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The development of the Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division



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The Pain Science Division (PSD) of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) was founded in 2008, through the dedicated work of a small group of Canadian PTs. Diane Jacobs brought Dave Walton, Nick Matheson, Sebastian Asselbergs, Eric Matheson and me together, initially forming the Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Group(CPPSG). In 2005 we approached the CPA, requesting to become one of its divisions. There was considerable resistance and before we had a chance to submit a formal proposal, the CPA declared a temporary moratorium on accepting new divisions. We had met with little acknowledgement that pain science was important or missing in PT. The influential people at that time probably hoped we would go away, or as one of them suggested, “…figure out that when a person in pain wasn’t getting better, we just needed to do a better mechanical assessment”.

We decided to become influential outside of CPA, continuing as the CPPSG. Between 2005 and 2008, our group started an online newsletter, reviewing new pain science research, discussing and explaining the role of physiotherapy in pain management, and gently challenging PT paradigms. These newsletters became popular, and we gained some influence and understanding from a larger group of Canadian PTs.

In 2007, our group decided it was time to convince CPA that we should be a recognized division. By then, the work of Lorimer Moseley and David Butler had started to infiltrate more of Canadian PT practice, and there had been a shift in the influential people in CPA. We had changed too, realizing that we needed to present a slick professional proposal, with statistics in order to be accepted. Thanks to the work of Diane Jacobs, Debbie Patterson, Lesley Norris, Dave Walton, Mike Sangster and I, our proposal was not only accepted but considered by the CPA CEO as the gold standard for future division proposals.

Our work since 2008…

  • A newsletter, between 4-6 times per year.
  • A successful online basic pain science and pain management course, called the Virtual Pain Symposium.
  • 2-3 educational teleconferences each year for CPA members.
  • An open access online directory of Canadian PTs interested in pain science and pain management.
  • Developing an online repository of assessment tools for PT pain management and research.
  • Our membership is just less than 10% of Canadian PTs.
  • Creating working relationships with the Canadian Pain Society (CPS).
  • Elected a new Chair – Dave Walton, PT, PhD, and Newsletter editor – Susan Tupper, PT, PhD.

At this time, the PSD has a number of goals – increase our membership, increase PT post-grad pain science and pain management education and resources, and enhance our position within external groups such as the CPS. To succeed at the latter we need to continue collaboration with key members of the CPS, continue presenting research and education symposia at the annual CPS conference, and continue convincing the Canadian PTs and CPA that pain is an important PT health care issue. The 2012 Canadian Pain Summit, and call for a National Pain Strategy is ideally suited to help us position Canadian PTs as leaders in pain management in the eyes of the public and government. The CPA and PSD are working hard in this regard. More info on the Summit and www.canadianpainsummit2012.ca .

After stepping down as PSD, I stepped up my work with other pain groups. I am now a board member of Pain BC – a non-profit aimed at improving pain care in our province. I accepted a position on the executive committee of the Canadian Pain Summit as the only non-MD health professional. I contribute to the Canadian Pain Coalition’s newsletter (our key patient advocacy group) writing their “Ask a PT” column. And I continue working with the Arthritis Association and our local hospitals providing public pain education sessions across the country. Thanks to much of this work, the Canadian Pain Society is awarding me their Excellence in Interprofessional Pain Education Award in 2012. The ceremony is in Whistler. Seems like a few people from Australia like it there, so come join the fun.

About Neil Pearson

Prof Neil Pearson UBCNeil Pearson is a Clinical Assistant Professor at University of British Columbia, a physiotherapist and yoga therapist. He is a contributor to the Interprofessional Pain Education courses at UBC, a Board member of Pain BC, and actively involved with the Canadian Pain Society (CPS) and the Canadian Pain Coalition. Neil is founding Chair of the Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division. He works exclusively with people with complex pain problems, through physiotherapy and therapeutic yoga in Penticton BC. He also provides therapeutic yoga retreats for people with chronic pain, and will offer his advanced training modules to assist yoga teachers and yoga therapists in their understanding of pain and their work with people in pain, late in 2012.

Neil has developed a number of pain education and pain management resources – DVD, CDs and a book. The Educational Webcasts, linked from www.lifeisnow.ca , are an excellent way to provide detailed patient pain education. His patient education book is a simple ten section booklet that is both cost-effective and easy to use clinically. Also on his website, the transcripts of breathing and body awareness techniques allow people in pain to record their own audio files that will guide them in pain self-management techniques.

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