Musculoskeletal pain and treatment choice: an exploration of illness perceptions and choices of conventional or complementary therapies

This study explored experiences of receiving treatment for musculoskeletal pain (MSKP), particularly choices of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and/or conventional treatment, using the illness perception dimension of Leventhal's Self-Regulatory Model as the underpinning model within the broader biopsychosocial framework of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Method.A mixed-method study was conducted involving 17 people with MSKP. Data were collected in semi-structured interviews, using a phased approach that included the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire and open-ended questions about experiences of managing and seeking treatment for MSKP. Questionnaire data were analysed descriptively; interview data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using the principles of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Results.Analysis points to health professionals and participants as gatekeepers to treatment, with gatekeeping based on matters of power, searching for solutions, and managing day to day. The themes Role of the Gatekeeper, Swing of the Interminable Pendulum, and Solution of Soldiering On are discussed in relation to literature about health beliefs and choices of CAM or conventional treatments. Conclusions.Future research could include mixed-method designs to further explore issues of knowledge, beliefs, and control that feed into the role of gatekeepers to treatment, as well as comparing CAM choices between public and privately-funded healthcare.


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