McCluskey, Serena, de Vries, Haitze, Reneman, Michiel, Brooks, Joanna and Brouwer, Sandra (2015) 'I think positivity breeds positivity': a qualitative exploration of the role of family members in supporting those with chronic musculoskeletal pain to stay at work. BMC Family Practice, 16. pp. 85-91. ISSN 1471-2296

Background: It is proposed that family members are important sources of support in helping those with chronic musculoskeletal pain to remain at work, but the phenomenon remains largely unexplored. The aim of this study was to examine the extent and nature of support provided by family members in this respect.
Methods: Qualitative data were collected from workers and their ‘significant others’ spouses/partners/close family members) in two un-related studies focused on working with pain; one conducted in the United Kingdom (n = 10 dyads) and one in the Netherlands (n = 21 dyads). Thematic analysis techniques were applied to both sets of data independently, and findings were then assimilated to establish common themes.
Results: Findings were broadly similar in both studies. Workers acknowledged significant other support in helping them to manage their pain and remain at work, and their descriptions of the type of support provided and required were echoed by their significant others. Three common themes were identified - ‘connectivity’, ‘activity’ and ‘positivity’. Worker and significant other responses were largely congruent, but significant others provided more in-depth information on the nature of their support, their concerns and the impact on their relationship.
Conclusions: This research presents novel insights about the specific contribution made by significant others in helping their relatives with chronic musculoskeletal pain to stay at work. These findings add to the under-represented ‘social’ dimension of the biopsychosocial model currently applied to our understanding and treatment of pain, and point to harnessing support from significant others as a potentially effective management strategy.

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