Civilized Oppression in Chronic Pain Patients: Results from the Participatory Action Research Study, Using a Learning Community to Manage Pain

Gareth Parsons, Allyson Lipp, Stuart Todd, Gina Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalConference or Meeting Abstractpeer-review


Introduction - Chronic pain is a biopsychosocial phenomenon, but is mainly treated using the biomedical model. This ignores social domains of pain and contributes to the chronic pain patient’s problems.Aim of the studyTo explore whether transformation was possible in the lives of individuals who have chronic pain through fostering collaboration in a “learning community”.

Methods - Participants were recruited from a Pain Clinic and a general practice in South Wales for three learning communities which were supported and evaluated using Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods. PAR is a methodology that aims to empower participants through seeking transformation through a process of exposure to similar others, reflection on self and consciousness raising (Chiu, 2003).

Results- Data were collected from several sources: researcher’s and participant notes, flip charts, and emails and were analysed using NVivo to provide evidence of action cycling over time . The following categories were identified: Anger; Conflict with others; Problems with communication with health care professionals; Discriminating and oppressive responses of others to their pain; Guilt and Hiding Pain; Self and other questioning of the legitimacy of their pain; Helpful actions by others producing untoward consequences.

Discussion incl. Conclusion- This study demonstrated that people with chronic pain experience civilized oppression and collaborating with others can lead to empowerment. Civilized oppression is insidious and often invisible (Harvey, 2010). The six characteristics of civilised oppression ( Rogge et al, 2004) were present in LC1 and LC3. Civilized oppression has been recognized among the poor, women, disabled groups (Harvey, 2010) and the obese (Rogge et al., 2004). It has not been previously identified among people with chronic pain. Collaboration raised awareness among participants and provoked action to improve their situation.

(Expected) Practical relevance- Chronic pain patients hide pain and avoid seeking help because they experiences civilized oppression. Recognition leads to transforming actions.

Research implications- Civilized Oppression may be present in other forms of chronic physical illness.

References- Chiu, L. F. (2003) Transformational Potential of Focus Group Practice in Participatory Action Research. Action Research, 1(2), 165-183.- Harvey, J. (2010). Victims, Resistance, and Civilized Oppression. Journal of Social Philosophy, 41(1), 13-27.- Rogge, M. M., Greenwald, M., & Golden, A. (2004) Obesity, Stigma, and Civilized Oppression. Advances in Nursing Science, 27(4), 301-315.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38
Number of pages1
Volumemaart 2013
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013
Event13th European Doctoral Conference in Nursing Science - Graz, Austria
Duration: 14 Sept 201215 Sept 2012
Conference number: 13


  • Chronic Pain
  • learning Community


Dive into the research topics of 'Civilized Oppression in Chronic Pain Patients: Results from the Participatory Action Research Study, Using a Learning Community to Manage Pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this