Lived experiences of informal caregivers of people with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a systematic review and meta-ethnography

Toby Smith, Jessica Fletcher, Sarah Lister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: People with chronic pain often seek support from friends and family for everyday tasks. These individuals are termed informal caregivers. There remains uncertainty regarding the lived experiences of these people who care for individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain. The aim of this paper is to synthase the evidence on the lived experiences of informal caregivers providing care to people with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

METHODS: A systematic literature review was undertaken of published and unpublished literature databases including: EMBASE, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PubMed, the WHO International Clinical Trial Registry and registry (to September 2019). Qualitative studies exploring the lived experiences of informal caregivers of people with chronic musculoskeletal pain were included. Data were synthesised using a meta-ethnography approach. Evidence was evaluated using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) qualitative appraisal tool.

RESULTS: From 534 citations, 10 studies were eligible (360 participants: 171 informal caregivers of 189 care recipients). The evidence was moderate quality. Seven themes arose: the relationship of caregivers to healthcare professionals, role reversal with care recipients; acting the confidant to the care recipient; a constant burden in caregiving; legitimising care recipient’s condition; knowledge and skills to provide caregiving; and the perception of other family members and wider-society to the caregiver/care recipient dyad.

CONCLUSIONS: The lived experiences of caregivers of people with chronic musculoskeletal pain is complex and dynamic. There is an inter-connected relationship between caregivers, care recipients and healthcare professionals. Exploring how these experiences can be modified to improve a caregiving dyad’s lived experience is now warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-198
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Pain
Issue number2
Early online date30 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • Caring
  • Chronic pain
  • Support
  • Dyad
  • Qualitative

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