Cultural aspects of pain: A study of Indian Asian women in the UK

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Abstract

Objectives

Culture and ethnicity are acknowledged as important factors in the context of the biopsychosocial model. They may contribute to explaining the experience of pain, therapeutic encounters within healthcare, and the strategies that individuals use to cope with pain. The present study explored these issues in a sample of Indian Asian women in the UK.

Methods

Based on a phenomenological approach, 17 women participated in five semi-structured group interviews. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis, so as to identify core themes and subthemes inductively from the data.

Results

Six themes were identified: meaning of pain; personal experience of pain; causes of pain; coping strategies; family and friends; experience of healthcare. Pain was conceptualized in both physical and mental terms, and its experience was explained largely in terms of functional consequences. The causes of pain offered suggested externalized beliefs, relating to events in participants’ lives, rather than being expressed in biomedical terms. Alongside culture-specific therapies, the women spoke of coping strategies based on rest and activity. Although satisfaction with healthcare appeared to be high overall, problems due to communication – sometimes related to a language barrier – were voiced by some participants.

Conclusions

Greater attention to cultural aspects of the pain experience may assist health professionals in communicating with and managing patients with pain from ethnic minority backgrounds.

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