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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Participants’ descriptions of living with fibromyalgia : an interpretive descriptive study Cunningham, Margaret Mui Yeah


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain syndrome that affects almost every aspect of a person's life and creates many demands on health care resources. We know very little, however, about what the experience of living with FM is like, from the perspective of afflicted individuals. This study addresses this gap in our knowledge, using the interpretive descriptive method described by Thorne, Reimer Kirkham, and MacDonald-Emes (1997) to elicit individuals' descriptions of their experiences of living with FM. The analytic framework that guided this inquiry was derived from the existing body of literature that addresses the experience of living with the condition. This literature was then compared with the findings of the current study to capture the essence of living with the phenomenon within the general context of the lives of the participants. Purposive theoretical sampling was used in this study. The researcher collected data through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a total of eight participants ranging in age from 31 to 79 years. The data were collected and analyzed concurrently using a constant comparative inductive analytic method. The findings of this study indicate that key aspects of individuals' experiences of living with FM consist of several interrelated major themes. One such theme is living with the symptoms of FM and enduring the subsequent impact of these symptoms on multiple facets of the participants' physical, emotional, mental, familial, social, working, recreational and economic lives. The second theme is the management of FM, which involves the key aspect of striving to achieve and maintain a balance. The third theme focuses on how the social, health care and political contexts shape the experience of individuals living with FM. The findings of this study suggest that persons with FM believe that there is a need for more education about the condition, especially among health care professionals; this would increase their effectiveness in caring for people with FM. Participants in this study felt that health care professionals need to acknowledge the suffering of individuals with FM, and to strive to support them in their efforts to live and manage the condition.

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