Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Occupational therapy practitioners address pain management across settings, populations, and the lifespan. Occupational therapy practitioners offer unique contributions to pain management through biopsychosocial approaches, targeting supported self-management and occupational engagement. Comprehensive pain education is necessary to prepare entry-level occupational therapy practitioners to address pain in practice, yet no standards exist in entry-level occupational therapy education. This survey describes the status of pain-related education in entry-level occupational therapy programs across the United States. A total of 41 entry-level occupational therapy programs completed the survey. Total instructional time for pain content was reported to be an average of 9.68 hours, ranging from 1 to 30 hours, indicating significant variability. Average lecture (4.88 hours) and lab-based (5.05 hours) time devoted to pain content were similar. More time was devoted to teaching pain interventions (4.91 hours) than pain assessments (2.82 hours). Most programs integrated pain content throughout the curriculum (73%). One program utilized a standardized pain curriculum (International Association for the Study of Pain Occupational Therapy Curriculum). Open-ended questions revealed a breadth of evidence-based resources, pain assessments, and interventions covering all domains of the biopsychosocial model of pain. The majority of faculty (61%) felt their current amount of pain education was insufficient, citing the need for increased time and educational activities for pain education across all program years. Given the essential and unique role of occupational therapy practitioners in pain management, improving pain education and practitioner competence is an important consideration across entry-level occupational therapy education. Further discussion is needed regarding educational standards and entry-level occupational therapy curricula relating to pain management.


John V. Rider, PhD, MS, OTR/L, MSCS, CEAS is an Associate Professor in the School of Occupational Therapy at Touro University Nevada. He is passionate about chronic pain management and has published and presented on pain-related topics. He is a certified Empowered Relief™ instructor from Stanford University and specializes in chronic disease management in clinical practice.

Vicki Khau, BS, OTD-S is an occupational therapy doctoral student at Touro University Nevada. She graduated with a BS in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from the University of California, Davis. She is currently completing her capstone year and serving as a graduate research assistant.

Kristin Valdes OTD, OTR, CHT was previously the owner of Hand Works Therapy in Sarasota, Florida. Currently, she is a full professor at Touro University in Henderson, Nevada. Her clinical expertise includes treatment of the hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder; splinting; and arthritis.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.