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Keywords:

  • Culture;
  • health promotion;
  • qualitative analysis;
  • disparities

Abstract

Purpose

To describe stigmatizing experiences in a group of Mexican-American women with chronic pain and provide clinical implications for decreasing stigma.

Data sources

This focused ethnographic study derived data from semistructured interviews, participant observations, and fieldwork. Participants provided detailed descriptions of communicating about chronic pain symptoms, treatment, and management. The sample consisted of 15 English-speaking Mexican-American women 21–65 years old (average age = 45.6 years) who had nonmalignant chronic pain symptoms for 1 year or more.

Conclusions

The cultural and social norm in the United States is the expectation for objective evidence (such as an injury) to be present if a pain condition exists. In this study, this norm created suspicion and subsequent stigmatization on the part of family, co-workers, and even those with the pain syndromes, that the painful condition was imagined instead of real.

Implications for practice

To decrease stigmatization of chronic pain, providers must understand their own misconceptions about chronic pain, possess the skills and resources to access and use the highest level of practice evidence available, and become an advocate for improved pain care at local, state, and national levels.