Unlike most fitness and massage events I had attended, what is still unique about the San Diego Pain Summit is the overlapping of various disciplines in manual therapy, personal training and fitness, and psychology. Many of the presenters and educators were able to bridge basic science and clinical research with hands-on practice. You won’t find many vendors trying to sell you trinkets, “tools,” and tonics there; instead, you’ll find plenty of practitioners who are curious about pain science and applying such knowledge to their patients and practice—should you choose to be a social butterfly. But how do you bridge that gap between science and practice?
Next Summit’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Neil O’Connell, who is the Senior Lecturer In Physiotherapy at Brunel University London in Uxbridge. “I chose Dr. O’Connell because he has a reputation for making the subject of understanding research fun and interesting,” Roose described. “Many clinicians seem to be in the need of understanding a bit better how to interpret a research paper—specially since most clinicians have a strong interest in being able to work from an evidence-based perspective. He is also teaching his two-day workshop which can further help clinicians in understanding what is really being said on a research paper.”
“It’s an honour to be invited to speak at the conference. I’ve been made aware of the conference through friends and colleagues that I really respect, and they have consistently praised the quality of the conference and the spirit of open and critical enquiry. I think in all areas of clinical practice, that’s something to embrace and encourage,” Dr. O’Connell told M&F Magazine. “The conference has attracted some fabulous speakers in past years, so to be able to come and make my small contribution feels like an opportunity not to be missed.”
Dr. O’Connell’s presentation covers the challenges that clinicians face when interpreting research in pain, primarily regarding chronic pain. “Navigating this maze of evidence is a major challenge. To do it successfully, we need an understanding of the various sources of bias and error that can occur in clinical trials, the broader biases and imperfect practices in the clinical research ecosystem, and the ways in which we personally might lead ourselves astray,” Dr. O’Connell said.
“My course will explain and cut-through the jargon of trials and systematic reviews and offer a framework for critically appraising these types of research papers,” Dr. O’Connell added. “The broad aim is to develop the skills to go beyond the abstract of a paper and be able to make detailed and informed judgments regarding the validity and results of trials and systemic reviews and to consider what those results might mean to clinical practice. I like the idea of raising the bar on the social media discussion of evidence beyond the usual flame war of throwing links to papers from PubMed (that you often may not have read) at each other! The emphasis will be on keeping it clinically relevant, fun, and interactive.
“I hope that my presentation will give a tour of those issues and offer some tips to being a better user of clinical evidence.”
“I'm not sure what the questions will be for the San Diego Pain Summit panel. Whatever the questions will be, I will be presenting some of my own lived experience perspective of pain,” Belton explained. “Pain is a very complex experience, both in terms of its underlying biology and consciousness. Science doesn’t entirely explain or describe the other (the lived experience). Pain doesn’t occur in our biology, in our tissues, muscles, or nerves and brain. Pain occurs in our lives and affects, and is affected by, all aspects of our lives.
That’s what I hope to convey. The science is important, but so is the lived experience, which is often overlooked.
When asked what she would like to see changed in pain management, she replied, “My wish is for the unsupported, implausible explanations to stop. For the promises of quick fixes based on simplistic, inaccurate structural ‘diagnoses’ to come to an end. I would like to see the narratives surrounding pain mechanisms and treatment mechanisms to embrace the inherent uncertainty in medicine and science. It’s possible to acknowledge there is still a lot we don’t know AND still do a lot of good for people living with pain with what we do know. Empowering people living with pain with knowledge, skills and support should be the goal of every clinician. The people living with pain deserve to be empowered to make sense of their experience and their power to change it. They deserve to be given the skills and support they need live well.”
Meanwhile, enjoy last year’s Q&A with Dr. Peter O’Sullivan.