Purpose: Essential pain education produces graduates who are competent in contemporary pain management. Despite various educational resources, surveys demonstrate minimal pain content in entry-level physical therapist education programs. This paper examines 1) the learning content of pain education and faculty expertise teaching core pain content, 2) whether pain education content is sufficient to prepare physical therapists to meet the needs of contemporary pain management, and 3) whether standardization of pain education in entry level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs is advantageous. Methods: A pain education survey was developed and sent to all accredited DPT program directors in New York State. The survey included questions related to content and hours devoted to teaching 1) pain science, 2) pain education, 3) psychosocial factors, 4) biopsychosocial model, 5) cognitive-behavioral techniques, 6) advanced faculty training, and 7) challenges adding pain education to the curriculum. Results: In total, 10/15 programs responded. (1) 60% reported they do not have a class dedicated to pain science, (2) 60% reported < 10 hours of pain education (3) 60% reported a class on psychosocial factors, (4) 50% reported < 10 hours on the biopsychosocial model, (5) cognitive- behavioral techniques varied between 10-30 hours, (6) 70% of faculty received advanced training, and (7) challenges to adding pain education included time, a dense curriculum, and pain content is not part of NPTE exam questions. Conclusions and Recommendations: New York State accredited DPT programs include pain education, although content, time, and methods vary greatly. Increased standardization for pain education would create consistency across all U.S. DPT programs. Based on the findings from the study, an investigation should be undertaken to determine if more specific standards for pain education are advantageous for the entry level DPT curricula.
Joe Tatta, PT, DPT is the founder of the Integrative Pain Science Institute, a cutting-edge health company reinventing pain care through evidence-based treatment, research, and professional development. His research and career achievements include scalable practice models centered on health behavior change, integrative medicine, and methods that empower physical therapists to serve at the top of their scope of practice as primary providers of healthcare. He is a speaker, author, hosts a podcast, adjunct professor, and guest lecturer in many DPT programs.
Marcia Spoto, PT, DC is Professor Emerita at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. She received a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from Daemen College in Amherst, New York and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College in Davenport, Iowa. She is certified as an Orthopedic Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Dr. Spoto has over 35 years of clinical experience, with a practice focus in spine care. Her teaching responsibilities were in the areas of musculoskeletal management and differential diagnosis. She is the owner of STAR Physical Therapy in Fairport, NY. She currently serves on the American Physical Therapy Association Orthopaedic Practice Committee and is co-chair of the New York Physical Therapy Association Public Policy Committee. She is a consultant for Excellus Blue Cross & Blue Shield, and is a member of the faculty of the Excellus BC & BS Spine Care Pathway program. She also serves as a member of the greater Rochester’s Community Principles of Pain Management advisory board.
Joe Lorenzetti, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, FAAOMPT, Cert. MDT, MTC, graduated from D’Youville College in 2004 with his Master’s degree in physical therapy. In 2010, he completed his Doctorate in physical therapy through the University of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida. Joe also earned his Manual Therapy Certification through the same University. He is also certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT). He finished the Orthopedic Manual Physical Fellowship offered by Daemen College in 2014. He most recently completed the orthopedic clinical specialist examination through the American Physical therapy Association. Joe serves as a Fellowship mentor for the McKenzie Institute and Daemen College. He is also an adjunct instructor for both the Bryant & Stratton College Physical Therapy Assistant program and the Daemen College Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy program. He is the Clinical Specialist for the spine program at Catholic Health System in Buffalo, NY.
Tatta J, Spoto M, Lorenzetti J. Pain Education Training in New York State Physical Therapy Programs: What We Do Well, Where the Gaps Are, and What Can Be Improved. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice.
2022 Jun 29;20(3), Article 5.