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Disabil Rehabil. 2016;38(13):1257-67. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2015.1076529. Epub 2015 Aug 25.

Meanings of "acceptance" for patients with long-term pain when starting rehabilitation.

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a Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Physiotherapy , Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm , Sweden .
b Department of Health Care Sciences, Ersta Sköndal University College , Stockholm , Sweden , and.
c Department of Clinical Sciences , Danderyd Hospital, Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm , Sweden.



The study aimed to elucidate the meaning of acceptance in relation to the lived body and sense of self when entering a pain rehabilitation programme.


Six women and three men with long-term pain were interviewed. The interviews were analysed according to interpretative phenomenological analysis.


The analysis revealed three different meaning structures, first: acceptance as a process of personal empowerment, "the only way forward". Here, the individuals expressed that the body felt integrated: a trusting cooperation between self and body gave rise to hope. Second: acceptance as an equivocal project, a possible but challenging way forward. The hopeful insight was there, acknowledging that acceptance was the way to move forward, but there was also uncertainty and doubt about one's ability with a body ambiguous and confusing, difficult but important to understand. Third, in acceptance as a threat and a personal failure, "no way forward" the integration of the aching body in sense of self was impossible and pain was incomprehensible, unacceptable and unfair. Pain was the cause of feeling stuck in the body, affecting the sense of self and the person's entire life.


The meaning of acceptance was related to acceptance of the persistency of pain, to how the individual related to the lived body and the need for changes in core aspects of self, and to the issue of whether to include others in the struggle of learning to move on with a meaningful life.


Healthcare professionals should be aware that individuals with long-term pain conceptualize and hold different meanings of acceptance when starting rehabilitation; this should be considered and addressed in rehabilitation programmes. The meaning given to acceptance is related to the experience of the lived body and the sense of self, as well as to getting legitimization/acceptance by others; therefore these aspects need to be considered during rehabilitation. The process of achieving acceptance seems to embrace different processes which can be understood as, and facilitated by, an embodied learning process. The bodily existential challenges presented in the present study, for example to develop an integrated and cooperative relationship with the painful body, can inspire health professionals to develop interventions and communication strategies focusing on the lived body. A wide range of competencies in rehabilitation clinics seems to be needed.


Acceptance; chronic pain; lived body; sense of self

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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