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Osteoarthritis pain affects the lives of a large number of people around the world. Understanding other people's experience is integral to effective care, and qualitative research can have an important part to play in education and good clinical practice. We aimed to systematically search for, identify, and synthesise qualitative research exploring the experience of living with osteoarthritis to incorporate this knowledge into an educational resource. We comprehensively searched 4 bibliographic databases and used the methods of meta-ethnography to synthesise qualitative research findings. We screened 10,123 titles, 548 abstracts, and 139 full texts. We included findings from 118 reports (105 unique samples) of at least 2534 adults living with osteoarthritis around the world. We developed 7 themes from more than 600 findings: it is part of my life's tapestry; (yet) it is consuming me; it constrains my body and my occupations; I am becoming separated, yet dependent; I accept, but I will not let it define me; and (yet) this makes me feel less than the person I was. Our findings highlight the profound impact that osteoarthritis can have on people's lives and the struggle to hold onto a sense of self. They indicate that recognising these losses, and taking osteoarthritis seriously, is an integral part of effective health care. This finding may be transferable beyond this condition.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





e1169 - e1183


Adult, Humans, Anthropology, Cultural, Qualitative Research, Osteoarthritis, Chronic Pain, Databases, Bibliographic