Pain and the field of affordances: An enactive approach to acute and chronic pain

Sabrina Coninx, Peter Stilwell

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In recent years, the societal and personal impacts of pain, and the fact that we still lack an effective method of treatment, has motivated researchers from diverse disciplines to try to think in new ways about pain and its management. In this paper, we aim to develop an enactive approach to pain and the transition to chronicity. Two aspects are central to this project. First, the paper conceptualizes differences between acute and chronic pain, as well as the dynamic process of pain chronification, in terms of changes in the field of affordances. This is, in terms of the possibilities for action perceived by subjects in pain. As such, we aim to do justice to the lived experience of patients as well as the dynamic role of behavioral learning, neural reorganization, and socio-cultural practices in the generation and maintenance of pain. Second, we aim to show in which manners such an enactive approach may contribute to a comprehensive understanding of pain that avoids conceptual and methodological issues of reductionist and fragmented approaches. It proves particularly beneficial as a heuristic in pain therapy addressing the heterogenous yet dynamically intertwined aspects that may contribute to pain and its chronification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7835–7863
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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