Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Don't mask it, fix it": Distinguishing Characteristics of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Patients with Chronic Pain and their Pathways toward Pain Resolution
by Curreli, Misty Amadona, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2013, 216; 3608160
Abstract (Summary)

The sociological literature on pain and the body largely emphasizes the social and cultural dynamics of suffering. Within this realm, the medical institution is often paramount in regulating how pain is understood and the responses that are appropriate in managing pain. Less is known about other forms of healthcare that treat pain, namely Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). While most research explains the overall “who” of the population of CAM users, few studies address the “why” and the overall effects of using a nonconventional system of medicine.

This research is aimed at discerning health beliefs and behaviors that are associated with engaging with a nonconventional system of healthcare and how treatment-seeking differs between patients choosing (CAM) and those choosing conventional medicine. Additionally, this study traces the trajectory of patients’ treatment-seeking behavior and explores whether nonconventional treatment changes outlooks on medicine and other health-related beliefs and behaviors.

A mixed method design was used to explore whether CAM users (compared with conventional medicine users) are more likely to possess beliefs associated with CAM. A survey-questionnaire was first distributed to pain patients (n=98) in two health office locations: pain management and acupuncture. Since little is known about CAM users’ decision-making processes, qualitative interviews (n=20) were conducted with people using acupuncture to elaborate on the survey results.

Statistically significant differences were found among pain management and acupuncture users on measures of proactivity, medication use, and patient-centered care. Additionally, qualitative findings showed that most acupuncture users were initially skeptical of this nonconventional treatment and gradually grew to use it for ailments beyond pain. At the same time, they grew to value the time and intimacy that was shared with their acupuncturist, who often engaged them in holistic approaches to health. The findings suggest strong discontent and resistance to conventional forms of treatment, which were found to be non-validating of pain experiences of patients and their desires to find non-pharmaceutical solutions for pain. This research proposes that CAM patients are demonstrating their ability to make choices on their own behalf without the approval of traditional medical experts and suggests implications for this new autonomy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Feldman, Kenneth A., Marrone, Catherine
Commitee: Burroway, Rebekah, Feldman, Kenneth A., Heller, Jacob, Marrone, Catherine
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Alternative Medicine, Sociology
Keywords: Acupuncture, Chronic pain, Complementary and alternative medicine, Patient-centered care, Sociology of health and illness, Treatment seeking
Publication Number: 3608160
ISBN: 9781303660979