Jan 25 / Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA /L & Kimberly Breeden, MS, OTR/L, Founding Partners

New Position Statement on Occupational Therapy's Role in Pain Management

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In December of 2021, the American Occupational Therapy Association published the official statement in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy titled “Occupational Therapy’s Role in Pain Management”. Aspire OT founders, Niccole Rowe, BA, COTA and Kimberly Breeden, MS, OTR/L, had the privilege to co-author the document. Now that it is published, Niccole and Kim have taken the opportunity to reflect on the process.

It is hard to believe that this project started in 2018 as a suggestion from an AOTA Volunteer and Leadership Development Committee member. To be honest, initially my first thought was that there were more qualified practitioners to take on the project. The more we thought about that, we realized that our belief that there were more qualified OT practitioners was exactly why Niccole and I should take on this project. We had such respect for the other OT practitioners who were trailblazing and practicing from very different perspectives than our practice, it was important that a position statement would be inclusive and represent the different occupational therapy approaches that could be effectively provided in the treatment of pain. I think what makes this project so valuable is the contributions that Talitha Black MA, OTR/L, SWC, PAM, HTC, Linda Crawford OTR/L, CDWF, Meadow Deason OTD, OTR/L, CEES, Megan Doyle MS, OTR/L, FPS, Cert-APHPT and Michael Pizzi PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA made. Each one of them created an amazing case study that provides useful and practical occupational therapy assessment and treatment interventions for pain management. OT practitioners can take the case studies and apply those strategies straight to practice. It was such an honor to work with such outstanding professionals who also share our belief that occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are uniquely qualified to improve the lives of those who have pain.

In 2019, the US Surgeon General (at the time) discussed how physical therapy is a key player in addressing opioid misuse. Physical therapy has more mentions in federal guidance related to treating pain and opioid prescribing. Yet, the most recognized approach for treating pain today is the biopsychosocial approach that considers the whole individual and the complexity of pain. As we advocated and began to write this paper, Kim and I were seeing how much recognition PT has been (and still is) receiving related to treating pain. A multidisciplinary approach is important, but OT needs a bigger seat at the table than we have now. We ARE biopsychosocial; we were using that approach long before it became recognized for pain. OT practitioners are masters at therapeutic use of self and building the therapeutic alliance that is so important in working with those who face pain on a daily basis or even acute pain from an injury. This paper will help and provide information to help OT practitioners better advocate for our profession's ability to be a leader in pain management because OT should be THE leader in pain management. The paper also helps OT practitioners grow their foundational knowledge of how pain works to better address pain with clients no matter what the practice setting. 

Kim and Niccole both agree that being a part of this project was an amazing experience, and they are both proud to be part of developing a document that provides OT practitioners the ability to grow their foundational knowledge of how pain works to better address pain with clients no matter what the practice setting. Kim and Niccole also hope it will serve to advocate and promote OT's value in treating pain. A marriage of advocacy with OT assessment and treatment to help every day OT practitioners, leaders, and advocates.

To read “Occupational Therapy’s Role in Pain Management”. https://research.aota.org/ajot/article/75/Supplement_3/7513410010/23131/Role-of-Occupational-Therapy-in-Pain-Management

Written by
Niccole Rowe, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Continuing Education Instructor, Coach, Founding Partner

Kimberly Breeden, Occupational Therapist, Continuing Education Instructor, Coach, Founding Partner

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Are you an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant or student just starting to practice in pain management? Are you wondering where to begin to develop an occupational therapy pain management program?   
Aspire OT Coaching is here to help you.  Let Kim and Niccole share their experiences in pain management to help you be successful!