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Papers: 17 Sep 2022 - 23 Sep 2022

2022 Sep 18

J Pain

Potential Misfortunes in ‘Making Sense’: A Cross-sectional Study in People with Chronic Pain.


Making sense of one's circumstances is normally regarded as helpful, including in the context of chronic pain. However, sense-making may be associated with adverse impacts in daily functioning. To better understand the functions of sense-making, the objective of the current study was to develop, validate, and preliminarily examine a measure of potentially helpful and unhelpful forms of sense-making behavior in people seeking treatment for chronic pain. This measure is called the Sense Making Questionnaire (SMQ). Research participants included 451 adults consecutively attending a specialty interdisciplinary treatment for chronic pain. Data for this study derived from a standard set of measures participants completed prior to treatment. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) produced a three-factor solution based on 15 items, including Avoidance of Incoherence, Overthinking, and Functional Coherence. The first two of these factors and the total achieved adequate internal consistency. Construct validity of the SMQ scores was supported by significant correlations with measures of pain acceptance, committed action, cognitive fusion, and intolerance of uncertainty. The SMQ total score correlated significantly with pain interference, r=.23, depression, r=.41, and work and social adjustment, r=.30, all p <.001. In multiple regression analyses the total score also significantly predicted depression after age, gender, education, pain duration, pain intensity, and pain acceptance were statistically controlled, and it accounted for an additional 8.0% in explained variance. It appears that there is a distinction between literal coherence and functional coherence. In some situations, it may benefit people with chronic pain to shift focus from efforts to make literal sense of pain and instead to keep the focus on taking effective action even if this does not appear at first to make sense. PERSPECTIVE: This study in people seeking treatment for chronic pain includes development of a measure of behavior patterns related to making sense in chronic pain. It shows that sometimes these behavior patterns can be ineffective, as they appear negatively associated with emotional, physical, and social functioning.