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Keywords:

  • pain;
  • self;
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis;
  • qualitative

This paper presents an in-depth, idiographic study exploring the personal experience of chronic benign low back pain in relation to the participant's body and sense of self. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients and the resultant transcripts subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. One theme is presented in detail: ‘Living with a body separate from the self’, whereby when out of pain the body has little salience to the self yet when in pain it is consciously excluded from the self. The complex and paradoxical relationship between the body, chronic pain and the self is explored and evidence is provided to argue that the embodied unpleasantness of chronic pain involves an assault upon and a defence of a preferred or desirable self. The results are considered in relation to relevant themes in the extant literature.