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The Recliner Test
"Hi, Bill, how are you?" "Oh, I'm OK, Doc. I've got pain down the leg again, so I thought I would stop by and get you to check it."
Alternatives to the Rainy Day Fund: Better Things to Do With Your Money
Google "rainy day fund" and you'll find the predominant and traditional advice given today is that you need to have three months of living expenses saved for an emergency. Some even recommend six months or more.
Evaluating Prenatal and Pediatric Automobile Injuries
Often in a family practice, one of your patients or an entire family is in an automobile accident and you are sought out to provide care for their soft-tissue injuries.
Dietary Supplement Research: Contradictions, Bias, Misinterpretation and Confusion
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
Chinese Herbs Debut at the Cleveland Clinic
Chinese herbal medicine is now being prescribed at the Cleveland Clinic thanks to a trailblazing team of people.
Dry Needling is Acupuncture: Anatomy of a Legal Victory in Oregon
On January 23, 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners "dry needling" administrative rule, which allowed chiropractic physicians to perform acupuncture after only 24 hours of training.
We Get Letters & E-Mail
Shouldn't the Pentagon Know More About Chiropractic Care? Office Flow: Have You Reviewed the Patient Experience Lately? Let's Stop Confusing the Public About Chiropractic; Cutting Down the Cherry Tree.
Environmental Toxins: Cause of Modern Illness (Part I)
Environmental toxins have created burdens on the human body that put demands beyond our evolutionary development. Modern diseases that historically did not exist to any great degree have been rising sharply in the last 40 years.
Making Sense of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is big business, evidenced by not only the laundry lists of medications patients bring me aimed at managing inflammation, but also the never-ending stream of advertisements for anti-inflammatory supplements that constantly find their way to my desk.
Anti-Aging: Educating Your Patients About The Skin
We know that cosmetic acupuncture works but what then? Education is a key part to the practice of Chinese medicine and when you practice cosmetic acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, etc., it is time talk about skin with your patients.
Revisiting the Neurological Exam
In spinal trauma or disease, the neurological exam chiefly aims to determine whether one (or more) of three basic neurological conditions is present: myelopathy, radiculopathy and peripheral nerve disorder.
Colorado to Have the First Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps in the U.S.
In the summer of 2012, Colorado was on fire. Literally. Many acupuncturists from around the state, especially those who had received disaster response training through AWB, wanted to help those affected by the fires as well as the first responders and tireless state and local officials, with the healing and stress-relief of acupuncture.
Your Chance to Go Back to High School
As the father of a student who recently entered high-school sports (soccer), I have come to recognize an untapped opportunity for the chiropractic profession.
Chiropractic Management of Sports-Related Tendinopathy
Tendinopathy is increasing in prevalence and accounts for a substantial percentage of sports injuries. Despite the magnitude of the disorder, research on chiropractic treatment is limited.
AAAOM: Facing An Ultimatum
On the heels of the growing discontent with leaders of the AAAOM, the Council of State Associations (CSA) recently took it upon themselves to present the organization with an ultimatum: for all board members to resign from the board and turn the organization over to the CSA or they will proceed on their own to become the primary representative of the AOM profession.
Through the Eyes of a Child
Once upon a time there was a girl name Lucy. Lucy had cancer, but she had a heart filled with love and compassion. Please come along to hear this story of an amazing child, her tenacity and her dream to help other children.
The Right Idea at the Right Time
On Feb. 28, 2014, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed David Brown, DC, as new director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions.
Shoulder Strategies: Reduce Pain, Improve Function With Proper Taping
Shoulder pain / dysfunction is a common problem for chiropractic patients. Clinicians who utilize elastic therapeutic taping as part of their treatment approach know it can be effective for a variety of shoulder problems.
News in Brief
In Remembrance: A Moment of Silence for Dr. Dick Versendaal; NYCC Named Chiropractic College of the Year by ACA; National University Partners With Indiana VA Facility.
Are You Driving Patients Toward Dependence on Big Pharma?
Over the years I have had the opportunity to talk to doctors of chiropractic about health promotion, wellness and preventive care in chiropractic practice.
San Zhen Protocols Part II: Case Studies
In my last article, I presented a collection of three-point acupuncture combinations which can provide effective clinical results.
No Whining on the Yacht
This admonition – no whining on the yacht – may sound familiar to you. Many claim its origination.
Arch Height and Running Shoes: The Best Advice to Give Patients
Because runners with different arch heights are prone to different injuries, running shoe manufacturers have developed motion-control, stability and cushion running shoes for low-, neutral- and high-arched runners, respectively.
Socializing In My Slippers
When I graduated college, I had grandiose dreams of becoming an amazing acupuncturist. I wanted to build a great practice and make a good living. For four years, 13 semesters to be exact, I had a spreadsheet.
How Much is Enough?
One of the primary arguments used against acupuncture care is the overuse of treatment. Some people say, "once you go, you have to go forever."
February, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 02
Fear Avoidance and the Issue of Chronic Pain
By Nicole Nelson
According to the American Pain Foundation, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain each year. Let's take a closer look at those suffering with chronic non-specific pain (CNSP) and explore how fear may be partly responsible.Specifically, this discussion will attempt to shed some light on how fear might perpetuate the pain experience without the presence of any musculoskeletal problem. Although the pain these clients feel is very real, it is distinct from those suffering from biophysical causes of pain, such as infections, tumors, osteoporosis, spondyloarthropathies and stepping on a nail.
Current understanding of pain neuroscience suggests that pain is a multi-dimensional experience that involves sensory, emotional and cognitive components.3,13,18,21,26-28,32 Likewise, the way the brain interprets and processes these components can vary pain intensity. It seems pain may involve more than structural problems, making our job as massage therapists a bit more intricate than addressing leg length discrepancies or elevated shoulders. A review of more than 900 studies involving back and neck pain concluded that psychological factors play a significant role, not only in chronic pain, but also in the etiology of acute pain — particularly in the process of transition to chronicity.13
The Fear Avoidance (FA) model, originally presented in the early 80's, is a psychological model that accounts for why certain clients may make the leap from acute to chronic pain. FA suggests that it is overly fearful individuals that wind up suffering with chronic pain, to the degree that they avoid seemingly benign movement patterns so as to protect themselves from further pain.23 The model theorizes that there are essentially two pathways an individual can take after suffering from an incident of acute pain. The first and more functional pathway suggests the individual perceives the pain as a non-threatening experience, daily activities are likely continued with a reasonable level of protection and a functional recovery ensues. The other path involves catastrophizing, where the individual perceives the injury as very threatening and develops a "worst case" outlook.4,7,21
According to the model, the nociceptive system becomes persistently active which leads to an extension of pain beyond the time frame of normal tissue healing. The worry associated with doing more harm leads to an avoidance of activity which can eventually cause further de-conditioning, and in severe cases, depression and isolation.30,32 In essence, these clients have lost confidence in their body's ability to withstand a physical challenge to the area they associate with their pain. Multiple studies have set out to examine the relationship between pain-related fear and it's potential to increase pain perception and delay recovery.2,3,12,32
The researchers have found some traits among those that exhibit fear avoidance:
So, how do we apply this knowledge to an actual client? By recognizing those with fear beliefs and behaviors, we can tailor our suggestions and therapy accordingly. Above all else you must help fearful clients understand that they are not helpless victims of pain, rather they are active managers of pain and do have a great amount of control.26,31 Generally speaking, this includes exposure to current biopsychosocial pain theory, getting them to move better, more often, as well as including positive lifestyle changes such as improving nutrition, reducing stress and optimizing posture. The list below includes a few specific ideas collected from the literature that will help shape your treatments to those exhibiting FA and experiencing CNSP. This list is hardly exhaustive, but should serve as a jump off point for you to study and explore treatment ideas which will complement traditional massage methods.
First, seek out the right practitioner. After bouncing around from practitioner to practitioner looking for answers, your FA/CNSP client is probably feeling extremely anxious about the source of their suffering and is starved for an explanation. If this is the case, help them seek out pain specialists that utilize a comprehensive treatment approach which incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This network of professionals will help your client realize that their pain is not necessarily a tissue problem, but one that is perpetuated by an interaction of physiological and psychosocial factors.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) attempts to alter FA behaviors, emotions and beliefs.22,31 This is commonly done through teaching the impact that thoughts and emotions have in maintaining pain as well as teaching stress management techniques, problem solving, goal setting and activity pacing. CBT can be performed in a group setting to reduce costs and allow the therapist to share successful cases of alternative thought and behavioral patterns from other group members.
Second, try to encourage meditation and mindfulness. It is believed that catastrophizing accounts for 7% to 31% of the variance in pain severity.26 Improving the client's mindfulness has been shown to be an effective approach to pain management, likely by interrupting the thoughts of a doomed outcome.6,16,17,27 Mindfulness has been defined as, "awareness that emerges by way of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment." Proponents of practicing mindfulness exercises, such as mediation, theorize that a mindful state is mutually exclusive of one that is busy catastrophizing, which involves interpretation, conceptual processing and judgment.27,28 Simply put, when one is mindful, one cannot have a doom and gloom outlook.
The third concept to keep in mind is that hurt does not mean harm so encourage them to move. One must consider that well intended medical professionals that are unfamiliar with psycho-social and behavioral perpetrators of pain, may have actually exacerbated your client's fears about movement and exercise (i.e. "let your husband carry your purse, it's too heavy for you" or "be extremely careful when getting up.") Naturally, flare ups as a result of too much activity is a legitimate concern for many with chronic pain; however, exercise has repeatedly been shown to be an effective pain management strategy.1,5,10,14,25,29,33 It is worth mentioning that these clients will feel discomfort when increasing their levels of activity, particularly when they have been leading sedentary lives. That said, a graded exercise plan is indicated and should be encouraged as the client will eventually adapt to increased levels of activity. I generally advocate clients begin this process by consulting with an individual with clinical exercise experience. If they are apprehensive about this idea, suggest they perform something they enjoy doing, perhaps walking (de-conditioned clients might do best by walking in a pool.) Recommend they walk 3 to 4 days per week for a length of time and speed that is challenging but not exhausting. Propose they add five additional minutes to their walk each week.
It is widely accepted that chronic pain sufferers exhibit deficits in proprioception.19 It has been observed that chronic back pain patients no longer consider their back as being a part of them and do not feel that the back can be controlled automatically.18 Lorimar Moseley's research has shown that sufferers of chronic low back pain have been found to have difficulty delineating the outline of their back when asked to complete a drawing of "how it feels."12 It is also possible that the varied alterations in trunk muscle recruitment patterns evident in CNSP patients may be a manifestation of a disturbance in body perception.8 Moseley and the NOI group have also shown that people in pain often lose the ability to identify left or right images of their painful body part(s).
This research suggests that the brain has an altered image of itself. One way to help your client gain a more accurate picture of their own body is by performing right/left rolling patterns, similar to how a baby begins the movement experience. Rolling, is not only a movement strategy that is believed to improve proprioception, mobility and core function, but it is a great assessment tool to see where you should direct your soft tissue work.9 As your clients perform these movements, keep an eye out for any lack of symmetry between rolling from right to left and left to right.
There are four basic rolling patterns.
It is well documented that those suffering with chronic pain also have poor breathing patterns.11,19,24 It stands to reason that better breathing habits will yield a more functional core by improving diaphragmatic motor control and will also help in relaxing the client, thereby making it a very useful strategy in FA/CNSP cases. Learning to evaluate and correct poor breathing habits is an extremely important skill. I highly suggest Leon Chaitow's book, Multidisciplinary Approaches to Breathing Patterns Disorders, for further information.
Progressive muscle relaxation
PMR is an excellent way to reveal to the client that they are holding unnecessary tension within their muscles. Have your client either seated or lying on the massage table. After beginning with several deep breaths, instruct your client to alternately tense, hold, and then relax groups of muscles in his or her body. Direct your client's attention to the sensations of tightness felt while contracting and tensing the muscles. Your client's awareness should be dialed into the sensations of warmth, heaviness and relaxation in their body, as they review each muscle group individually, spending some additional time on problem areas. Instruct your client to perform this technique at home two to three times per day or at moments when they are feeling stressed or are about to perform an activity that they associate with pain.
The pain experience can be more complicated than just a physical problem. FA can perpetuate pain, limit activity, lead to further de-conditioning and ultimately lead to depression and isolation. Although great bodywork will be hugely beneficial to your FA/CNSP clients, a comprehensive treatment approach involving CBT might be necessary. Likewise, this specific set of clients must realize that they are not passive in this process. Meditation, better breathing habits and exercise are all terrific ways your clients can regain a sense of control over their pain.
Nicole Nelson a licensed massage therapist in Jacksonville, Fla. She has a masters degree in Health Science from the University of North Florida and is a certified Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist through ACE.
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