Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
"Camp Pain"

"Camp Pain": Talking with Chronic Pain Patients

Jean E. Jackson
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    "Camp Pain"
    Book Description:

    Pain is the most frequent cause of disability in America. And pain specialists estimate that as many as thirty to sixty million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain is a complex phenomenon-often extremely difficult to treat, and surprisingly difficult to define. Just as medical literature in general neglects the experience of illness, so the clinical literature on pain neglects the experience of pain. "Camp Pain" takes an approach different from most studies of chronic pain, which are typically written from a medical or social perspective. Based on a year's fieldwork in a pain treatment center, this book focuses on patients' perspectives-on their experiences of pain, what these experiences mean to them, and how this meaning is socially constructed. Jackson explores the psychological burden imposed on many sufferers when they are judged not to have "real" pain, and by harsh moral judgments that sufferers are weak, malingering, or responsible in some way for their pain. Jackson also looks at the ways in which severe pain erodes and destroys personal identity, studying in particular the role of language. While keeping her focus on patients' experiences, Jackson explores Western concepts of disease, health, mind, and body; assumptions about cause and effect; and notions of shame, guilt, and stigma. "Camp Pain" does not attempt to resolve the uncertainties and misperceptions associated with pain but rather aims at enhancing our understanding of the wider implications of chronic pain by focusing on the sufferers themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0473-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 A Baffling Phenomenon
    (pp. 1-20)

    Teresa, a sculptor and body building instructor, had begun having severe back pain after a motorcycle accident fourteen years previously. Hospitalized several times with a herniated disk that nonetheless worsened, she ultimately found herself with degenerative disk disease, bone spurs, arachnoiditis (nerve damage), and arthritis. Wanting to avoid surgery, she went to a pain center and back school. She also tried acupuncture, spiritual healers, massage therapists, crystal healers, mushrooms (which were purported to stimulate growth), hypnosis, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (in which an apparatus sends an electrical signal to disrupt a pain signal). When she found the prescription medicines...

  5. Chapter 2 Summer Camp? Boot Camp? An Introduction to CPC
    (pp. 21-33)

    Immediately opposite the elevator was a suite of offices occupied by Dr. B,¹ the director, and his staff, as well as the nurses’ station. Down the corridor to the right were the dining room, a consulting room, and various utility rooms. The semi-private patient rooms, a shower, and two physical therapy rooms opened off the left corridor, which ended in a solarium. Patient feelings toward this territory ran high: the dining room, used for so many activities, received the contempt familiarity so frequently breeds; the shower, serving twenty-one patients, was loathed as a breeding ground for fungus; the solarium, off...

  6. Chapter 3 The Painful Journey
    (pp. 34-57)

    Like sufferers in pain clinics everywhere, CPC patients had encountered any number of problems in addition to pain, among them difficulties with medications, work, finances, interactions with friends and family, the health care delivery system, and their emotions. Arrival at CPC brought challenge, hope, and new difficulties.

    About a third of those admitted said they were dependent on medication of one sort or another (some of it in extremely high doses). For some, the side effects of pain-relieving medications and the dependency that developed had proved more troublesome than the relief was worth. One man, suffering from ten years of...

  7. Chapter 4 “Getting with the Program”
    (pp. 58-80)

    Because CPC’s approach required that the patient be seen as a whole person, the goal of changing that person’s behavior and attitude toward pain—and perhaps diminishing the amount of pain—could be achieved using several approaches.¹

    A significant part of CPC’s program involved educating patients—about pain itself, about various pain—managing modalities, about depression and other emotions, and so forth. Some of this education took place one-on-one (e.g., during a daily session with a physical therapist), some in classes and workshops on topics dealing with the body (biomechanics and biomechanical therapies), nutrition, sleep, medications, and the like. Most...

  8. Chapter 5 Building and Resisting Community
    (pp. 81-108)

    T. F. Main, a physician working with demoralized British soldiers after World War II, first applied the term “therapeutic community” to describe a “spontaneous and emotionally structured (rather than a medically dictated) organization in which all staff and patients engaged.”¹ Maxwell Jones developed the idea further during the 1950s at Belmont Hospital, on an inpatient psychiatric unit.² Today, however, most therapeutic communities found in hospital settings are not located in psychiatric units. Bloor and his collaborators discuss how “redefinition” is the “motor of therapy” in such settings. Incoming patients are inducted into a “new social world” emphatically different from their...

  9. Chapter 6 “Winners”: CPC Converts
    (pp. 109-142)

    Some patients seemed to buy the CPC message so wholeheartedly that I refer to them as “converts,” I argue here that the literature on religious conversion can help us understand what produced the changes these CPC “winners” experienced, The discussion that follows is suggestive rather than definitive, First, I did not talk to staff members about the progress of individual patients during their stay, nor see their medical records: my evaluations derived from what I observed and what patients chose to tell me about themselves and their fellow patients, Second, while most patients going through the CPC program changed visibly,...

  10. Chapter 7 Me/Not-Me: Self, Language, and Pain
    (pp. 143-168)

    At CPC, pain-sufferers, their families, and staff members provided fascinating reflections on the relationship of body, self, and pain, how self-concept changed after the onset of pain, and what happened to self-concept as a result of therapy. I call the constellation of issues around pain, body, and self the problem of “me/not-me” because patients struggled so much with questions of how much pain was a part of their selves, and whether one should see pain as the enemy, or try to make friends with it-should it be “owned” or “disowned”?

    This is a complicated topic for a number of reasons....

  11. Chapter 8 Conclusions: The Puzzles of Pain
    (pp. 169-194)

    This book has looked at how chronic pain sufferers experience pain and experience themselves as people living pain-full lives. Some of the horror of intractable chronic pain has been portrayed, along with some of the social and cultural factors that contribute to this horror. The view-point of pain sufferers themselves has been privileged because their perspective has been underrepresented in the literature.

    Interpretations of pain exploring its cause or meaning (diagnostic, prognostic, ontological, existential, etc.) have varied considerably over time and cross-culturally. What went on at CPC illustrates some of the ways we in the West respond to it—study...

  12. Coda: A Note on Approach
    (pp. 195-204)

    “Ethnography” refers to both a period of intensive long-term fieldwork and the resulting write-up. While anthropologists collect data in many ways, participant-observation is the hallmark of the anthropological enterprise; it is a critical boundary that separates anthropology from other social and behavioral sciences.

    Participant-observation involves spending large amounts of time observing and talking to people in their own surroundings. The researcher learns the language and plunges into local activities as completely as possible, for example, attending rituals, “hanging out” and gossiping, washing clothes at the river with other women. This approach evolved at a time when the vast majority of...

  13. Appendix 1: CPC Patients and Staff
    (pp. 205-213)
  14. Appendix 2: Interview Questions
    (pp. 214-216)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 217-242)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-262)
  17. Index
    (pp. 263-281)