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Original Articles May/June 2008, Volume 13 Issue 3: 201-210

The meaning and process of pain acceptance. Perceptions of women living with arthritis and fibromyalgia

DL LaChapelle | S Lavoie | A Boudreau

BACKGROUND: Within the past 10 years, cognitive-behavioural pain management models have moved beyond the traditional focus on coping strategies and perceived control over pain, to incorporate mindfulness- and acceptance-based approaches. Pain acceptance is the process of giving up the struggle with pain and learning to live life despite pain. Acceptance is associated with lower levels of pain, disability and psychological distress. Relatively little is known, however, about how patients arrive at a state of acceptance without the aid of therapy.
OBJECTIVES: To explore personal definitions of acceptance and the factors that facilitate or hinder acceptance.
METHODS: Eleven focus groups, involving a total of 45 women with arthritis and fibromyalgia, were conducted.
RESULTS: The qualitative analysis revealed that, while the women rejected the word 'acceptance', they did agree with the main components of existing research definitions. The women's responses revealed that acceptance was a process of realizations and acknowledgements, including realizing that the pain was not normal and help was needed, receiving a diagnosis, acknowledging that there was no cure and realizing that they needed to redefine 'normal'. Diagnosis, social support, educating self and others, and self-care were factors that promoted acceptance. Struggling to retain a prepain identity, negative impacts on relationships, others not accepting their pain and the unspoken message that the pain was 'all in their head' were barriers to acceptance.
CONCLUSION: The implications of these findings, distinctions between the diagnostic groups and recommendations regarding how health professionals can facilitate the process of acceptance are discussed.

Arthritis | Fibromyalgia | Pain acceptance
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