The 23rd Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) of the Irish Pain Society (IPS) took place on the 20th and 21st of October at the Western Gateway Building, University College Cork, with over 180 delegates, chairs, speakers, and exhibitors in attendance.

The central theme of the ASM was ‘Integrated Pain Management’, reflecting the 2023 Global Year theme of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP).

The meeting was opened by outgoing IPS President, Dr Therese O’Connor, who welcomed invited speakers and delegates to the meeting and thanked the local organising committee, Dr Siobhain O’Mahony, and Dr John Browne, the IPS committee, and all of the meeting exhibitors for their generous sponsorship.   Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE, then addressed the meeting, remarking that IPS has been a trailblazer in embracing and promoting a multidisciplinary ethos, and an example to other societies in this regard.  This was then followed by the first of two talks by Prof Vania Apkarian (Director of Centre for Translational Pain Research, Northwestern University, USA) who explained how chronic pain is not the same as persistent acute pain, and how studies from his laboratory and others have revealed that brain anatomy and functional properties are different in chronic pain and the key role for limbic brain areas in mediating and modulating pain.

The first scientific session was chaired by Dr Mary Jane O’Leary (Consultant in Palliative Medicine. Marymount University Hospice, Cork), and Han van Dijk, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist and educator from Utrecht, The Netherlands, opened the session by speaking about the barriers and facilitators for implementing the biopsychosocial model in physiotherapy for patients with chronic pain. This was followed by Dr Wail Mohammed, Consultant Neurosurgeon, and Spine surgeon at Cork University Hospital, who provided an expert overview of the evidence for surgery in spinal pain.  Dr Cormac Mullins, Consultant Pain Specialist and Anaesthesiologist at Cork University Hospital and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork provided an update on spinal cord stimulation, emphasising the importance of appropriate patient selection. Dr Mullins also provided a useful critique of the very limited placebo-controlled RCT evidence base that currently exists for spinal cord stimulation, the large placebo response, and the need for more high-quality RCTs in this area. Dr Andrew Purcell, Consultant in Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine at South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork, spoke about radiofrequency ablation in lumbar facet joint pain, telling the audience that Ireland is one of the largest users in Europe of radiofrequency ablation for pain.

The second session was chaired by Prof. Dominic Harmon (Consultant in Pain Medicine and Anaesthesia at Limerick University Hospitals). Chronic pain in children is a significant problem, and Dr Rory Maguire, Pain Consultant in Adult and Paediatric Complex Pain in Belfast and with Children’s Health Ireland, conveyed the concept that fluid, connected, interdisciplinary care coupled with a flat chain of command is very important.  A key goal is to normalise day-to-day life for children, after which improvements in pain are often seen.  Dr Rosemary Walsh, Senior Clinical Psychologist in the Pain Medicine & Psychology Departments at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, continued the strong thread running through the conference in support of managing chronic pain from a biopsychosocial perspective within multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams, as part of Pain Management Programmes (PMPs).  Technology and its role in assessing and managing older people’s pain was the focus of a presentation by Dr Margaret Dunham, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pain Management, at Edinburgh Napier University.   Dr Arun Bhaskar, Consultant in Pain Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Immediate Past President of the British Pain Society, presented an update on cannabinoids and pain management.

Dr Hugh Gallagher, Dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine at the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland, opened the subsequent session where Dr Siobhain O’Mahony, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, APC Microbiome Ireland, University College Cork, discussed the impact and therapeutic potential of the microbiome and pain. She explained and presented data from her lab on how the microbiome may influence sex differences in pain, and how bacteria in our gut can produce substances to stimulate pain pathways.  and how probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, and faecal microbiota transfer all hold promise for treatment of pain. Dr. Franziska Denk, Reader at King’s College London, presented a neuro-immunological perspective on chronic pain, and posed the question: what if nerves are not to blame?  Her research indicates an important role for cytokines and inflammation in neuropathic pain. This was then followed by the second of Prof Vania Apkarian talks where he further expanded on the role of brain circuits in chronic pain and highlighted the evidence for a key role of the hippocampus.

Dr Michelle Roche (Associate Professor, University of Galway and incoming President of the IPS), chaired a vibrant session of short oral presentations by 7 early career researchers working in Ireland, hosted by the Irish Pain Research Network, a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the IPS. Prof David Finn, University of Galway and Joint Secretary of the IPRN, presented an overview of the IPRN, which aims to bring together all active pain researchers on the island of Ireland (North and South) for the purposes of sharing research results and ideas and facilitating cross-institutional collaboration in pain research (

The meeting programme also included a series of lively parallel discipline-specific meetings of (1) Pain Nurses, (2) Pain Physiotherapists, (3) Pain Psychologists, (4) Basic Scientists, as well as workshops focused on Pain Medicine Procedures including neuromodulation, radio-frequency lesioning of facet joint, ultrasound-guided sympathetic block and ultrasound-guided injection of platelet rich plasma into the knee joint. Researchers across Ireland also presented their research at the meeting in poster format, which were on display over the entire conference.

A number of prizes were awarded during the meeting for best short oral and posters presentations.


To access the IPS ASM 2023 programme including abstracts click here

Speakers and Chairs of the IPS ASM 2023

Left to right, front row: Dr Michelle Roche (incoming President of the IPS), Dr Siobhain O’Mahony, Dr Therese O’Connor (outgoing President of the IPS), Prof Vania Apkarian, Dr Franziska Denk; middle row: Dr Andrew Purcell, Dr Rory Maguire, Dr Arun Bhaskar, Dr Rosemary Walsh, Dr Margaret Dunham; back row: Han Van Dijk, Dr Hugh Gallagher, Prof Dominic Harmon.