The San Diego Pain Summit

Fifteen RMTs from British Colombia attended the San Diego Pain Summit this year! The annual event brings together leading researchers and practitioners to share the latest developments in pain research and best practices. We were able to meet some of our ‘pain science heroes’ and even managed to go for a bike ride to a beachside taco stand!

Wendy and Jenn at the San Diego Pain Summit

Wendy and Jenn at the San Diego Pain Summit


This year’s Summit focused on the patient experience. We heard from patients themselves, we heard from researchers who talked about the importance of the language we use, and we heard about the limitations of traditional approaches such as the ‘0-10 Pain Scale’.

Presentations included:

  • Dr. Antonio Damasio: About the Physiology of Feeling

  • Sharna Prasad, PT, As Providers What We Say Matters...Matters A Lot

  • Dr. Mark Bishop, You, Them, Us: What You Expect Is What You Get

  • Shelly Prosko: Insight into Compassion: The Foundation of Pain Care

  • Dr. Karen Davis: Are We Ready To Translate Research Into Practice? How brain imaging studies of chronic pain are being used to develop personalized pain management treatment plans.

  • Tim Beames: "My experience of my body is what I say it is" - Symptomology Validated By Science

  • Kathryn Schopmeyer: I am Not a Number: Understanding and Improving Pain Assessment Mandates in Healthcare

  • Pain From The Patient’s Perspective - A Patient Panel: Alison Sim, Dr. Bronnie Thompson, Keith Meldrum, and Kira Stoops.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s event! If there are any RMTs who are interested in the San Diego Pain Summit, we’ll be hosting a debrief on April 4th to talk about the highlights. You can find the event here:

BC RMTs represent!

BC RMTs represent!

Jenn Sharman
Pain Science Discussion Group

At Intent Health Clinic we are passionate about to staying up-to-date on current evidence and research. That's why we started a Pain Science Discussion Group for Registered Massage Therapists. Before each meeting we review a list of articles, videos or podcasts on the chosen topic. Then we have a friendly and thought-provoking discussion. It's a great way to spend a Friday night!

Here are some of the topics we've covered. (Click on the references to read along with us.)


An overview of modern pain science and clinical implications

Taylors presentation

Guest speaker Taylor Laviolette: "Bridging the Gap: Deconstruction of the Biomechanical, Postural and Pathoanatomical Models."

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Up next: W

hat can RMTs learn from 'Motivational Interviewing'?


We've had a great time connecting with other RMTs who are interested in knowing more about current research and best practices. If you are an RMT who would like to join our discussion group, please send us an email!

Jenn Sharman
Taming the Beast - with Lorimer Moseley

Pain scientists are making exciting new discoveries about what causes pain and how to successfully treat it. Last weekend the RMTs from Intent Health attended an engaging workshop with Dr. Lorimer Moseley - one of the world's most prominent pain scientists. 

"Understanding Pain: From Biology To Clinical Care."

"Understanding Pain: From Biology To Clinical Care."

Dr. Moseley recently helped develop an excellent online resource called The project aims to promote an evidence based understanding of pain and guide patients to make more informed decisions about pain treatment and recovery. It answers questions like:

  • How can I train my pain system to be less protective?
  • How do I know if I am safe to move?
  • How do I know if my health professional understands modern pain science?
  • Will I re-injure myself?
  • Will I get better?
  • How can I speed up my recovery?

Visit to watch a clever animated video that depicts pain as 'beasts' that can be tamed. You can also peruse a list of resources to help you understand pain, and listen to real stories from people who have recovered from pain. The information provides a path forward and affirms that "is it possible to tame the beast of persistent pain!" 

Tame the beast
Understanding the Complexity of Pain

This video explains what is happening when your brain produces pain.

The brain receives information from your body and environment and also recalls your past experiences and beliefs. The brain analyzes all of this information and decides whether or not to create pain in an attempt to protect you.

“Body information” includes messages about muscles, bones, joints, tendons, inflammation, stress chemicals, movement and more.  

“Environmental information” includes messages about your physical environment, mood, emotions, sleep, social supports and more.

The brain also reviews your “protection memories” about previous injury and pain - including your thoughts and beliefs.

The brain then decides whether or not to create pain as a protection strategy. This can result in changes to your movement (stiffness) and your body’s physiology (including inflammation). As a result, your ‘body information’ is altered, creating new inputs to the brain. This can create a feedback loop that perpetuates persistent pain.

Making changes to key inputs can convince your brain to create less pain. Massage Therapy can help improve sleep, stress and movement. Other healthcare providers can help you make positive changes to emotions, thoughts and beliefs. Together, we can help decrease your pain and improve your quality of life. 

Jenn Sharman
Understanding Pain: A Quick Overview

This short video provides a basic overview of strategies for healing and managing persistent pain. 

Pain can affect mood, stress, sleep and activity levels. We know that acute pain is a protective response to injury that encourages tissue healing in the short-term, however most tissue heals after 3-6 months, so what is happening when pain lasts beyond this timeframe? Ongoing pain produced by the brain is less about tissue damage or structural change in the body and more about an increased sensitivity of the nervous system. The good news is that just as a person's nervous system can change to become more sensitive, it is possible to retrain the brain and nervous system away from pain.  One key strategy is to get your body moving at comfortable levels where the brain does not protect by producing pain. Making changes to diet, lifestyle, thoughts, emotions and stress levels can also have a positive impact on the nervous system and the pain experience. 

How Can Massage Therapy Help with Pain?

What makes a person more prone to developing persistent pain? Why is it that the longer pain persists, the less it correlates with actual tissue damage? Exciting new discoveries in neuroscience are changing the way we view the pain experience.

We now understand that pain is a protective output created by the brain’s interpretation of a multitude of inputs including biological, psychological and social information. 


Pain =
[credible evidence of danger]
– [credible evidence of safety]


In any given moment your brain is processing a variety of ‘safety signals’ and ‘danger signals’. These signals include changes in pressure, temperature, and chemical balance, along with signals affected by sights, smells, sounds, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, previous experiences, expectations, cultural influences, social interactions and more. 

Pain serves to encourage a person to focus on protecting and healing, but what happens when pain lasts longer than the normal timeframe for tissue healing? This can occur when the body’s alarm system remains on high alert and is stimulated by a lower intensity stimulus than before. The good news is that the brain’s ability to change means that it is possible to retrain the nervous system in positive new directions.

The Role of Massage Therapy

Massage and movement can inhibit the influence of ‘danger signals’ in a person’s nervous system.

At Intent Health Clinic we employ a variety of approaches with this in mind:

  • We provide a quiet, predictable and comfortable treatment space
  • Our treatments and homecare suggestions involve techniques that aim to calm the nervous system
  • We encourage healthy sleep and relaxation practices, as well as graded exposure to movement
  • We provide pain education. Studies show that learning about the neurophysiology of pain decreases perceived threat levels to the nervous system which can result in decreased pain levels
  • We connect you with resources like the Protectometer App: a useful tool that helps people identify potential ‘danger signals’ and ‘safety signals’ in their life, and encourages the novel combination of ‘safe inputs’ to retrain the nervous system


Adapted from the article: Sharman, Jenn. “Reconceptualising Pain.” RMT Matters. July 2017 vol. 10 no. 2. pp.14-15. Accessed 1 Sep 2017.