Communicating the Experience of Chronic Pain and Illness through Blogging

When one thinks of chronic or persistent pain one often thinks in terms of the biologic pathways of pain perception.  However, an important component of pain involves of the psychosocial aspects of coping with a chronic illness.  Disciplines across the health professions, including medicine, nursing, psychology, social work, and sociology, are actively engaged  in understanding the psychosocial and emotional consequences of chronic pain and illness: Yet few studies have addressed the  use of web-based tools, such as blogs, in the patient experience of living with chronic pain or illness.

Four Tufts University School of Medicine faculty members, Pamela Katz Ressler (Pain Research, Education and Policy Program), Libby Bradshaw (Pain Research, Education and Policy Program), Lisa Gualtieri (Health Communications Program), and Kenneth Chui (Public Health and Community Medicine) from the Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine recently published the results from a  formative research study,  Communicating the Experience of Chronic Pain and Illness through Blogging, in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The goal of this research was to explore the use of patient illness blogs as a means of communicating the experience of chronic pain  and illness and to articulate the unique set of benefits and barriers of blogging.  Qualitative data from 230 current illness bloggers were collected and analyzed to better understand the self-perceived psychosocial and health effects associated with the blogging activity. Results suggest that blogging about chronic pain and illness may decrease a sense of isolation through the establishment of online connections with others and increases a sense of purpose to help others in similar situations. While the authors’ acknowledge the study limitations, they are hopeful that further research will be conducted to explore the observed associations between communicating the experience of chronic pain through blogging and patients’ coping and self-efficacy when living with chronic pain or illness.

To read the full paper, Ressler, PK; Bradshaw, YS; Gualtieri, L ; Chui, KKH: Communicating the Experience of Chronic Pain and Illness through Blogging,  in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, please click here.

 

1 comment December 11th, 2012

Tracking Pain With Twitter

by Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
I teach Online Consumer Health and Web Strategies for Health Communication in the Health Communication Program . While this doesn’t have to do with pain per se, the Web is an important way people learn about pain and seek peer support. The Web also is used for tracking pain. I first thought about this when speaking to a Rheumatoid Arthritis group at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, when it struck me how much information about the fluctuations in pain were not available for a physician during the patients’ visits. At the same time, input challenges are presented when a patient’s pain prevents him or her from using a computer.
Twitter, which has been recently popularized by Oprah, allows “microblogging”: writing 140 character or less messages. Twitter has been used for health applications, including the charmingly-named Qwitter . Twitter is now being promoted for pain tracking as well, and a blog post provides five easy-to-follow steps for someone new to Twitter to use it for this purpose. It has the advantages of ease of use and being free; there are tools specifically designed for pain tracking but they may have a steeper learning curve. Of course, the real question is if it provides benefits to the patient through peer support or tracking.

1 comment June 9th, 2009


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