Objectives Partner's responses to pain behaviours play a pivotal role in the patient's adjustment. This study aims to further our knowledge regarding patients' and partners' interpretation of partners' responses to pain behaviours, and the possible discrepancies between patients' and partners' perceptions. Further, this study examines patients' preferred responses to pain behaviours and possible discrepancies between received and preferred responses to pain behaviours.
Design A qualitative research design based on a semi-structured in-depth interview.
Methods Patients with chronic low back pain and their partners (n = 54) were recruited through purposive sampling and interviewed. Data were analysed based on an inductive analytic approach.
Results Patients as well as partners indicated a number of different interpretations of partners' responses to pain behaviours, including invalidation, relieving pain, validation, encouragement, caregiving exhaustion, and expressing resentment. Patients and partners revealed similarities in the interpretation of response categories that they associated with validation, invalidation, and expressing resentment. Discrepancies between patients and partners indicated that partners interpreted some responses as caused by caregiving exhaustion while patients did not. Patients perceived partner responses that included the active involvement of the partner (e.g., encouraging pain talk) more positively than responses that showed less active involvement of the partner.
Conclusion Patients and partners are likely to make various interpretations of a certain partner response to pain behaviours. Our findings underscore that patients' interpretation about a certain behaviour might determine whether that behaviour is rated as desirable or aversive.