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Br J Pain. 2015 Feb;9(1):36-40. doi: 10.1177/2049463714549777.

Qualitative systematic reviews: their importance for our understanding of research relevant to pain.

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1
RCN Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.

Abstract

This article outlines what a qualitative systematic review is and explores what it can contribute to our understanding of pain. Many of us use evidence of effectiveness for various interventions when working with people in pain. A good systematic review can be invaluable in bringing together research evidence to help inform our practice and help us understand what works. In addition to evidence of effectiveness, understanding how people with pain experience both their pain and their care can help us when we are working with them to provide care that meets their needs. A rigorous qualitative systematic review can also uncover new understandings, often helping illuminate 'why' and can help build theory. Such a review can answer the question 'What is it like to have chronic pain?' This article presents the different stages of meta-ethnography, which is the most common methodology used for qualitative systematic reviews. It presents evidence from four meta-ethnographies relevant to pain to illustrate the types of findings that can emerge from this approach. It shows how new understandings may emerge and gives an example of chronic musculoskeletal pain being experienced as 'an adversarial struggle' across many aspects of the person's life. This article concludes that evidence from qualitative systematic reviews has its place alongside or integrated with evidence from more quantitative approaches.

KEYWORDS:

Qualitative systematic review; meta-ethnography; qualitative synthesis

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