The statistics on chronic pain in the United States are staggering. In 2016, an estimated 20.4 percent of U.S. adults had chronic pain and 8 percent of U.S. adults had high-impact chronic pain.
Chronic pain is any pain that lasts for more than three months. High-impact chronic pain is chronic pain that interferes with the activities of daily life (ADL), including work, recreation, and social activities. Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care. It has been linked to the following:
- Restrictions in mobility and ADL
- Opioid dependence and addiction
- Anxiety and depression
- Reduced quality of life
In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Chronic pain contributes an estimated $560 billion each year in direct medical costs, lost productivity, and disability programs.”
PT for Pain Management
A recent survey from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) attempted to determine if current physical therapy (PT) students were receiving adequate education about managing pain through PT. While it appears that more PT programs are addressing the need for pain education and pain management, education in this area can still be improved.
Among the findings of the survey:
- Programs spent an average of 31 hours on pain education, but this ranged from five to 115 hours. The most-frequent amount of time cited was 10 hours.
- Only 6 percent (11 programs of 167 respondents) have an independent course on pain. Most programs reported that content was integrated in regular courses.
- The most time was devoted to interventions and therapy, followed by the science of pain, and finally assessment.
- Only 6 in 10 respondents felt their programs offered adequate instruction in pain education and pain management (63 percent); 69 percent felt their programs were not sufficiently offering education in pain across the lifespan.
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) has the mission to study pain with healthcare providers, scientists, and policymakers, and to translate that knowledge to improved pain relief worldwide. As part of this mission, the IASP has created a Curriculum Outline on Pain for Physical Therapy.
“IASP is reorienting all curricula towards competency-based education because educational goals…. are important for achieving the long-term objective of improving the delivery of pain care.” Competency-based education, in contrast to knowledge-based education, focuses on what learners should be able to do, not simply what they know.
Simulation in Physical Therapy Education
One solution to improving competency-based education, of course, is simulation. A recent article in Physiotherapy Canada assessed the use of simulation learning experiences (SLEs) in physical therapy curricula. The authors reviewed literature on SLEs to determine their potential to have a positive impact on PT learners’ skills. According to this literature review:
- Students learn specific skills when simulators that provide specific feedback are used.
- Computer simulations are effective to augment learning experiences.
- Evidence exists to support simulation learning environments replacing a portion of a full-time clinical rotation without learning being impaired.
- Not only do students report liking human simulation experiences (especially managing acute patient care in an ICU setting), but these experiences mitigate anxiety and boost confidence.
Keep a physical therapy program competitive and increase student engagement with the latest educational tools and technology, including simulation solutions from PTEd™ from Pocket Nurse®.