“Pain Takes Over Everything”: The Experience of Pain and Strategies for Management

  • Marie CroweEmail author
  • Deb Gillon
  • Cate McCall
  • Jennifer Jordan


This chapter explores the personal experience of pain from its biological underpinnings to strategies people identified for managing this experience. The somatic experience of chronic pain describes the biological processes involved in pain and how this can become a chronic experience with psychological and social implications. The personal experience of pain is explored through a systematic review of research of qualitative experiences. We found that the experience of pain was similar despite its etiological underpinnings—whatever the biological cause there were similarities in the personal experience. Participants in the studies identified five themes that described these personal experiences: (1) body as obstacle; (2) disrupted sense of self; (3) invisible but real; (4) unpredictability; and (5) keeping going. This section of the chapter is followed by the findings of a systematic review of how older people learn to manage their pain experiences: “adjusting to the inevitable,” “doing it my way without medication” and “the importance of support in managing the struggle.” The chapter concludes by discussing some of the strategies that can be used to manage the self in pain: support for self-management, medication, exercise and psychological interventions (mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy).

Clinical Implications: Many people manage their chronic pain by actively balancing the competing forces of hope and despair. There are similarities in this experience of chronic pain across a range of conditions which has implications for the development of pain management strategies and interventions that address the pain experience and not just the biological condition. Learning to manage the self in pain involves acceptance of pain as on-going and a part of who they are; keeping connected with others; keeping occupied through meaningful activities; getting meaningful support; and developing new meaning in life. Clinical interventions need to a focus on the person’s sense of self, strategies for maintaining hope, strategies that provide relief for the distress associated with pain; and providing people with a sense of control over their experiences both with the pain itself and in their encounters with the medical profession and the use of medication.


Pain Chronic pain Qualitative Elderly Transdiagnostic Patient experience Long term conditions Coping 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie Crowe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deb Gillon
    • 1
  • Cate McCall
    • 1
  • Jennifer Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Postgraduate Nursing Studies, Department of Psychological MedicineUniversity of OtagoChristchurchNew Zealand

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