• Biomedicine and pain
  • Arnaudo, Elisa <1985>


  • M-FIL/02 Logica e filosofia della scienza


  • The focus of my research is on contemporary biomedical construction of pain as an object, i.e. the different ways in which pain has been conceptualized and approached as a specific site of investigation in biomedicine. A significant shift in the scientific conception of pain occured in the second half of XXth century. In 1965, Ronald Melzack and Patrick D. Wall propose the Gate Control theory of pain mechanism. This theory denies a fixed and direct relationship between stimulus and pain perception, and emphazises the role played by psychological factors in pain. The IASP utilizes this perspective on the phenomenon, describing pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated to an actual or potential tissue damage or described in the terms of such a damage.” The relationship between pain and damage is pivotal in the definition of pain as a pathological entity. In particular, the biomedical approach to pain appears to be strongly characterized by a dualistic view of its aetiology. Disease conceptions such as “psychogenic pain” and chronic pain are deeply influenced by the ways in which psychological factors have been interpreted as components, or as causes of pain. In the second part of my dissertation, I focus on fibromyalgia, which is emblematic of the problematic acknowledgment of chronic pain as a disease. Even if fibromyalgia is actually treated in Rheumatology, its status as a disease is blurred, mainly because of its complex symptomatology including both physiological manifestations and psychological ones. In the conclusion, I present a scenario of the different ways in which this disease is dealt with in biomedical knowledge, through medical literature, clinical practice, and patients’ accounts. The findings of an ethnographic enquiry in the Rheumatology Division of a local clinic and a visual research on patients’ experiences are analyzed and discussed.


  • 2013-05-03


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Arnaudo, Elisa (2013) Biomedicine and pain, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Science, technology, and humanities , 25 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/5876.