Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Timothy Pasch


In order to be acknowledged, chronic pain must be voiced yet disclosing of chronic pain is fraught with social and professional repercussions. Moreover, there is a perceived disinterest in hearing about, and a stigma associated with the experience of chronic pain. This research explores the therapeutic value of communicating about pain. Nineteen individuals with chronic pain participated in a six-week online writing workshop to describe the way chronic pain impacts daily activities. These qualitative responses were analyzed using discourse analysis and four interpretive repertoires emerged which convey the multi-faceted impacts of living with chronic pain. These findings informed the creation of a quantitative survey tool which was widely disseminated using social media to chronic pain dedicated forums and websites.

Findings indicate that audience and gender have a large sway on communication preferences. Individuals with chronic pain desire to receive cure-centered information from health care providers and care-centered information, including empathy, from family and friends when they communicate about their pain. Women in particular aspire to receive emotional support for their well-being and empathy upon communicating about their pain. These results help to fill in the void of patient communication preference within the framework of delivering patient centered care. Understanding patients’ communication preferences has high clinical value as providers can tailor their communication practices to increase rapport, improve patient satisfaction and promote treatment adherence. They place a heightened role on family and friends in the treatment plan as they can offer needed emotional support. Implications include educating family and friends to be aware of pain behavior so they can recognize early indicators and provide empathetic responses. Additionally, using computer mediated communication is a recommended platform to engage individuals with chronic pain due to its convenience, low-cost, and anonymity as well as its potential to connect disparate individuals and build community among marginalized group.