Monthly Archives: February 2016

San Diego Pain Summit 2016

The second San Diego Pain Summit at times, felt more like the most fun school or friend re-union you could imagine, than an educational event!   Some of the people I was most excited to “catch-up” with, I had never actually met before in the flesh.  Pushing aside the fantastic social opportunities, the wonderful connections made and the beautiful setting, the program provided an exciting array of speakers who kept the audience engaged for the full two days.


Kicking things off was a session run by Paul Lagerman (Aka The Naked Physio) about Clinicians Getting Creative.  He presented a series of creative and sometimes artistic images and tools that might be used to help practitioners to help patients come to a deeper understanding about their pain.  Many of them served as a great springboard for discussion and others were sure to be shared by clinicians for use in the clinic on Monday.

Robert Sapolsky was engaging and witty.  Having recently crammed his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”, much of the material was familiar, however I found his endearing stage presence did much to dissipate my stressful reaction to the material –which is largely about how stress is so damaging to many systems in the body!   Immediately following him was  Fabrizio Benedetti who spoke about how placebo works at a neural level, in situations of pain, Parkinsons Disease and physical exertion.  Largely they tend to activate the exact same pathways that specific drugs do, to provide improvements – somewhat obvious when pondered more deeply, and yet something I hadn’t thought to think about!  It brought up many thoughts and questions for me regarding the clinical benefits of this that aren’t currently being used and other questions about ethical issues in this area.

Kevin Vowles, who I have written previously about here, spoke of ACT and its use and efficacy in the treatment of persisting pain.  He says that the literature tells us that for patients who have persistent pain, it is unlikely that any modality will be able to significantly reduce pain scores.  With this in mind, he advocates helping the patient to take the focus off the struggle to reduce their pain and emphasizes trying to live a valued and meaningful life in the presence of pain.  (I have written about ACT in the clinic here) It was a fantastic refresher and he is a charming and charismatic speaker.  I can highly recommend his courses.

Other highlights of the summit were Bronnie Lennox Thompson, whose gentle dulcet tones could lull anyone into changing their behaviour, speaking about motivational interviewing techniques.  The verbal sparring between Todd Hargrove and Greg Lehman provided much entertainment, but equally their presentations were both fantastic and endeared attendees to look further into their blogs and courses.  Sandy Hilton gave great insight into how structuring not just your language and treatment can help a patient to relax to better engage with treatment, but even how arranging your furniture and clinic set up can help put patients at ease and create a relaxing environment.

The Summit provides an opportunity for clinicians to come together and strengthen ties that are desperately needed. In order for us to keep moving forward as a community to help the healthcare industry adopt  a clinical approach to treating pain that fits with our modern understanding of pain science, we need to make sure that our “team” is as strong and focused as possible.  Plus a bit of sunshine doesn’t hurt!


Be sure to keep an eye out for the podcast by Karen Litzy from Healthy, Wealthy and Smart which was recorded at the event.


Karen Litzy and I get our selfie on


Out to lunch with Joletta Belton from MyCuppaJo


Antipodeans represent! Bronnie Lennox Thompson and Paul Lagerman


I presented on Cognitive behavioural therapy and its use in the treatment of chronic pain