Understanding Pain through the Lens of Merleau-Pontian Phenomenology: How it Applies to Prehabilitation and Rehabilitation

Student Author(s)

Byoungjoon Jang

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Chad Carlson

Document Type


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Pain plays an enlightening role in the process of rehabilitation. Phenomenological views of pain strive to contextualize the effect and experience of pain on the individual. Pain is a fundamental part of an individual's experience that represents limitations of oneself. A 20th-century continental philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty provides a framework of phenomenology that current physical therapists, nurses, and even neuroscientists utilize to comprehend pain. Previous articles and studies have demonstrated the importance of understanding pain as a phenomenon that affects one's perception of reality rather than a glitch or breakdown of the body. In this project, I will apply Merleau-Pontian phenomenology to our understanding of pain. In doing so, I will show that characteristics of pain in prehabilitation movement settings can enhance physical therapy and rehabilitation practices. CrossFit presents a unique training model that embodies pain with variance and togetherness from which the field of physical therapy can learn and adopt. The element of variance—being exposed to non-repetitive set of exercises—and togetherness—exercising with others—equips patients and therapists with the ability to address pain.

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