Using a Learning Community to Manage Pain
: A participatory action research study

  • Gareth Parsons

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This participatory action research study evaluated whether, bringing people who have chronic pain together in collaborative learning communities can have an impact upon the way they manage their chronic pain. Participatory action research has been used with other patient groups, but not with people who have chronic pain. People who have chronic pain are often marginalised and restricted from playing a fuller role in society. In this thesis, I consider these processes to be indicators that people with chronic pain may be experiencing a form of social oppression. This justifies the use of participatory action research methods with this group, as these methods are intended to promote wellness and produce liberation from social oppression.
    A Dionysian inquiry was established in order to promote consciousness-raising among participants in learning communities. Three learning communities were initiated and two were sustained. Nine participants fully immersed in the learning communities. They reported feelings of liberation, identified ways in which their involvement in the learning community had caused them to change their attitudes and acted to improve their situation. This is my original contribution to knowledge, as this demonstrates that the generation of learning communities using PAR, with a Dionysian approach among people who have chronic pain is feasible. This has not been previously published in the literature.
    Three action cycles have been identified and are discussed in this thesis. These demonstrate the consciousness-raising and individual action that characterised transformation as a result of collaboration. In participatory action research, the production of an action cycle is viewed as the generation of new emergent knowledge, when viewed through the lens of critical theory. Although this knowledge is limited to the learning community and in this study is participant specific.
    Subsequent findings that emerge from this inquiry, identify that lived experience of chronic pain may be a product of civilised oppression, from which participants might become liberated using consciousness-raising techniques. These findings are significant, as the articulation of chronic pain as an oppressive force and the possible structures by which this is enacted, has seldom occurred in the literature. Without a discussion around oppression and pain and considering ways to raise awareness, people who experience chronic pain are unlikely to overcome these obstructions and attain empowerment.

    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAllyson Lipp (Supervisor), Stuart Todd (Supervisor) & Gina Dolan (Supervisor)


    • Chronic Pain
    • Learning Community
    • Participatory Action Research

    Cite this