Physiotherapy pain curricula in Finland: a faculty survey

Jolanda Ehrström, Jyrki Kettunen, Petri Salo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: Despite the recognition of pain as a global health problem and advancements achieved in what is known about effective pain management, pain education for undergraduate health care professionals remains insufficient. This study investigated the content of pain curricula and the time allocated to pain education on physiotherapy programs at bachelor’s level at Univer- sities of Applied Sciences (UASs) in Finland.

Methods: A web-based survey questionnaire was sent to the directors of the physiotherapy programs at all the Finnish UASs (n=15) where physiotherapy is taught at bachelor’s level. The questionnaire consisted of 14 ques- tions covering basic concepts and the science of pain, pain assessment, pain management, and the adequacy of pain curricula. Each UAS completed one questionnaire i.e. returned one official opinion.

Results: The response rate was 80% (n=12). The mean for the total number of contact hours of pain education was 74 (standard deviation 34.2). All UASs had integrated pain education. In addition to this 42% (n=5) of the UASs had a separate pain course. The UASs offering such a course over and above the integrated pain education had twice the amount of pain content education compared to those UASs that only had integrated pain education (mean 103 h vs. 53 h, p=0.0043). Most of the education was devoted to conditions where pain is commonly a feature, manual therapy, and electrical agents for pain control. The biopsychosocial model of pain, cognitive behavioral methods of pain management, physician management,

and multidisciplinary management were the least covered topics. Five UASs (42%) payed attention to the Interna- tional Association for the Study of Pain curriculum outline and only 33% (n=4) considered their pain education to be sufficient.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that more contact hours are devoted to pain education on the Finnish UASs’ physi- otherapy programs at bachelor’s level, than has previ- ously been reported in faculty surveys. A separate pain course is one way to ensure a sufficient amount of pain education. Overall, despite a sufficient time devoted to pain education, some essential pain contents were inad- equately covered.

Implications: The study contributes information on how pain education can be organized on physiotherapy pro- grams at undergraduate level. Besides a sufficient amount of pain education, which can be ensured by a separate pain course, attention should be paid to pain education content being up-to-date. This could help in estimating the different proportions of pain content needed in edu- cational settings. Efforts should also be made at keeping integrated pain education well-coordinated and pur- poseful. There is a need for further research estimating the effectiveness of pain education according to the dif- ferent ways in which it is organized. There is also a need to investigate whether more hours allocated to pain edu- cation results in better understanding and professional skills.

Keywords: pain education; physiotherapy; undergraduate curricula; survey.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)593–601
JournalScandinavian Journal of Pain
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • physiotherapy
  • undergraduate curricula
  • pain education

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