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Utilization of Occupational Therapy in the Treatment of Patients Suffering from Chronic Pain

1 January 2011


Chronic pain significantly impacts an individual’s ability to function and participate in their daily occupations. Research is limited to pain reduction techniques, self-management, pacing, cognitive and educational strategies and rarely addresses the consequences of diminished function.

The research reviewed for this critical appraisal further emphasises the lack of adequate evidence for current interventions that occupational therapists can utilize. Robinson et al, (2011) addressed not only the lack of evidence for occupation-based interventions, but also the need for occupational therapists to provide treatment to this client population. Occupational therapy has the potential to fill the gaps of research for effective interventions and further provide functional and client-centered treatment options for this growing client population.

What effective interventions can Occupational Therapists utilize to treat patients suffering from chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a debilitating and frustrating condition that impacts all elements of a person’s life. When considering treatment for chronic pain, the common practice is to treat the underlying conditions for example, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or musculoskeletal pain. However, it is important to remember that pain impedes function. Current research attempts to provide information for possible effective treatment options for patients suffering from chronic pain, unfortunately many of the current studies do not present consistent efficacy for effectiveness. Even more discouraging is the rarity that those interventions are occupation-based. Occupational therapy scope of practice aims at increasing an individual’s ability to function within their lives. It seems necessary that occupational therapists should be able to provide services to this client population and address the impact of chronic pain on daily activities of living.

The field of occupational therapy has a potential to not only provide adequate treatment to this client population, but also to increase research on effective treatment options available using many of the occupational therapy approaches. The aim of this research was to seek out information on current effective interventions for treating chronic pain and justify the need for occupational therapy services.


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