Issue Themes and Sub-Themes
Themes of the “Meaning in the Context of Pain” Special Issue include, but are not restricted to, the following:
- Common experiential meanings of pain in different contexts
- Chronic non-cancer pain or cancer-related pain
- Pain in special or vulnerable groups
- Pain and mental illness
- Pain and substance abuse
- Pain and fatigue
- How meaning modifies the experience of pain
- Pain and personal identity over time, including stigmatisation
- Family meanings and the experience of pain (e.g., “psychosomatic families”)
- Perceived meaningfulness of life, including suicidality
- How symbolic manipulation of meaning (e.g., verbal instruction) can change pain experience
- Perceived meaning of different types of medical treatment
- “Catastrophising” and “fear-avoidance” as expressions of meaning
- The limits of meaning: when no meaning can be given to an experience of pain (e.g., “medically unexplained pain”)
- Coming to terms with “pain acceptance”
- Therapeutic implications of meaning
- Similarities and differences in meanings of pain between the person in pain versus observers
- The influence of meaning on pain scale ratings
- Implications of meaning-making for self-control or self-management of pain
- How patients’ meanings of pain can inform treatment planning
- Strategies patients use to find meaning in their pain
- Work rehabilitation and returning to work
- Experiential research methods to study meanings of pain
- Ethnography, narrative, phenomenology, grounded theory, and single-case study methods
- Other research methods: Neurophenomenology, The Descriptive Experience Sampling Method, The Experiential-Phenomenological Method, The Elicitation Interview Method, quantitative designs, quantitative-qualitative designs
The meaning of “meaning” and clinical applications or implications of meaning in the context of pain must be addressed in detail in all contributions.
Keywords: pain, meaning, patient experience, pain management
Invited article types
Within the scope of the themes and sub-themes described above, the guest editors invite contributions considered in the form of the following manuscript types, in order of importance:
- Reviews (e.g., Systematic Reviews, Meta-analytic reviews, Cochrane type reviews, Pragmatic Reviews)
- Original Research (e.g., original clinical, translational, theoretical or philosophical research)
See Instructions to Authors in Pain Medicine.
If you wish to submit an article for consideration in this Special Issue, please let me know at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, email me a 400-word description/summary/abstract by November 1, 2019.
Thank you for your time.