University of Oulu

Hyrkäs, E. (2021). Psychosomatic Pain? The Meanings of Musculoskeletal Affliction in Finnish Medicine, ca. 1950–2000, European Journal for the History of Medicine and Health, 78(1), 128-154. doi:

Psychosomatic pain? : the meanings of musculoskeletal affliction in Finnish medicine, ca. 1950–2000

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Author: Hyrkäs, Eve-Riina1
Organizations: 1History of Sciences and Ideas, University of Oulu, Pentti Kaiteran katu 1, 90570 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Brill, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-03-14


In recent decades, pain has received extensive attention from historians. However, the boundary work between organic and psychogenic pain has been less studied. To address the mind–body problem in the history of pain, this article examines how Finnish physicians in the latter half of the twentieth century have applied the psychosomatic framework to three painful conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, chronic backache and fibromyalgia. Through the interrelated case studies, it is argued that the medical discussion on musculoskeletal pain reflected social and economic interests and values that evolved in the course of the twentieth century. The psychogenic illness explanation compelled physicians to step outside the confines of biomedical rationale. Therefore, the descriptions of the ‘mind’ behind the ‘body’ render conspicuous for historians the values, moral norms and social expectations that underlie biomedicine.

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Series: European journal for the history of medicine and health
ISSN: 2666-7703
ISSN-E: 2666-7703
ISSN-L: 2666-7703
Volume: 78
Issue: 1
Pages: 128 - 154
DOI: 10.1163/26667711-bja10004
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Funding: This study has been conducted as a part of the profi-3 (Fibrosis Diseasome) research project and was funded by the Academy of Finland and the University of Oulu.
Copyright information: © Eve-Riina Hyrkäs, 2021. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the cc by 4.0 license.