Objectives:<br/><br/>A predominantly quantitative approach to the psychological study of chronic low back pain (CLBP) has shown that enduring negative emotional responses and passive coping strategies contribute towards disability. The main objective of this study was to extend existing knowledge by providing a detailed and contextualized understanding of the meaning of CLBP for participants with long-standing experiences of chronic pain.<br/><br/>Design:<br/><br/>This is a qualitative, semi-structured interview study. The data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). This is the first of three sets of individual interviews comprising a longitudinal study of the same participants over 3 years.<br/><br/>Methods:<br/><br/>Ten patients with CLBP were interviewed prior to their attendance at a medically staffed chronic pain clinic. The sample comprised seven females and three males. Ages ranged between 39 and 66 years. All had experienced CLBP for at least 4 years.<br/><br/>Conclusions:<br/><br/>The participants' experiences are represented by three main themes: `maintaining integrity', `the crucial nature of the pain' and `managing the pain' that highlight participants' understanding of their pain within a biomedical framework. The findings are discussed with reference to the role of illness beliefs in the management of CLBP
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