The concept of bodily doubt is introduced to reconceive pain-related behavior.

a commentary by a group of well respected authors

Chronic pain can lead to disability, depression, loss of social identity, comorbidity, and premature death. Treatments aim to relieve symptoms and prevent disability by helping people self-manage. A patient-centered approach requires clinicians to understand the lived experiences of patients and address these experiences meaningfully. The concept of ‘pain-related bodily doubt’, developed by philosopher Havi Carel, can provide novel ways of understanding chronic and disabling aspects of pain. Pain researchers acknowledge that current concepts may present an overly simplistic picture of how people experience and respond to pain.

Bodily doubt is a complex experience that involves three core dimensions: loss of continuity, loss of bodily transparency, and loss of faith in one’s body. It is not only an explicit belief but also a tacit dimension of experience that shapes the implicit sense of what our body is capable of in any given situation. This understanding can help us better understand the motivations behind pain-related behaviors.

Concepts like pain-related fear and pain catastrophizing are typically maladaptive beliefs or emotions, while bodily doubt can be adaptive or maladaptive depending on one’s situation and circumstance. Pain-related self-efficacy is similar to bodily doubt but differs in important respects. Self-efficacy typically refers to explicit beliefs about one’s ability to perform an activity or cope with pain, while bodily certainty and doubt highlight a dynamic movement between implicit and explicit dimensions of experience.

Incorporating a new concept that specifically captures this dimension of experience may be beneficial for both research and clinical practice. Conceptual models have been unable to adequately capture the full lived experience of chronic pain, which limits our ability to understand and treat it. A new concept of ‘pain-related bodily doubt’ may complement current concepts and models, but further conceptual development and testing are needed. This concept should provide clinicians with a better understanding of how people experience their bodies and environments when living with chronic pain, and patients with a concept for effectively communicating their experiences with their clinicians.1

Dynamic Disc Designs

At ddd, we look forward to the research and hope our models help reduce bodily doubt and empower patients through effective anatomical education.