Chronic pain remains an unresolved issue in clinical practice despite the extensive research investigating its behavioural and neural correlates. Evidence demonstrates that chronic pain results in altered representation of the body in the brain. Arguably, this impacts on the perception of the self and its associated processes; namely, interoceptive awareness and body awareness. However, there is minimal research investigating the links between interoceptive awareness, body awareness and chronic pain.
Objectives and method
This case–control study investigated the relationship between chronic pain and interoceptive awareness; and the links between interoceptive awareness and body awareness. A sample of 59 participants comprising of 22 patients with chronic pain and 37 individuals without a history of chronic pain were assessed using a heartbeat monitoring task (HBMT) and the Body Awareness Questionnaire (BAQ). The HBMT was used to measure interoceptive awareness; and the BAQ to measure body awareness. Data from variables regarded as potential confounders, were also collected.
The findings did not reveal a statistical significant difference in interoceptive awareness and body awareness across the groups. Moreover, activities likely to enhance proprioception or mindfulness based practice did not influence interoceptive awareness. Notwithstanding this, a positive trend was identified between body awareness and mindfulness based activities.
Several limitations of this study suggest scope for further research investigating putative changes in interoceptive awareness in the presence of chronic pain and the effect of osteopathic treatment on the perception of the self. The role of mindfulness based activities in the management of chronic pain is also discussed.