Reflecting on the 2017 UTCSP Annual Scientific Meeting
On February 28th, the UTCSP held its Annual Scientific Meeting at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. After a welcome and introduction by Drs. Hance Clarke, Rob Bonin, and Bonnie Stevens, attendees had the opportunity to hear from several speakers, including UTCSP faculty and trainees with expertise in both basic and clinical pain research.
One of the highlights of the meeting was learning about the work of Dr. Loren Martin, who presented his work on stress, pain, and social interactions. Dr. Martin stressed the need to consider the social aspects of pain in addition to the more commonly studied biological and psychological aspects, in order to best understand the pain experience. For example, the outcomes for someone in pain can change depending on the level of social support they receive from friends and partners. In one of Dr. Martin’s studies, participants were asked to rate the pain they experienced while another participant was in the room, or while they were alone. When there was another person in the room participants tended to experience greater pain. However, in cases where the participant did not know the other person, this phenomenon was less likely to be observed, which may be a response to stress. Dr. Martin’s work has important implications for understanding how social situations and relationships can influence pain.
Conference participants also enjoyed a presentation on prevention of chronic pain after surgery. Dr. Joel Katz presented his work on identifying surgical, pain-related, psychological and emotional factors that can predict risk for developing chronic pain post-surgery. The panel for this presentation also included Drs. Hance Clarke and Aliza Weinrib, who provided an overview of the Transitional Pain Service at Toronto General Hospital. One of the take-home messages was on the importance of educating chronic pain patients about the differences they can expect in acute pain versus chronic pain, the importance of personalized care plans for those at risk, and on medication management to avoid the negative side effects of opioids and other pain medications.
Overall, the annual scientific meeting showcased the breadth and quality of pain research in Toronto. With Toronto increasingly being seen as a hub for both pain research and clinical practice, the UTCSP hopes to continue fostering this growth.