Chronic pain disorders are estimated to affect a significant proportion of the global population. These disorders are often debilitating and pose a substantial challenge to the everyday life of those affected. Modern medicine has made great strides in understanding the physiological processes involved in chronic pain. However, chronic pain is more than merely a physiological process. Chronic pain is an embodied mode of being-in-the-world that manifests in multiple aspects of lived experience, from the ability to perform day-to-day tasks to the relationship between body and self. Consequently, it is essential to cultivate a rich appreciation of chronic pain as a lived experience. To rely solely on physiological knowledge in conceptualizing chronic pain precludes the development of such an appreciation. This work examines the ways that phenomenology can be leveraged to broaden the current medical understanding of chronic pain to better incorporate subjective experience. As a rigorous methodology for studying embodied consciousness, phenomenology provides the theoretical and conceptual tools to form a rich description of chronic pain's lived experience. First, a brief history of theories of pain is presented to contextualize the development of modern medical understandings of chronic pain. Following this, the writings of three classical phenomenologists—Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty—are presented, and key phenomenological concepts are introduced. Phenomenology is then used to examine the lived experience of chronic pain. Finally, means of integrating phenomenology into the current medical framework are explored.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Favela, Luis H.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities





Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Philosophy Commons