Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Anne M. Haskins


Chronic Pain -- therapy; Musculoskeletal Pain -- therapy


Problem: Chronic musculoskeletal pain is the most widely known disability in the American health care system (National Institute of Health [NIH], 2010). Chronic pain affects how individuals are able to engage in meaningful activities of daily life. Unrelieved pain can potentially result in longer hospital visits, emotional distress, and increased re-admission rates to hospitals (The American Academy of Pain Medicine, 2012). A review of research in the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) database revealed that few clinically useful references were available for practitioners regarding interventions used with chronic musculoskeletal pain (AOTA, 2014). As a result, it was determined that effective chronic pain management interventions should be further reviewed and analyzed through a systematic review.

Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to identify and investigate commonly used allied health interventions utilized with individuals who are experiencing chronic musculoskeletal pain and assess the utility of those interventions.

Methods: An extensive, systematic review of quantitative research was completed using PubMed because of its broad collection of health sciences literature. We selected particular inclusion and exclusion criteria aimed to identify high quality and rigorous evidence regarding preparatory, purposeful, and occupation-based interventions used in occupational therapy and allied health professions in the treatment of individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Specific research processes and analysis were used to develop an organizational framework of the treatment interventions in the reviewed literature regarding chronic musculoskeletal pain management.

Results: This systematic review yielded evidence that pointed to a diverse set of literature that varied in topic and rigor. While it does represent the “best” evidence available, the review showed a severe lack of high quality, replicated, and clinically useful occupation-based treatment interventions. Despite the absence of consistency in research topics, the review did reveal that programs that required a specified amount of time to be completed by subjects (and included an educational component regarding pain self-management) and consistent and frequent meetings with a designated health care professional provided better outcomes for clients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Conclusion: Despite the high numbers of individuals in the U.S. who experience chronic musculoskeletal pain, there is a dearth of research regarding clinically useful, occupation-based interventions for these individuals’ health care needs. There is a need for research focusing on the utilization of purposeful and occupation-based interventions addressing chronic musculoskeletal pain. The lack of research, highlighted in this systematic review, limits occupational therapy practitioners’ ability to prescribe effective, occupation, and evidence-based interventions for clients with chronic musculoskeletal pain in clinical practice.