Rethinking pain education from the perspectives of people experiencing pain: a meta-ethnography to inform physiotherapy training

BMJ Open. 2022 Jan 11;12(1):e046363. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046363.


Background: Pain is a complex, global and multidimensional phenomena that impacts the lives of millions of people. Chronic pain (lasting more than 3 months) is particularly burdensome for individuals, health and social care systems. Physiotherapists have a fundamental role in supporting people who are experiencing pain. However, the appropriateness of pain education in pre-registration physiotherapy training programmes has been questioned.Recent research reports identify the need to integrate the voice of patients to inform the development of the pre-registration curriculum. The aim of this meta-ethnography was to develop new conceptual understanding of patients' needs when accessing physiotherapy for pain management. The concepts were viewed through an educational lens to create a patient needs-based model to inform physiotherapy training.

Methods: Noblit and Hare's seven-stage meta-ethnography was used to conduct this qualitative systematic review. Five databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL Complete, ERIC, PsycINFO and AMED) were searched with eligibility criteria: qualitative methodology, reports patient experience of physiotherapy, adult participants with musculoskeletal pain, reported in English. Databases were searched to January 2018. Emerge reporting guidelines guided the preparation of this manuscript.

Results: A total of 366 citations were screened, 43 full texts retrieved and 18 studies included in the final synthesis. Interpretive qualitative synthesis resulted in six distinct categories that represent patients' needs when in pain. Analysing categories through an education lens resulted in three overall lines of argument to inform physiotherapy training. The categories and lines of argument are represented in a 'needs-based' model to inform pre-registration physiotherapy training.

Discussion: The findings provide new and novel interpretations of qualitative data in an area of research that lacks patient input. This is a valuable addition to pain education research. Findings support the work of others relative to patient centredness in physiotherapy.

Keywords: education & training (see medical education & training); pain management; qualitative research.