• chronic pain;
  • nursing;
  • qualitative research;
  • rural

Tollefson J, Usher K, Foster K. International Journal of Nursing Practice 2011; 17: 478–485

Relationships in pain: The experience of relationships to people living with chronic pain in rural areas

The aim of the study was to develop new understanding of the lived experience of relationships for rural people living with chronic pain. Rural residents have greater difficulty accessing health services and providers. This is especially important to those living with chronic pain who often find themselves isolated from professionals who could potentially offer support. A phenomenological study with seven participants who had experienced chronic non-malignant pain for 2–29 years (Mean = 13) was recruited via a number of approaches and data analyzed using van Manen's framework. The themes that emerged from the analysis were as follows: pain as silence; privacy as a way of protection; no place out here to get support; and dealing with health-care professionals who do not understand. Lack of specialist services and support in rural areas means people with chronic pain are placed in even more vulnerable situations. Nurses remain at the forefront of service delivery in rural areas; hence, their role in management of people with chronic pain is vital in supporting them to maintain meaningful contact with others, including health professionals.