It’s not just physical: a qualitative study regarding the illness experiences of people with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

Minne Bakker, Karen Schipper, Alexander C. Geurts, Tineke A. Abma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Little is known about the illness experiences of people with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD). The aim of this study was to provide insight into the illness experiences of people with FSHD in order to tailor rehabilitation programs to individual needs and expectations. Methods: Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with people with FSHD. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and member checked. Computerized (MAXqda) and manual techniques were used for thematic data analysis. Results: Intra- as well as extra-individual aspects play a role in the illness experiences of people with FSHD. Integrating the consequences of the diagnosis and symptoms, coping with heredity and progenity, adjusting to a decreasing independence, and the accompanying changing relationship with one’s partner, are mentioned as intra-individual aspects. As extra-individual factors are the responses of the social environment, which was mentioned as well as used assistive devices, and maintaining or giving up work. Conclusions: Better understanding of the individual illness experiences, cognitions, and social context of people with FSHD can give health professionals tools to improve their care and give researchers direction for future studies to evaluate healthcare improvements from a holistic, patient-centred perspective.Implications for Rehabilitation FSHD has a major impact on people’s lives. Besides the physical consequences, issues such as heredity, progenity, changing (intimate) relationships, social interactions and work should be addressed by rehabilitation professionals. Dependent on the timing of the diagnosis (early or later in life) people with FSHD could, in addition to medical consultation and physical therapy, profit from support by a social worker, occupational therapist and/or genetic Counselor for the above-mentioned themes to be addressed more extensively. It is relevant for rehabilitation professionals to become familiar with the personal characteristics and social circumstances of the patient before communicating the diagnosis and prognosis in order to individually tailor the content of the communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-986
Number of pages9
JournalDisability and rehabilitation
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2017


  • Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy
  • illness experiences
  • patient perspective
  • qualitative research
  • social context

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