Professor Maureen Simmonds brings personal experience to bear in her pain research. Years ago, Simmons broke her back and pelvis in a horseback riding accident. Her understanding of pain informed her research from the very beginning, she said, and continues to do so.
“What I was taught about pain didn’t match what I was feeling,” she said. “It influences mood, mind as well as movement.”
Simmonds recalled thinking, “I need to understand this better.”
So began a career that has taken the Simmonds, a ReACH Scholar, to faculties and organizations around the world. She joined the faculty of the Department of Physical Therapy in 2012.
Simmonds is part of an international team preparing for the recently announced 2018 Global Year for Excellence in Pain Education by the International Association for the Study of Pain. The key goal of the effort is to highlight problems of pain and the need for updated pain education for all stakeholders, including patients, caregivers and health professionals.
Simmonds emphasizes the importance of understanding pain as a condition in its own right.
“We often think of pain as being a symptom, but it is not—it is the condition,” she said.
Simmonds has led or collaborated in a wide range research projects related to pain and its characteristics and impacts in various populations, including the homeless and veterans using opioids long-term.
Two current projects in her lab involve the effect of computer games and virtual reality on the perception of pain. Simmonds is also poised to begin a pilot project funded by the School of Health Professions on mild traumatic brain injury.
Simmonds’ believes it is essential to understand the patient being assessed but also to understand the assessor/decision maker.
“One of the problems with pain is that people don’t know what they don’t know,” she said.