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Steffan Wittrup McPhee Christensen, Ph.d., M.Phty, B.Pt

Associate Professor


Aalborg University & University College of Northern Denmark

Member Since




What do you think is the next big “hot topic” in the pain field?
This is a tough question as there are so many fields of research and new frontiers developing all the time with regard to both understanding and managing pain. If I had to take a guess, based on where the professional field is challenged (and thereby also where the field is moving), it is to understand why two people with the same diagnosis and comparable demographics do not respond similarly to the same intervention. This highlights the ongoing focus and relevance of personalized medicine.

Specifically, I am very interested in some of the more recent research combining physical therapy treatments, such as exercise, with psychological interventions, where the focus is on thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes related to pain. Some of the work that Michele Sterling, Lorimer Moseley, and Peter O´Sullivan have done in this field has really been eye-opening with regard to the importance of addressing cognitive and emotional processes, pain behaviour, and problem-solving skills when working with people with persistent pain. 

What has been your biggest professional challenge/obstacle thus far, and how did you handle it/overcome it?
In research, it is easy to get lost in the details of studying even the smallest of changes due to pain in a laboratory setting with a carefully selected patient group. However, this may cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture. For this reason, I feel that my research questions need to be relevant for the next person who comes in the door in clinical practice. To keep my focus when developing new ideas for my research projects, I draw on my experience from clinical practice where I see people with both acute and persistent pain. I continuously ask myself, “What don’t we know, and/or how can I optimize my management strategy in order to provide the best solution for those in pain?” 

Who inspired you?
I got into physiotherapy to help people but never considered that one day I would be doing research as well. During my Masters degree I was so lucky to have Emeritus Professor Gwendolen Jull as a teacher. Hearing her explain symptoms and management strategies for patients she had seen in clinical practice, based on findings from her own research, was just so inspiring. In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to do a PhD after I expressed my interest in research.

Why did you become an IASP member?/Why are you an IASP member?
I initially joined IASP when I was submitting an abstract for World Conference in 2014. It wasn’t until after I joined, however, that I really understood all the work that IASP was doing with regards to supporting research, dissemination of knowledge, and education within the area of pain.

What is your favorite member benefit?
I really appreciate the free online content such as webinars and podcasts. Research becomes so much more accessible when it is possible to listen to experts in their specific fields explain their research in an easily understandable way.

Do you have a favorite account to follow on social media—for science or other topics?
On twitter I follow many different accounts. In the science area, beside @IASPpain, I follow a number of accounts focusing on different aspects of pain and science in general. If  I had to single out some specific ones, it would be in the area of spinal pain where I follow researchers such as @MicheleSterlin7, @Deb_Falla, @paulwhodges, and @PeteOSullivanPT, just to mention a few. 

In the off-topic area, I follow @PHDcomics and @AcademicsSay which often have some hilarious posts on some of the absurdities of the academic world which may seem very strange to outsiders.  

What is the last book you read for fun?
“Are You Curious, Curious George?” which I am currently reading with my 1-year-old daughter. And to answer the question, yes, Curious George, is very curious.

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