Cover your ears

Cover your ears

 

“Scurlock-Evans et al reference studies indicating that while 69% of physical therapists (PTs) claim to read relevant research only 26% critically appraise it.”

 

This is disheartening. Tradition trumps evidence in certain cases and without actually reading and attempting to understand the evidence, we will continue to treat using a little bit of evidence and a whole lot of tradition. We are a doctoring profession. I went back to school to get this piece of paper that says doctor. I am also clinical faculty at GSU and have worked as a clinical instructor in both private and non-for-profit practices. I have seen first-hand that some (more than 90%) of students don’t have the passion, will, time, or knowledge to actually read anything more than is handed to them in PowerPoint. I have actually had students get upset when I give them reading assignments to do. Once students graduates, they enter the real world of the profession. If you didn’t have the time to read and take your studying seriously when all you had to worry about was the 40 hours of school, how is the switch going to flip and all of a sudden one will begin studying when leisure time is taken up by other priorities? We have to represent our profession…if for nothing else than for our patients and personal pride. Our profession is supposed to live by these core values, but unfortunately those that display all of them are highlighted instead of the norm. One person that is highlighted, for good reason is the founder of PT Haven. I had the pleasure of meeting Efosa before he graduated and he had his priorities in order then and has lived up to the standards that he set for himself during our conversation. This is but one of many PT’s that practice all aspects of the core values of our profession. I say many, but know that I can’t say all.

 

Back to the point, if we aren’t able to critically read the research, then we can’t confidently apply the research. So much for EBP or “evidence informed practice”.

 

“It has been estimated to take an average of 17 years for research evidence to fully integrate into clinical practice”

 

Are you F’N kidding me?! I know this to be true. I wish I had a thousand dollars every time that I heard a student say that they were told that the information learned was taught because it would be on the boards! I’d be retired by now. There is so much information that is outdated, but students continue to learn it because they will be tested on it. At this point, I can’t state that schools are attempting to produce clinicians, but instead are producing students that can pass a test. We are a doctoring profession. The damn well better be able to pass a test or they shouldn’t be treating patients!!! With that said, it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that not only can the student pass a test, but also be able to treat a patient with confidence and critical thought. This is where I believe that the school’s are failing the students. Should the student end up in a clinical rotation that doesn’t practice the core values of the profession, then the student will learn in a “trial by fire” by being thrown into treating patients although they are fully unaware of the mistakes that they may be making in the process. They aren’t prepared for this type of training. I have taken students for about 10 years and in 10 years I have had 2 students that I could say that I had nothing left to teach by the end of the clinical. I felt like Mr. Miyagi watching the crane kick by the final weeks. As you can see though, this isn’t the norm. Part of this is that school’s haven’t fully integrated the evidence to teach the students. I get it. I hear it from professors… “there is only so much time during the day”. I don’t know where the blame for a lack of preparedness comes into play. It could be the governing body of PT programs for not changing the required learning prior to taking the PT boards, it could be the universities for not embracing clinical practice but instead teaching from books that are at least 5 years outdated (don’t get me wrong, the students need to know the basics from the books, but this is the students responsibility due to the lack of time), it could be the lack of quality clinical rotation sites from which to learn from those therapists that not only practice using best/current evidence but also utilize the core values on a daily basis and finally it is the students fault for not taking more ownership over his/her education. There is a lot of blame to go around, but in the end it is the patient that suffers from this cycle of inefficiencies surrounding learning.

 

Schuppe V. Viewpoints: Exploring the knowledge-to-practice gap. PT in Motion. March 2017:6.

Wait…PT’s perform manipulations?!

Wait…PT’s perform manipulations?!

 

“Without the ability to match patients to specific interventions, clinicians are left without evidence or guidance for their decision-making”

 

This couldn’t be truer. If we believe that all patients with back pain are the same, then we will give all patients the same treatment. If not all patients respond to the same treatment, then we can say that not all back pain is the same. We have to be able to classify which patients are most likely to respond to a specific treatment; otherwise we are just throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping that some sticks. When a patient walks into the clinic, I am forming hypotheses as soon as I see the patient get out of the chair in the waiting room. By watching a patient move from the chair to walking and from walking to sitting, we can start to assess pain response (facial expressions) and movement quality (upright versus bent forward or sideways in addition to stride length of the legs and how much rotation is happening with arm swing). We can also have a short chat with the patient to determine how the patient describes their symptoms. Some patients are okay with waiting until we get to the private area before telling their story and others just want to start unloading their story before I have pen to paper to write things down. These are all of the actions that I take into consideration before we even get to the room to assess the patient.

 

“Identifying methods for classifying patients with LBP has been identified as an important research priority”

 

Why do most things matter…MONEY! We as a country lose almost $100 billion per year on back pain. This is a lot of money. If we were to put in a dollar every second to pay for this, it would take 31 years to equal $1 billion! As you can see, LBP is an ailment that we have to figure out in order to keep healthcare solvent.

 

“The purpose of this study was to develop a clinical prediction rule for identifying patients with LBP likely to respond favorably to a specific manipulation technique.”

 

This is a derivation study, the first step of trying to come up with a clinical prediction rule. One must understand CPR’s prior to reading and implementing the research. Here is a quick link that has to do with the types of CPR (clinical prediction rules). Also, there is much controversy surrounding CPR’s from people such as Dr. Chad Cook, who I highly respect. I don’t know if I would go as far as he does in saying that Clinical Prediction Rules are dead, but they do have to be read thoroughly and criticized. They also have to be validated and placed into an environment in which they can be utilized in order to have an environmental impact. This has been done with diagnostic CPR’s such as the ankle or knee rules.

 

Me personally, I don’t believe that we should give up on a quest to determine which intervention works best for a specific set of the population. We can provide value to our customers by providing the best evidence based treatments that we have available. To kill off a method of prescribing treatment limits a therapist’s ability to confidently provide treatment.

“…patients with LBP at two outpatient facilities: Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Air Force Medical Center…between the ages of 18 and 60 years…baseline Oswestry disability score had to be at least 30%”

 

This study is highly specific to a military crowd, with an average age of younger than 40. Now if this is not the patient that is being treated in my clinic, it is difficult for me to make the correlation from one population to another. The only thing that we can say for certain about the results of this study is that is pertains to the population that was involved in the study. The baseline Oswestry disability score (for more on the Oswestry see this link.

 

“After the manipulation, the therapist noted whether a cavitation was heard or felt by the therapist or patient.”

 

The cavitation is the audible pop that people think of when getting a fast manipulation. This is similar to popping your knuckles. This pop is not needed for a manipulation to occur, as the movement and speed instead of by the noise that occurs define the manipulation.

 

“A maximum of two attempts per side was permitted.”

 

This doesn’t make sense to me to perform multiple manipulations directed at the same region. The authors noted that if no cavitation was produced that another manipulation would be performed up to four maximum manipulations. We just covered that an audible pop is not needed, so I am unsure why two were allowed for the patient. Let’s just assume that a patient gets better from the manipulation, was it one manipulation or two manipulations that improved the patient? Is it possible that a patient could get better with one, but then get worse with the second…even though a cavitation is heard? There are too many variables that start to play into this study.   This is the landmark study for giving the prediction recommendations for spinal manipulation in PT. Which brings us to the next point.

 

“Two additional treatment components were included: 1) instruction in a supine pelvic tilt range of motion exercise…and 2)instruction to maintain usual activity level within the limits of pain.”
Now we have 3 possible variables introduced into this science experiment. Any scientist would look at this and say that there are too many independent variables, which can affect the outcome. The first is obviously the manipulation. The second is the pelvic tilt. The third is time.

 

“The mean OSW (Oswestry Disability Index) score at baseline was 42.4+/-11.7, and at study conclusion was 25.1 +/- 13.9.”

 

This means that the scores initially ranged from 31-53 and the final scores ranged from 11-39. A change of 10 can be considered significant, so there was a significant change overall for the better.

 

“Thirty-two patients (45%) were classified as treatment successes, and 39 (55%) were nonsuccesses”

 

A majority of patients didn’t respond to the intervention(s), but it was close to a coin flip. This indicates that if we manipulated everyone that came through the door, we would have a success (about 50% improvement in ability) in about half of the patients. This isn’t a bad ratio if it is only done in one visit.

 

“…duration of symptoms < 16 days, at least one hip with >35 degrees of internal rotation, hypomobility with lumbar spring testing, FABQ work subscale score <19, and no symptoms distal to the knee…were used to form the clinical prediction rule.”

 

Here it is! All students are expected to memorize this by the time that they graduate from PT school. All PT’s (at least those that work on backs) are expected to know these criteria for manipulation. There are of course some that will state that CPR’s aren’t very effective in practice, but this rule seems to have stood the test of time over many studies.

 

“…a subject with four or more variables present at baseline increases his or her probability of success with manipulation from 45% to 95%. If the criteria were changed to three of more variables present, the probability of success was only increased to 68%”

 

WHAAAT!? If someone has 4 of the 5 guidelines from above, the success was 95%! This is yuge. I’ll take those odds of success to the tables any day of the week. Now with this said, I have manipulated very few patients. Those that I have manipulated had immediate positive results and the pain was abolished…didn’t return upon follow-up over the course of 2 weeks. I may not be manipulating as many patients as I could, but I also give the patient the opportunity to independently manage and abolish before attempting to perform a manipulation. It’s a theory from another spine management system.

 

“In the present study, only one manipulation technique was used, and it is unknown whether other techniques would provide similar results.”

 

This is also very important to state. There was little research regarding manipulations in the physical therapy research. It must be said that not all manipulations are created equal and that performing a different technique may not have the same result. It may be better or worse. We can only extrapolate this study’s results to those that would match the type of patient treated in this study and the manipulation performed in this study.

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM:

Flynn T, Fritz J, Whitman J et al. A Clinical Prediction Rule for Classifying Patients with Low Back Pain Who Demonstrate Short-Term Improvement With Spinal Manipulation. Spine. 2002;27(24):2835-2843.