Exploring the Influence of Patient-Professional Partnerships on the Self-Management of Chronic Back Pain: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Patients are encouraged to take an active role in self-managing their chronic back pain and functional problems. However, research suggests that patients do not self-manage, and they expect health professionals to fulfill a comprehensive role in managing pain. A partnership between patients and health professionals is called for, and self-management works best when they share knowledge and work together toward optimal goals. To explore how patients' partnerships with health professionals may influence their ability to self-manage pain by exploring patients' experiences. A grounded theory approach with in-depth, semistructured interviews was undertaken. Each interview was analyzed using constant comparative analysis. This study was nested within a larger study on patient-professional partnerships and the self-management of chronic back pain. Twenty-six patients with chronic back pain were recruited in a community-based pain management service in Northern England, United Kingdom. Three themes emerged: building partnerships with health professionals; being supported by health professionals to self-manage the pain; and experiencing a change in self-management. Five approaches that underpinned health professionals' self-management support were identified. Facilitators of and barriers to a good partnership were reported. This study suggests that a good patient-professional partnership has a positive effect on patients' self-management ability. A theoretical model explaining how such partnership may influence self-management was developed. It is necessary for both patients and health professionals to be aware of their partnerships, which may enhance the effect of pain management services.

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