Chronic pain as a human rights issue : setting an agenda for preventative action

Frenkel, Louise ; Swartz, Leslie (2017)

CITATION: Frenkel, L. & Swartz, L. 2017. Chronic pain as a human rights issue : setting an agenda for preventative action. Global Health Action, 10(1):1348691, doi:10.1080/16549716.2017.1348691.

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Background: Historically, chronic pain has been viewed primarily as a medical issue, and research has been focused on the individual and predominantly on pain sufferers in highincome countries. Objectives: This article argues the need for a broader understanding of the context of chronic pain and its complex aetiologies and maintenance. It is suggested that the interaction between chronic pain and social context has been inadequately explored. Methods: A single case study is used of a man living in a violent urban environment in South Africa accessing a pain clinic at a tertiary hospital. Following the case-study approach, as used in the chronic traumatic stress field by Kaminer et al., the case material is utilised to develop an argument for a new research agenda. Results: Analysis of the case material demonstrates the complex interplay between bodily and psychological experiences, with chronic pain being contextually maintained and exacerbated by very difficult life circumstances, ongoing violence, and marginalisation. Conclusions: It is suggested that a research agenda be developed which explores the links between chronic pain and ongoing chronic traumatisation in contexts of continuous violence, oppression, and disempowerment – common features of much of the contemporary majority world.

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