In recent years, the societal and personal impacts of pain, and the fact that we still lack an effective method of treatment, has motivated researchers from diverse disciplines to try to think in new ways about pain and its management. In this paper, we aim to develop an enactive approach to pain and the transition to chronicity. Two aspects are central to this project. First, the paper conceptualizes differences between acute and chronic pain, as well as the dynamic process of (...) pain chronification, in terms of changes in the field of affordances. This is, in terms of the possibilities for action perceived by subjects in pain. As such, we aim to do justice to the lived experience of patients as well as the dynamic role of behavioral learning, neural reorganization, and socio-cultural practices in the generation and maintenance of pain. Second, we aim to show in which manners such an enactive approach may contribute to a comprehensive understanding of pain that avoids conceptual and methodological issues of reductionist and fragmented approaches. It proves particularly beneficial as a heuristic in pain therapy addressing the heterogenous yet dynamically intertwined aspects that may contribute to pain and its chronification. (shrink)
We propose a new conceptualization of pain by incorporating advancements made by phenomenologists and cognitive scientists. The biomedical understanding of pain is problematic as it inaccurately endorses a linear relationship between noxious stimuli and pain, and is often dualist or reductionist. From a Cartesian dualist perspective, pain occurs in an immaterial mind. From a reductionist perspective, pain is often considered to be “in the brain.” The biopsychosocial conceptualization of pain has been adopted to combat these problematic views. However, when considering (...) pain research advancements, paired with the work of phenomenologists’ and cognitive scientists’ advanced understanding of perception, the biopsychosocial model is inadequate in many ways. The boundaries between the biological, psychological, and social are artificial, and the model is often applied in a fragmented manner. The model has a limited theoretical foundation, resulting in the perpetuation of dualistic and reductionist beliefs. A new framework may serve to better understand and treat pain. In this paper, we conceptualize pain as a 5E process, arguing that it is: Embodied, Embedded, Enacted, Emotive, and Extended. This perspective is applied using back pain as an exemplar and we explore potential clinical applications. With enactivism at the core of this approach, pain does not reside in a mysterious immaterial mind, nor is it an entity to be found in the blood, brain, or other bodily tissues. Instead, pain is a relational and emergent process of sense-making through a lived body that is inseparable from the world that we shape and that shapes us. (shrink)
The aim of the article is to introduce a new concept of “pain-related bodily doubt,” which complements current concepts currently in use, such as pain-related fear, pain catastrophizing, and pain self-efficacy. This new concept, adapted from recent philosophical work on illness experience, has the potential to positively contribute to pain research and clinical practice by providing a vocabulary for clinicians and patients to discuss implicit or tacit dimensions of pain-related experiences.
Chronic pain is one of the most disabling conditions globally, yet we are still missing a satisfying theoretical framework to guide research and clinical practice. This is highly relevant as research and practice are not taking place in a vacuum but are always shaped by a particular philosophy of pain, that is, a set of implicitly or explicitly prevailing assumptions about what chronic pain is and how it is to be addressed. In looking at recent history, we identify a promising (...) trend from neuro-centrism to the application of the biopsychosocial model. Unfortunately, due to its limited theoretical foundation, the biopsychosocial model is too often implemented in a reductionist, fragmented, and linear manner. In particular, it remains too vague concerning the relationship between involved biological, psychological, and social processes. Sanneke de Haan prominently labeled this the integration problem. In this paper, we introduce five different facets of the integration problem that every philosophy of pain needs to address: (i) ontological, (ii) conceptual, (iii) explanatory, (iv) methodologicalMethodological, and (v) therapeutic. We develop an enactive theory of chronic pain and outline how far it provides solutions to these different integration challenges. (shrink)
Chronic pain is one of the most disabling medical conditions globally, yet, to date, we lack a satisfying theoretical framework for research and clinical practice. Over the prior decades, several frameworks have been presented with biopsychosocial models as the most promising. However, in translation to clinical practice, these models are often applied in an overly reductionist manner, leaving much to be desired. In particular, they often fail to characterize the complexities and dynamics of the lived experience of chronic pain. Recently, (...) an enactive, affordance-based approach has been proposed, opening up new ways to view chronic pain. This model characterizes how the persistence of pain alters a person’s field of affordances: the unfolding set of action possibilities that a person perceives as available to them. The affordance-based model provides a promising perspective on chronic pain as it allows for a systematic investigation of the interactive relation between patients and their environment, including characteristic alterations in the experience of their bodies and the space they inhabit. To help bridge the gap from philosophy to clinical practice, we unpack in this paper the core concepts of an affordance-based approach to chronic pain and their clinical implications, highlighting aspects that have so far received insufficient attention. We do so with an analogy to playing video games, as we consider such comparative illustration a useful tool to convey the complex concepts in an affordance-based model and further explore central aspects of the lived experience of chronic pain. (shrink)