For the estimated 100 million Americans living with chronic pain, relief may just be a mouse click away. A new study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that patients who blog about their condition had a better sense of usefulness and a decreased sense of isolation.
Using an online questionnaire, researchers examined the perceived psychosocial and health benefits of blogging among patients who used the internet to communicate their experience of chronic pain or illness.
Nearly 82% of the 230 people who completed the survey were women. Approximately nine out of ten had public blogs that were searchable and most of the bloggers used their real names.
“Chronic pain and illness may have an isolating effect on individuals, changing their perceived roles in society and challenging their ability to find meaning in life and their illness,“ wrote study author Pamela Katz Ressler of the Tufts University School of Medicine. “Creating connections between the world of the sick and world of the well can be important in the positive psychosocial functioning of individuals.”
Among the findings, patients reported that initiating and maintaining an illness blog resulted in increased connection with others, and provided an opportunity to tell their illness story.
Blogging also promoted accountability to self and to others, along with creating opportunities to find meaning and gain insights from the experience of illness, which in turn, nurtured a sense of purpose and understanding.
Although close to 90 percent of the bloggers said they shared their posts with friends and family members, less than half did the same with their healthcare providers. The main reason was concern about negative physician feedback and an anticipated lack of interest. Others were nervous about doctors judging them on their feelings and actions. Some were also worried about posting negative opinions about their treatment that doctors would see.
The motivation to start a blog clustered around three main themes: reflection, communication, and connection with others.
“The initial use of a blog as a communication device for updating friends and family about a medical condition often evolved to helping educate others with the same disease or transitioning into a method of advocacy, mentorship, support, connection, and resolution with self and others,” Ressler wrote.
The study noted that among its limitations, the survey sample was small and resulted in a narrow demographic of self-selected, highly educated, English speakers who were predominantly women.
“As we have moved forward with medical advances supporting the ability to live longer, the numbers of people living with chronic disease and pain have increased,” said Ressler. “Improving the quality of life for people with chronic disease and pain requires greater recognition of not only the physical manifestations of pain and disease, but also their psychosocial manifestations.”
“Perhaps the process of communicating the experience of chronic illness and pain through blogging may be one method to assist in moving toward a more complete, holistic model of health and healing by allowing individuals with chronic illness and pain to regain a place in the world.”