The experience of living with patellofemoral pain-loss, confusion and fear-avoidance: a UK qualitative study.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate the experience of living with patellofemoral pain (PFP). DESIGN: Qualitative study design using semistructured interviews and analysed thematically using the guidelines set out by Braun and Clarke. SETTING: A National Health Service physiotherapy clinic within a large UK teaching hospital. PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of 10 participants, aged between 18 and 40 years, with a diagnosis of PFP and on a physiotherapy waiting list, prior to starting physiotherapy. RESULTS: Participants offered rich and detailed accounts of the impact and lived experience of PFP, including loss of physical and functional ability; loss of self-identity; pain-related confusion and difficulty making sense of their pain; pain-related fear, including fear-avoidance and 'damage' beliefs; inappropriate coping strategies and fear of the future. The five major themes that emerged from the data were: (1) impact on self; (2) uncertainty, confusion and sense making; (3) exercise and activity beliefs; (4) behavioural coping strategies and (5) expectations of the future. CONCLUSIONS: These findings offer an insight into the lived experience of individuals with PFP. Previous literature has focused on pain and biomechanics, rather than the individual experience, attached meanings and any wider context within a sociocultural perspective. Our findings suggest that future research is warranted into biopsychosocial targeted interventions aimed at the beliefs and pain-related fear for people with PFP. The current consensus that best-evidence treatments consisting of hip and knee strengthening may not be adequate to address the fears and beliefs identified in the current study. Further qualitative research may be warranted on the impact and interpretation of medical terminology commonly used with this patient group, for example, 'weakness' and 'patellar mal-tracking' and its impact and interpretation by patients.