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How to Help Your Patients with Chronic Pain: Understanding the Role of Occupational Therapy

​​As a primary care physician, you want to provide the best care for your patients, especially those struggling with chronic pain. One important tool in your arsenal for pain management is occupational therapy (OT). However, many primary care physicians are not aware of the full potential of OT in pain management. Here are some tips for understanding the role of OT and referring your patients to the appropriate services.

What is Occupational Therapy?

OT is a type of therapy that helps people develop or regain skills necessary for daily life. Occupational therapists (OTs) work with patients to improve their ability to perform daily tasks, such as dressing, cooking, and cleaning. In the context of pain management, OT can help patients learn to manage pain and reduce its impact on daily life.

How Can OT Help with Pain Management?

OT can help patients with chronic pain in several ways. OTs can provide pain education and teach patients about relaxation techniques and other coping strategies. They can also work with patients to develop a personalised exercise program, aimed at reducing pain and improving function. Additionally, OTs can assist with assistive devices and ergonomic modifications that can improve function and decrease pain.

How Can You Refer Your Patients to OT Services?

It’s important to note that not all occupational therapists are skilled in pain management. You can start by asking for recommendations from colleagues or local professional organisations. Additionally, you can consider asking your patients if they are interested in OT services and then refer them to an OT who is proficient in pain management.


By understanding the role of occupational therapy in pain management, you can better help your patients manage their pain and improve their quality of life. By referring your patients to appropriate occupational therapy services, you can help them access the tools and techniques they need to reduce their pain and improve function. Let’s work together to ensure that all patients have access to the care they need to manage their chronic pain.

Ian is a highly skilled Occupational Therapist with a unique background in both technology and healthcare. He completed his Occupational Therapy training at Curtin University, where he received awards for his outstanding performance. Ian's focus at Lifeworks OT is on chronic pain care, mental health recovery, and neurorehabilitation. He has a keen interest in immersive and assistive technologies in healthcare and has worked with numerous community-based organisations and private practices. Ian strongly believes in helping people express the best version of themselves by honouring their unique personality and working around their strengths.

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