Occupational therapists work with individuals and their carers to provide a broad, holistic skill set to pain management that is sensitive to physical, psychological, cognitive, cultural, spiritual, life stage and environmental factors. Interventions can be provided through single discipline services and in multi-disciplinary settings and are focused on decreasing pain states, enabling occupational engagement and problem solving barriers to such engagement.
Occupational therapy interventions are relevant for acute and chronic pain states, and in a range of specialist areas not just confined to pain management, such as palliative care, neurological settings, mental health rehabilitation and occupational rehabilitation services. Interventions are embedded in current evidence based practice and are subject to outcome evaluation with the aim of improved service delivery over time.
Interventions offered by occupational therapists include:
- Neuroscience based Pain Education for the individual and relevant family and relational supports.
- Functional goal setting that is lifespan appropriate and takes into account the person’s developmental stage, family, education and social contexts, and emotional, social, physical and cognitive capacities.
- Creation of therapeutic environments to promote engagement in meaningful tasks.
- Assisting family members/ carers to develop co-regulation strategies that support function. This may also involve the provision of family based group therapy in the paediatric settingAcknowledging the significant impact of pain on parents and siblings and “harnessing” parental input by coaching parents to effectively apply behavioural strategies to support their child’s progress
- Sensory integration/ processing / modulation techniques to assist the individual to selforganise their nervous system in order to optimise occupational performance and adaption. 6. Sensory Re-education. Providing graded sensory input though meaningful daily activities.
Pain Management Special Interest Group
The Pain Management Special Interest Group is open to all OTA members working in or with an interest in pain management.
The group aims to:
- Provide evidence-based professional development activities and research
- Connect and network with other OTs
- Explore the role of occupational therapy in pain management
Websites & Documents:
- IASP Curriculum Outline on Pain for Occupational Therapy
- IASP Pain Treatment Services
- AOTA Clinical Practice Area: Pain management
- AOTA Position Statement: Role of Occupational Therapy in Pain Management (2021)
- Hindawi Pain Research and Management: Occupational Therapy’s Unique Contribution to Chronic Pain Management: A Scoping Review (November 2018)
Studies about the role of OT in Pain Management:
- IASP Pain Research Forum Paper: A Systematic Review of Occupational Therapy-Related Interventions for Pediatric Chronic Pain. (July 2022)
- IASP Pain Research Forum Paper: Patients’ experiences of occupational therapy within a multidisciplinary pain management programme: A qualitative study. (June 2022)
- IASP Pain Research Forum Paper: Effects of using activity diary for goal setting in occupational therapy on reducing pain and improving psychological and physical performance in patients after total knee arthroplasty: A non-randomised controlled study. (June 2019)
National Pain Week 2023 Interview
To celebrate this year's National Pain Week, OTA's Manager of Professional Practice Michelle Oliver sat down with the University of Queensland's Professor Emeritus Jenny Strong and Dr Nicole Andrews to discuss the important, unique role of occupational therapy in chronic pain management.