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Lives on Hold: A Qualitative Synthesis Exploring the Experience of Chronic Low-back Pain

Bunzli, Samantha Bphty(hon), PhD Candidate*; Watkins, Rochelle PhD; Smith, Anne PhD*; Schütze, Rob MPsych (Clinical); O’Sullivan, Peter PhD*

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31827a6dd8
Original Articles

Objectives: Chronic nonspecific low-back pain (CLBP) is a prevalent, costly condition that is remarkably resistant to intervention. Substantial evidence suggests that a mismatch exists between the biomedical beliefs held by clinicians and patients and the biopsychosocial nature of CLBP experience. The aim of this metasynthesis of qualitative studies was to provide clinicians with a richer understanding of their patients’ CLBP experience to highlight the importance of moving away from biomedical paradigms in the clinical management of CLBP.

Methods: Qualitative studies exploring the CLBP experience from the perspective of the individual were included. Twenty-five articles representing 18 studies involving 713 participants were subjected to the 3-stage analytic process of extraction/coding, grouping, and abstraction.

Results: Three main themes emerged: the social construction of CLBP; the psychosocial impact of the nature of CLBP; and coping with CLBP.

Discussion: The authors conceptualize the experience of CLBP as biographical suspension in which 3 aspects of suspension are described: suspended “wellness,” suspended “self,” and suspended “future”. The implications of improved clinician understanding of the CLBP experience and directions for future research are discussed.

*School of Physiotherapy, Curtin University, Perth

Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia

Wisdom Health Pty Ltd, West Perth, WA, Australia

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Samantha Bunzli, Bphty(hon), PhD Candidate, School of Physiotherapy, Curtin University, GPO Box, U1987 Perth, WA, Australia 6845 (e-mail:

Received May 28, 2012

Accepted October 22, 2012

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins