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Papers of the Week

2021 Jul 22

Health (London)

Talking about chronic pain: Misalignment in discussions of the body, mind and social aspects in pain clinic consultations.


In Western societies, human existence and illness are mostly constructed from the perspective of mind-body dualism: body and mind are considered to function independently, and the body/the physical as primary and more real. Research shows, however, that mind-body dualism is no longer tenable, especially in healthcare contexts. This led to the rise the biopsychosocial model, in which bodily experiences, including illness, are seen an interplay of the physical and the psychological, and the social. This model is the current gold standard for treating chronic pain. As these perspectives on the body and illness are potentially conflicting, and discursively constructed, this paper examines whether they are a source of misalignment in interactions between chronic pain patients and their doctors in a pain clinic. The analysis shows these perspectives indeed lead to misalignment, for instance when discussing the relevance of psychotherapy, and lead to intricate uses of argumentative resources to account for the differing perspectives on (the treatment of) pain.