Pain as a Top-Down Phenomenon: a Bibliography

by Daniel B. Carr, MD, FABPM, FFPMANZCA (Hon.), Director, Pain Research, Education and Policy (PREP) Program, Tufts University School of Medicine

Since its inception in 1999, a single concept has unified PREP’s curriculum and connected its community. This theme is that the study of pain is best accomplished if it is seen as a top-down (i.e., population-based) public health phenomenon as noted in the 2011 IOM Report on Pain.  We are fortunate that PREP has always been situated within the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine and grateful that its Chairs and Deans — Harris Berman and Aviva Must — have shared this view and continually encouraged PREP’s growth.

Advances in pain research and education, particularly as informed by the emerging field of social neuroscience, have made PREP’s vision more and more timely.  Reflecting the broader pain community’s growing awareness of PREP’s distinctive voice, this year I’ve had the privilege of delivering keynote addresses at congresses of the American Pain Society, the Special Interest Group on Pain Education of the International Association for the Study of Pain, and the American Society of Pain Educators’ PAINWeek. The specifics of each talk differed somewhat but all conveyed PREP’s underlying theme.

In response to requests from attendees at these lectures, I have assembled an interim bibliography to allow anyone interested to become better informed about some of the sources that the PREP program draws upon. Reflecting PREP’s interprofessional, eclectic outlook, many are from the humanities and social sciences, complemented by the biomedical literature.  For example, according to the narrator in the novel by Greer, “I do not know what joins the parts of an atom, but it seems what binds one human to another is pain”.

Those who wish to immerse themselves in our curriculum will enroll in a course or one of our certificate or degree programs. Click here to find out more about taking a course.  Following the great success this summer of PREP 233 (End of Life and Palliative Care, directed by Pam Ressler) in a blended onsite-online format, our foundational course PREP 230 is the next of our courses to be offered in this format.  This fall, PREP 230 will begin on September 28.  To reflect exciting advances in the field of pain, we have changed this course’s title from “Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology of Pain” to “Neuroscience of Pain: from Society to Synapse”.  Click here to learn more about this course.  As in earlier years it will be directed by Steve Scrivani, who has consistently earned high praise for his meticulous running of this course. Besides his own lectures, over the years Steve has assembled a core group of dedicated, expert faculty to provide students with an unparalleled learning experience.

Click here to access bibliography.

Add comment September 5th, 2012

Patients are Dissatisfied with Chronic Pain Management

by Pamela Katz Ressler, MS-PREP, RN, HN-BC, adjunct faculty Pain Research, Education and Policy Program, Tufts University School of Medicine and PREP-Aired blog moderator

As has been discussed previously in this blog, the under-treatment of chronic or persistent pain places an enormous burden on individuals, the health care system, the economy and our society.  In June 2011, the Institute of Medicine reported that there are an estimated 116 million individuals in the United states who report chronic pain, at an economic cost of $635 billion per year.   According to a recent article by Matthew Brady in the magazine of the site, Angie’s List, (which reviews numerous categories of service and health care providers;) “health care providers in the pain management category garner negative reviews at twice the average of other Angie’s List categories” Additionally, Angie’s List members reported that their “health care provider didn’t take their problem with pain seriously”.

While reports of patient dissatisfaction with chronic pain management are disturbing, they are understandable when one recognizes the paucity of training most clinicians receive in chronic pain management.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges less than 1 in 4 of the 133 accredited medical schools in the country teach students about chronic pain management and most students receive less than 11 hours of pain management training in their entire 4 years of medical school.

Addressing the systemic lack of comprehensive pain education is a key mission of the Tufts University School of Medicine’s Pain Research, Education and Policy Program (PREP).  The founding director of the PREP program, Dr. Dan Carr, states that the high level of dissatisfaction and complaints among patients seeking effective chronic pain management may reflect the traditional training of clinicians to focus only on objective measures and procedures to alleviate pain, without regard to the social and psychological aspects of persistent pain. “There is an enormous social component to pain,” states Dr. Carr. “Patients will be more satisfied if they feel they have been cared for. That has more to do with their satisfaction with pain control than the actual intensity of their pain.”

While there are no easy answers to chronic pain management; patients, clinicians, educators and health care stakeholders all agree that our current approach to pain management is inadequate and needs to be addressed as we prepare to meet the increasing health needs of an aging baby-boomer population.

What are your thoughts on how we can create a more comprehensive model of chronic pain management?

Add comment December 8th, 2011

Institute of Medicine Releases Report on the State of Pain Care in the United States

by Pamela Katz Ressler, MS-PREP, RN, HN-BC, Adjunct Faculty, PREP-Aired blog moderator and administrator, Pain Research Education and Policy Program, Tufts University School of Medicine

On June 29, 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report addressing the issue of pain in the United States and called for “a cultural transformation in the way pain is viewed and treated” (IOM report p. 3).   The 313-page report entitled: Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research, examines the enormity of the burden of pain from many measures.  Chronic pain affects at least 116 million U.S. adults and the financial cost of pain to society, measured in 2010 dollars, is estimated to range between $560 and $635 billion annually.  In comparing these staggering numbers to other chronic diseases, the cost of pain is greater than the cost of heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. 

The authors of the IOM report base their recommendations for change and transformation of pain on nine underlying principles:

  • A moral imperitive
  • Chronic pain can be a disease in itself
  • Value of comprehensive treatment
  • Need for interdisciplinary approaches
  • Importance of prevention
  • Wider use of existing knowledge
  • Conundrum of opioids
  • Roles of patients and clinicians
  • Value of a public health and community-based approach

The IOM report highlights the importance of education in the multidisciplinary nature of pain issues and includes it as a key action item in the proposed blueprint for transformation of pain in our society.  On the topic of professional education IOM report recommends:

  • Expansion and redesign of education programs to transform the understanding of pain
  • Improving the curriculum and education for health care professionals around the issue of pain
  • Increasing the number of health professionals with advanced expertise in pain care

We, at the Tufts Pain Research Education and Policy program (PREP), applaud the IOM for increasing awareness of the enormous burden of pain in our society by issuing the report: “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research“.   We are also extremely proud that the Tufts PREP program has been providing the type of  comprehensive pain curriculum proposed by the IOM report for over a decade, since 1999, and remains the first and only multidisciplinary postgraduate  program of its kind in the United States.

Your comments and thoughts on the IOM report are welcome;  please click here to read a full, unabridged online version of “Relieving Pain in America: A blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research”.

Add comment July 5th, 2011


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