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Reclaiming Embodiment in Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms (MUPS)*

‘One of the biggest challenges faced by people who have chronic illnesses is that of being believed. Of being listened to by professionals, and finding people who understand that conditions like fi bromyalgia, M.E. [myalgic encephalomyelitis] and so on are real, physical illnesses.’

This heartfelt cry stems from Emsy’s Internet blog on medically unexplained physical symptoms (MUPS).1 If you browse the Internet, you will soon discover that there are many people like Emsy: people who (chronically) suffer from bodily pain or fatigue, while their suffering is not recognized as a ‘real, physical illness.’ Since MUPS can imply any kind of physical distress, it rather involves a general ‘working diagnosis’ than a specific diagnosis (Olde Hartman et al. 2013). Examples of MUPS include chronic fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, headache, stomachache, nausea, palpitations, and dizziness. 

Figures about estimated prevalence of MUPS are widely divergent, depending on different types of MUPS and different medical disciplines. It is estimated that for about 40 percent of physical complaints that are presented to a general practitioner no specific cause can be found (Steinbrecher, Koerber, Frieser, and Hiller 2011). Even though a large number of unexplained complaints disappear automatically or can be easily treated by some household remedy, chronic MUPS form a major challenge for contemporary health care. Since MUPS are hard to treat, the majority of patients are major ‘consumers’of medical care, which causes a considerable economic burden for society (Konnopka et al. 2012). On the individual level, MUPS often involve poor communication between therapists and patients, which, on the one hand, causes feelings of misrecognition and stigmatization in patients, and on the other, feelings of being powerless in therapists and physicians.

Jenny Slatman

Lees verder op p. 79 van nummer 74-75 van Waardenwerk. Nog geen abonnee? Klik hier.








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