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Exploring the lived experience and chronic low back pain beliefs of English-speaking Punjabi and white British people: a qualitative study within the NHS
  1. Gurpreet Singh1,2,
  2. Christopher Newton1,
  3. Kieran O’Sullivan3,4,
  4. Andrew Soundy2,
  5. Nicola R Heneghan5
  1. 1 Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Department, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester, UK
  2. 2 School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Department of Clinical Therapies, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  4. 4 Sports Spine Centre, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  5. 5 Centre of Precision Rehabilitation for Spinal Pain, School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicola R Heneghan; n.heneghan{at}


Introduction Disabling chronic low back pain (CLBP) is associated with negative beliefs and behaviours, which are influenced by culture, religion and interactions with healthcare practitioners (HCPs). In the UK, HCPs encounter people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, with South Asian Indians (including Punjabis) forming the largest ethnic minority group. Better understanding of the beliefs and experiences of ethnic minorities with CLBP might inform effective management.

Objectives To explore the CLBP beliefs and experiences of English-speaking Punjabi and white British people living with CLBP, explore how beliefs may influence the lived experience of CLBP and conduct cross-cultural comparisons between the two groups.

Design Qualitative study using semistructured interviews set within an interpretive description framework and thematic analysis.

Setting A National Health Service hospital physiotherapy department, Leicester, UK.

Participants 10 CLBP participants (5 English-speaking Punjabi and 5 white British) purposively recruited from physiotherapy waiting lists.

Results Participants from both groups held negative biomedical CLBP beliefs such as the ‘spine is weak’, experienced unfulfilling interactions with HCPs commonly due to a perceived lack of support and negative psychosocial dimensions of CLBP with most participants catastrophising about their CLBP. Specific findings to Punjabi participants included (1) disruption to cultural-religious well-being, as well as (2) a perceived lack of understanding and empathy regarding their CLBP from the Punjabi community. In contrast to their white British counterparts, Punjabi participants reported initially using passive coping strategies; however, all participants reported a transition towards active coping strategies.

Conclusion CLBP beliefs and experiences, irrespective of ethnicity, were primarily biomedically orientated. However, cross-cultural differences included cultural-religious well-being, the community response to CLBP experienced by Punjabi participants and coping styles. These findings might help inform management of people with CLBP.

  • low back pain
  • lived experiences
  • cultural beliefs

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  • Twitter Follow @gsingh1902, @ChrisNewtonPT, @A_Soundy, @kieranosull @HeneghanNicola.

  • Contributors GS together with CN, KO, AS and NRH were responsible for the conception and design of the study. GS and CN were responsible for data collection. GS was responsible for transcription, leading data analysis and initial drafting of the article. All authors contributed to analysis, interpretation and manuscript development. All authors approved final submitted manuscript.

  • Funding Part funded by National Institute of Health Research

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was obtained from NRES Committee, London – Riverside, Reference Number: 14/LO/0510.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.