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Chronic pain and working women in Berkshire County: Towards a critical physical therapy

James R Brennan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Pain is the most frequent cause impairment and disability in the United States. It is estimated that over 97 million Americans are experiencing chronic pain, at a cost of somewhere between 50 and 100 billion dollars a year. The general purpose of this dissertation through qualitative and quantitative methods is to describe and analyze the hegemonic nature of physical therapy practice as an agent of western biomedicine in the treatment of working women with chronic pain using a Critical Medical Anthropological (CMA) lens. Chronic pain will be described, as the data will show, as a complex interaction of biological and socio-cultural factors. The examination and analysis of chronic pain through a CMA lens will provide an analysis and critique, not only western culture but also of Western/Biomedicine serving as a corrective to the biologically reductionist diagnostic and treatment approach that is characteristic of Western/Biomedicine and its agent, physical therapy. It can identify structures and power relations that create pain and foster the progression of acute pain to chronic pain. It can also expand treatment options, opportunities, and choices for patients, as well as allowing rehabilitation (physical therapy) to be more patient empowering (transformative rehabilitation), while examining the larger social/cultural causes and contributors to chronic pain. Lastly, this lens, through the analysis of chronic pain, can help to analyze and deconstruct professional medical hegemony that is characteristic of Western/Biomedicine and physical therapy.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Physical anthropology|Human remains|Forensic osteology

Recommended Citation

Brennan, James R, "Chronic pain and working women in Berkshire County: Towards a critical physical therapy" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242097.