An ecosystem of accepting life with chronic pain: a meta-ethnography

Cassandra Macgregor*, David N. Blane, Emmanuelle Tulle, Claire L. Campbell, Ruth J. Barber, Clementine Hill O-Connor, Christopher Seenan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Chronic pain is a highly prevalent long-term condition, experienced unequally, impacting both the individual living with pain, and wider society. ‘Acceptance’ of chronic pain is relevant to improved consultations in pain care, and navigating an approach towards evidence-based, long-term management and associated improvements in health. However, the concept proves difficult to measure, and primary qualitative studies of lived experiences show complexity related to our socio-cultural-political worlds, healthcare experiences, and difficulties with language and meaning. We framed acceptance of chronic pain as socially constructed and aimed to conceptualise the lived experiences of acceptance of chronic pain in adults.

Methods: We conducted a systematic search and screening process, followed by qualitative, interpretive, literature synthesis using Meta-ethnography. We included qualitative studies using chronic pain as the primary condition, where the study included an aim to research the acceptance concept. We conducted each stage of the synthesis with co-researchers of differing disciplinary backgrounds, and with lived experiences of chronic pain.

Findings: We included 10 qualitative studies from Canada, Sweden, The Netherlands, Ireland, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Our ‘lines of argument’ include a fluid and continuous journey with fluctuating states of acceptance; language and meaning of acceptance and chronic pain, a challenge to identity in a capitalist, ableist society and the limits to individualism; a caring, supportive and coherent system. The conceptual framework of the meta-ethnography is represented by a rosebush with interconnected branches, holding both roses and thorns, such is the nature of accepting life with chronic pain.

Conclusion: Our findings broaden conceptualisation of ‘acceptance of chronic pain’ beyond an individual factor, to a fluid and continuous journey, interconnected with our socio-cultural-political worlds; an ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Pain
Early online date7 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 May 2024


  • Acceptance
  • biopsychosocial
  • chronic pain
  • healthcare
  • health inequities
  • meta-ethnography
  • qualitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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