Pain knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of doctor of physical therapy students: changes across the curriculum and the role of an elective pain science course.

Affiliation

Wassinger CA(1).
Author information:
(1)Department of Physical Therapy, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN, USA.

Abstract

Introduction: Entry-level physical therapist education on pain has been described as lacking. Calls have been made to include pain science courses to address this knowledge gap.Methods: Physical therapist students' pain knowledge and attitudes were measured using the revised Neurophysiology of Pain Questionnaire (rNPQ) and Pain Attitudes and Beliefs Scale for Physical Therapists (PABS-PT), respectively. Univariate ANOVAs, with post hoc pairwise comparison and effect sizes, were used to measure these aspects over time.Results: Pain knowledge and clinician beliefs were significantly different (p < 0.001) at various curricular timepoints. rNPQ scores increased from 1st to 2nd year (effect size: 1.10), remained similar between years 2 and 3, and improved following the pain course (effect size: 1.25). Biomedical beliefs were similar during years 1, 2 and 3, and declined following the pain course (effect size: 1.56). Conversely, psychosocial belief scores increased from 1st to 2nd year (effect size: 0.82), remained similar between years 2 and 3, and increased following the pain course (effect size: 1.08).Discussion/Conclusions: Physical therapist education, without a dedicated pain science course, may be insufficiently preparing students to treat patients in pain. Educators should consider adopting a dedicated pain science course or substantially bolstering embedded curricular pain content to promote best practice in pain treatment.