Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Carla Wilhite


Chronic Disease -- therapy; Occupational Therapy -- trends; Pain Management


Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore occupational therapy’s approach in treating individuals with chronic pain. More specifically, to evaluate occupational therapy’s role in current practices including assessments, models of practice, modalities, and competencies.

Methodology: Following IRB approval, a purposive sampling method was used to gain a sufficient number of participants to complete an online survey. Inclusion criteria for participants in this study included occupational therapists currently working in an outpatient setting, current members of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and practicing within the states of Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, and Nebraska. Subjects were requested through a postcard notice to complete an online survey regarding the treatment of individuals with chronic pain. Survey questions pertained to 1) types of evaluations, 2) models of practice, 3) effectiveness of modalities, 4) collaboration approaches with other professionals, 5) primary sources of accessing information, and 6) number of workshops/continuing education sessions regarding chronic pain taken within the past three years.

Results: Thirty-five surveys were completed and submitted for an 8.8% rate of response. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the sample demographics which included years of practice and average number of clients with chronic pain treated per week. A majority of the overall sample (54.28%) report having been in practice for 1-10 years. Twenty-three participants (65.71%) treat an average of 1-2 clients per week with a primary diagnosis of chronic pain. A tabulated proportion was used to correlate “competent” practitioners with the following variables: 83.3% use subjective client reports for primary methods of client evaluation; 76.67% use the Rehabilitative model; 60% rate massage as the most effective modality to treat chronic pain; 66.67% work collaboratively with other professionals more than 50% of the time; 73.33% do not refer clients to other pain specialists; 73.33% use research journals or medical websites as primary sources of education; and 53.33% have not attended any continuing education workshops regarding chronic pain within the past three years.

Summary: A low rate of response limited the researchers’ ability to indicate significant findings associated with the study’s variables. However, the results from this study indicated the need for more critical analysis of its contents. Results suggested that occupational therapists in outpatient settings are not largely utilizing occupation-based evaluations and models of practice when treating individuals with chronic pain. Furthermore, participants demonstrated a reliance on collaboration with other peers, research journals, and medical websites versus formal education sessions when attaining chronic pain knowledge. Implications of this approach may negatively influence occupational therapy’s ability to maintain true to the foundational perspectives unique to the profession. Results of this study demonstrate the need for future research to deeply investigate the factors associated with effective occupational therapy treatments for clients with chronic pain.