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PAIN715 Psychosocial and Cultural Aspects of Pain

Explores psychosocial and cultural concepts integral to the experience of acute and chronic pain, as well as those contextual factors influencing treatment providers involved in assessment and management of pain.

Pain is an experience, although underpinned by neurobiological events, and is private and unavailable for objective examination. Pain is learned as a concept during human development and is, therefore, subject to social, cultural and psychological influences. Pain expression is influenced by contextual factors, including developmental stage, cultural and ethnic background, learning experiences and personal beliefs. This paper explores psychosocial and cultural concepts integral to experiencing and treating both acute and chronic pain. Students have the opportunity to extend their knowledge of a personally selected aspect of pain.

Paper title Psychosocial and Cultural Aspects of Pain
Paper code PAIN715
Subject Pain and Pain Management
EFTS 0.1250
Points 15 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023, expected to be offered in 2024 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,509.38
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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(PAIN 710 or MSME 704) and (PAIN 711 or MSMS 708)
Limited to
MHealSc, PGCertHealSc, PGDipHealSc, PGDipPhty, MPhty

Appropriately qualified health professionals.


Administrator Client Services
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine
University of Otago, Christchurch
PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand
Tel +64 3 378 6161 

Teaching staff

Paper Coordinator: Dr Bronwyn Lennox Thompson

Paper Structure

Topics covered include:

  • History of pain relief in childbirth
  • Māori cultural beliefs and practices regarding pain
  • Body piercing and people who seek out pain
  • Neurobiology of attention and emotion in pain
  • Gender and pain
  • Disability, treatment seeking and the healthcare environment as a specific cultural context

Students will also select and investigate their own topic of interest to present to other students.

The paper will encourage group discussion on all of the topics above, as well as other topics identified by students.

Students will have the opportunity to examine any one of these aspects in more detail as part of their self-directed learning, with additional topics also provided for selection. Students are encouraged to embrace a wide range of ways to approach studying their self-selected topic and are supported to consider alternatives.

Teaching Arrangements

This Distance Learning paper is taught remotely.

Resources are provided online via Blackboard.

Teaching and discussion sessions are held over eight fortnightly sessions on Thursday evenings, 7.30 pm - 8.30 pm.

Teaching sessions are in a tutorial or seminar format and are designed to provide students with an opportunity to share, discuss and collaborate. Students will present their own project findings to their peers. Discussion and reflection using online tools in Blackboard are integral to the paper.


No textbook is required, however students will be expected to use the library resources to study their area of interest.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  • have developed an extended understanding of the psychosocial and cultural factors influencing both the experience of pain and expression of pain communication.
  • have researched a topic of their choice using principles of adult learning and
  • have presented this to their peers
  • have critically evaluated material in light of their own beliefs and attitudes towards pain
  • have challenged their assumptions of pain and treatment seeking
  • have considered applying the principles developed throughout the paper to clinical practice

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Not offered in 2023, expected to be offered in 2024

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system