Machines, journeys, prisons and yo-yos: Metaphors of pain, illness and medicine in consultations with chronic pain patients

Jana Declercq*, Lotte van Poppel, Thomas Velvis

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

1 Citaat (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: This paper examines pain, illness and medicine metaphors as used in consultations between chronic pain patients and anaesthesiologists, physiotherapists and psychologists in a Belgian pain clinic. As metaphors frame and highlight aspects of understanding and experiences of life events, including illness, they can provide insight in how health professionals and patients construct illness, pain and medicine in interaction. Materials and method: 16 intake consultations (collected in Belgium in April–May 2019) between 6 patients and 4 health professionals were qualitatively coded twice ATLAS. TI by a team of 3 coders, using an adjusted form of the Metaphor Identification Procedure. Each metaphor was labelled for source domain, target domain and speaker. Results: A number of metaphors that have been previously documented in past research were frequent in our data too, such as journey and machine metaphors, although sometimes also used differently, like war metaphors. Our data set also contained many few-used and sometimes more novel metaphors, such as ILLNESS IS A YO-YO. Many metaphors highlight particular aspects of living with and talking about chronic pain, such as its duration and persistent presence, a lack of agency and feelings of powerlessness, and a dualistic perspective on body and mind. Discussion and conclusion: The metaphors used by health professionals and patients give insight in the lived experience of having and treating chronic pain. In this way, they can contribute to our understanding of patients’ experiences and challenges, how they recur in clinical communication, and how they are related to wider discourses on health, illness and pain.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's8
TijdschriftSocial Science and Medicine
StatusPublished - aug.-2023


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