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Part I: TBCS revision

“In order to optimize the treatment effect, patients with LBP should be classified into homogeneous subgroups and matched to a specific treatment. Subgroup-matched treatment approaches have ben shown to result in improved outcomes compared with nonmatched alternative methods.”

There is more information coming out over time that demonstrates certain patients do well with specific treatments related to that particular patient.

Looking at the broad scale, there are many people with LBP across the world.  Not everyone with LBP has similar symptoms or will respond to the same treatment.

For instance, if your pain gets worse with repeated or prolonged bending, prolonged sitting an standing slouched, your treatment will look differently than someone that gets better with the aforementioned activities.

This is what is meant by subgrouping patients into groups.  We take the patient’s presentation and history and match that to an intervention that tends to work well for that group.

One such method of subgrouping can be found here.

This article will highlight a different approach to subgrouping, the Treatment-Based Classification System. This is a post that I previously wrote on this system.

“There are 4 primary LBP classification systems that attempt to match treatments to subgroups of patients using a clinically driven decision-making process: 1. the mechanical diagnosis and therapy classification model described by McKenzie, 2. the movement system impairment syndromes model described by Sahrmann, 3. the mechanism-based classification system described by O’Sullivan and 4. the treatment-based classification system described by Delitto et al.”

I won’t hide from my deficiencies.  I am well versed in the MDT system and fairly well versed in the treatment based classification system.  I am not well versed in the MIS or the MBC.  I will limit my advice to that which I am knowledgeable.

Yet, these systems-without exceptions- have 4 main shortcomings:

  1. No single system is comprehensive enough in considering the various clinical presentations of patients with LBP or how to account for changes in the patient’s status during an episode of care.
  2. Each system has some elements that are difficult to implement clinically because they require expert understanding in order to be utilizied efficiently.
  3. None of these classification systems consider the possibility that some patients with LBP do not require any medical or rehabilitation intervention and are amendable for self-care management.
  4. The degree to which the psychosocial factors are considered varies greatly among these systems, which runs contrary to the clinical practice guidelines established by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) that advocate using the biopsychosocial model as a basis for classification.”

I will address these points regarding my knowledge of MDT and TBC.  I will not address the MIS or the MBC due to my lack of knowledge regarding these systems.

1. No single system is comprehensive enough or accounts for changes in status during an episode of care.

First, I can’t fully agree with this statement.  Yes, there is no system to date that can account for every patient that walks through the door.  This is true.  This is why a therapist must be well versed in multiple systems.  For instance, MDT is a system that doesn’t take into account non-movement based pain presentations.  When paired with an approach that takes this patient presentation into account, it makes for a great pairing.

The TBC does not account for change during the patient’s episode of care.  Once a patient is classified and the intervention is applied, there is no algorithm for further improvement or progression.

This is not true though for MDT.  For instance, a patient can be classified into one of three categories.  The first two categories have built in progressions, regressions and modifications to movement.  The third category is a category that doesn’t require much intervention aside from advice.

With the first category, derangement (another way to say this would be rapidly changing) there is a clear progression.  Let’s start with the term derangement.  No one likes this term to be used for patients.  It’s a long running joke that we should never tell patients that they have a derangement. Words do matter and the patient’s perception of this term may be just as important as our expectations for the patient.

Now, moving on to the important part of the post.  When a person is classified as a der…I mean a rapidly changing presentation, here is what the progression looks like in the clinic:

  1. Reduce the der…Dangit! I almost did it again.  Make the symptoms better quickly.
  2. Make sure that the patient can maintain the reduction in symptoms.
  3. Return to the functional activities that the patient would normally do during the day without reproducing symptoms
  4. Teach how to prevent the symptoms from returning

That seems like a fairly simple strategy when bringing patients through a program in PT, but unfortunately this simple construct is lost on a lot of professionals.

 

Why you ask?

 

Thanks for asking.

 

Because unfortunately, there is no profit in getting people better.  Shhhh….You didn’t hear it from me.

 

Regarding the second category of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy: Dysfunctional tissues, it also comes with a game plan that is easier to follow than the first, but not as fun to implement.

Also, the name dysfunction is another term that I have gotten away from in the clinic.  Again, patients don’t want to be deranged or dysfunctional, although if given the choice, I would much rather have a derangement.  They want to know is it going to improve and if yes, what’s the timeline.

These issues are like hamstring or achilles problems…they tend to get better if left alone until….WHAM! You goin for a quick sprint to keep your child from running out of the door at the grocery store.  OR you run down the stairs because you are feeling froggy.

It let’s you know….DUFUS! YOU NEVER CORRECTED THIS PROBLEM!

This tissue issue (say that 5 times fast!) needs to be loaded to the point of pain and then allowed to recover before it is loaded again.

Like one of my mentors Annie O’Connor says in her courses “No pain… No gain…No guts…No glory”

This example is rarely used in therapy, but this is one case in which this example is fitting.  Ideally, this tissue is loaded consistently.  I have seen research that states the achilles tendon should be loaded about 1200X/week.  That’s a whole hell of a lot of repetitions.

As a matter of fact, if you would like to read more about this, you can find a previous article that I commented at this link.

  1. “Each system has some elements that are difficult to implement clinically because they require expert understanding in order to be utilized efficiently.”

I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement.  There is research that demonstrates good reliability when MDT is applied by those that have taken, and passed, the credentialing exam.  It has been shown multiple times, but here is one of the more current articles.

The systems are not easy to use, nor should they be easy to utilize.  It irritates me to no end when I hear about a therapist “using the McKenzie exercises” even though he/she has no idea regarding the wrongness of the statement.  Open mouth…insert foot.

There has to be something sacrificed in order to learn a method or system.  Time, money, life…these are all things that I sacrificed in order to get to where I am at in my career, which much to learn remaining.

 

“None of these classification systems consider the possibility that some patients with LBP do not require any medical or rehabilitation intervention and are amendable for self-care management.”

Again, can I disagree with these statements.  At one of the MDT conferences (they blend together), Nadine Foster presented on the STarTBack screening tool.  MDT is advancing to keep up with the research.

Those that keep up with the research or attend MDT-based conference, understands that not all patients require follow-up, or even an evaluation!  Some patients do get better with time.

To follow-up with this, there is still one classification that I didn’t describe yet. This is the postural syndrome. In this syndrome, the patient has no signs or symptoms of a problem…unless he/she maintains one position for too long.  Once the patient moves from that position…the symptoms disappear.  It’s like Wizzo (it’s a Chicago thing).  I bet you didn’t know that you were going to get a history lesson.

“The degree to which the psychosocial factors are considered varies greatly among these systems, which runs contrary to the clinical practice guidelines established by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) that advocate using the biopsychosocial model as a basis for classification.”

I agree with this, in that MDT or the TBCS doesn’t appear to utilize psychosocial factors in classifying patients.  There is another classification that appears to be paired well with MDT.  Check out this podcast with Annie describing this system.

This will be continued in the next article that goes more into depth on TBCS.

If you would like to read the article highlighted above, you can find it at this link.

Thanks for reading.  For those that gained a little knowledge from this article…please share so others can learn about classification of low back pain.

 

 

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A novel case study

I was just speaking about this case to one of the PTs that works with me this week, and felt it a good learning opportunity to post to the inter webs.

78 year old male was referred to me from another PT. The patient underwent 6 weeks of PT with another therapist also certified in MDT.

I helped train that PT and she felt that the patient should be referred to me to see if there was anything missed during the appointments.

The patient had an extrusion at L3, affecting quad strength. He also had a loss of light touch sensation at the anterior thigh.

His only complaint was pain that would wake him up at 2 AM, which was very intense. He would take a Norco and walk for 30-45 minutes to reduce his pain. He could sleep until 6 or 7 AM, which is when the excruciating pain would return. Again, he would take a Norco and walk. The pain would go away and not return the rest of the day until 2AM. He was very active with Tai Chi and Kung Fu over 10 hrs per week.

His only complaint was pain in the middle of the night.

I couldn’t provoke his pain during the evaluation.

He had already been through 6 weeks of PT without change, so I was only trying to figure out his sleep issue.

I had a working hypothesis

1. Overnight, the disc imbibes fluid and increases in size.

2. It was possible that the change in fluid content was increasing his pain since the pain went away when he was up walking during the night

3. If I could prevent the disc from taking on fluid, his pain might shut off

That was my only thought pattern that made sense for his symptoms.

I had him sleep in a recliner and to call me in 2 days with the result.

He was painfree in the recliner and did not wake at all.

Because he already had 6 weeks with an MDT trained clinician, I didn’t feel that bringing him into the clinic was going to be productive, so I followed by phone.

After two weeks, which is how long it is expected to see results if given the right direction and load, he was able to return to bed without waking.

This patient returned to therapy for a different issue a year later and we had a conversation about his back (he was seeing a different therapist). His strength recovered and he didn’t require surgery.

Moral of the story:

1. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box

2. Don’t let the image dictate treatment

3. Only treat the patient if we can improve their lot in life

4. Always develop a relationship with the patient you are treating.

Hip impingement? Is there a place for PT?

“surgical rates for correction of FAI have escalated, despite limited evidence to support a cause – and – affect relationship between FAI and hip pain.”

It is said that there is an 18X increase in procedures over the decade Studied.

The fact that this surgery has increased at such a dramatic rate may be a result of who the patient sees for the problem.

Physical Therapists do physical therapy.

Surgeons do surgery.

Pain management do management of pain through chemical means.

Chiropractors do chiropractic medicine.

Acupuncturists do acupuncture.

It’s a very easy equation to figure out. Who you see to manage your symptoms will dictate what is done for your symptoms.

“… The evidence from these studies is mostly level four (low level), the reported results are short term, and at least one studies suggest a notably lower level of sport activity at three years surgery. Currently, there are no high – quality randomized studies examining the effectiveness of surgery for FAI”

This makes it difficult to make a broad statement due to the lack of controlled research. For instance, a sham surgery (a surgery in which the patient is cut, but nothing else is done) compared to an actual surgery would start to give us information on the value of the surgery.

Looks like the study is in the process of being Completed.

I personally like case studies and case reports because sometimes a “classic study”, such as a randomized controlled study, may not capture the characteristics of the patient in front of the health care professional.

“75% of surgeons believe that FAI surgery prevent future osteoarthritis, although 62% of the surgeons were either unsure of or did not believe there was an optimal debridement of SAI lesions to prevent future osteoarthritis”

A belief plus 5 dollars will buy a coffee at Starbucks.

Not a fan of these types of studies because it demonstrates the bias of the profession. The shocking statistic is the reverse. The fact that 25% of surgeons don’t believe that surgery prevents future OA is cool. Unfortunately, we don’t know the education level, outside of the fact that the people polled were surgeons, of each person in the poll. For instance, if it’s the best of the bell curve that believe surgery has no effect on OA, then I may side with that opinion. We just have to think critically when reading these numbers.

“… The fact that 34% of both pediatric and adult patients diagnosed with FBI stated that they I knew they wanted FAI surgery (21% not willing to try conservative therapy for six months) suggest that orthopedic/sports patient has a propensity for overconfidence in surgery as the gold standard treatment.”

We are all salespeople for our profession.

Don’t believe me…just check out how many people are selling PTs education on Sales tactics and marketing.

It seems that surgeons are doing a great job of sales in that 1 in 3 believe that surgery is the answer.

As PTs, many of us are learning how our language affects the patient, both positive and negative.

It would be easy for me to convince a patient that they are weak and need us, but I don’t know if that is doing more of a service or disservice st that point.

“We think we could all benefit from learning from our past, when, despite similar increased endorsement of surgical intervention (746% increase in shoulder arthroscopy for impingement over a ten-year span), surgical patients fared no better than those treated conservatively.”

Yup.

Another way to say conservative = non surgical.

I’m going to leave this final quote from the article as the final statement. 👇

“Stop accepting morphology as pathology”

Link to the article

On the road

Everyone that knows me knows that I listen to a lot a podcast during my commute. One of the things that I find more enjoyable than listening to a podcast, his actual interaction. Over the past month, I have spoken to about eight therapist from all over the country regarding clinical aspects of care and classification of symptoms. An excellent conversation this morning for about a half an hour, my commute is about 45 minutes to an hour, so I have plenty of time to chat. And we discussed research we discussed therapeutic alliance, we discussed patient’s expectations, we discussed chronic pain, We discussed classification of pain, and we just discussed clinical presentations that we commonly seen in the clinic.

I absolutely love dialogue!

Life purpose and changes

“If you want to change the world, you have to enroll others in your plans and vision.”

Adam Robinson

About 2 years ago I started a blog. It was just for fun and the premise behind the blog is this “the only knowledge wasted is the knowledge not shared”. I saw this quote on a t-shirt; a blog was born.

My goal is to provide high quality content to readers through this blog in order to assist them with making decisions regarding choosing a health care practitioner. The secondary goal is to educate physical therapists at least up to the point of at patients. It sounds cynical that I believe that some patients have more knowledge than the PT, but I also believe that the patient has more to lose and more at stake than the PT.

The PT only has a paycheck at stake, maybe a reputation. The patient has life limitations and issues that may prevent them from truly experiencing life. That way more at stake than the PT has on the line. In this fashion, I have seen patients becoming smarter over the years through forums, FB groups, reading blogs and watching videos.

The reason why I say high quality content is because there are a lot of lies and misinformation on the World Wide Web (internet). Healthcare professionals prey on the weak and ignorant to take their money using scare tactics and unrealistic hype.

I ain’t got nothing to sell you other than making you a better human through work. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I have increasing demands on my time with a family, managing multiple clinics, treating patients and community involvement.

My posts will become fewer and fewer as I try to fit them into my life instead of fitting my life around my work.

Love your life or change it

Dr. Vince Gutierrez, PT

It’s like the Gamler by Kenny Rogers

“If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.”

Chinese proverb.

This is a lesson that learned later in life. I entered into an agreement under one pretense (set of rules) and after entering the agreement and quitting my job, the rules changed. At that point, I had to ride out the decision that I had made to quit and try to make the best of it.

I wasn’t fully aware of the rules; they changed during the game.

After making the decision to leave my current job, in order to open a clinic with a friend near where I created my following, it was decided that the clinic would be 35 miles away! This was a major blow because now I was starting completely fresh and had no following (although a few patients chose to make that drive). I was able to get in front of over 1,000 pairs of eyes in person and 160,000 pairs of eyes through social media and newspapers.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t know all of the rules until well into the game and at that point my wife and I realized that I couldn’t win the game and we started to discuss quitting time.

Luckily for me, I busted my ass to build my following in this new area. A local business wanted both my skills and my work ethic. The fact that I was able to bring new faces to the clinic was a bonus.

The clinic needed another PT within a few months and through hustle and blessings, I was also able to build a following among PTs, so finding another PT that wanted to work with me wasn’t difficult.

I am now making more money working fewer hours and learning more about the business of health care than I had during the previous 12 years of my career.

I had to learn the lesson the hard way.

Whenever you are entering into an agreement, both sides need to understand the rules of the game, the risks and rewards and when to call it quits.

“You got to know when hold em; know when to fold em; know when to walk away; know when to run.”

Self reflection

“Happiness is about understanding that the gift of life should be honored everyday by offering your gifts to the world”

We all have talents, skills, and/or practices that we have developed over time. In living our lives trying to foster these skills and talents, then providing these to others, life is lived. Many people that I come in contact with are taking from others, but not taking the time to understand how they can give. They have never spent time in self-reflection in order to understand how their experiences

Could help others, but instead looks at the experiences and grows disdain for those that didn’t have the same experiences.

In order to give to others, we have to first understand our gifts.

“Everyone has their own journey. People who offer great advice understand that their goal is to help someone on their unique journey. People who offer bad advice are trying to relive their old glories”

This is a great quote! Many other PTs throughout the country ask me my advice about the courses they should take and the way to treat patients with back pain or chronic pain.

I never tell students what to do with their careers. I never tell other therapists what courses to take. I give them my experience and the rationale for WHY I made the decisions I MADE in MY CAREER. This, at no point in time, is telling others what to do with his/her career.

Self reflection is a quality that we need to improve. In order to understand how to proceed in one’s career, the person has to first understand his/her own interests, personality (introvert, extrovert, ambivert), experience and wants. Some want to play the hero and will drift to manual therapy because they may be able to cowboy up one hands on technique that can turn off pain temporarily. The person may turn towards a method of exercise because they like to play the role of coach and teacher. Understanding the selfish wants of a career also helps one to determine what classes to take throughout the career.

Quotes by Mike Maples Jr.

Rehabilitation after a shoulder replacement: What’s the norm?

“There is growing belief among orthopaedic providers that how much formal physical rehabilitation a patient receives is influenced by the patient’s insurance and its willingness to pay for various postoperative therapies.”

This makes sense. Many patients aren’t aware of how much their insurance will cover regarding physical therapy. For example, Medicare will cover 80% of physical therapy after the deductible is met. The deductible is $183. In our state, average coverage of physical therapy is about $90/session. This means that the patient would be responsible for 20% of the $90, or $18/session. This makes the assumption that the patient does not have a secondary insurance that may cover the 20% that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Medicare will cover all PT that is considered medically necessary and cases that go above $3,000 are subject to a manual medical review. This would be about 33 visits per year. Speak to your PT about this in order to verify this information. Each clinic charges a little differently than others and these are the averages in my experience.

Unfortunately, many people that have Medicare as their primary insurance do not understand the physical therapy benefits associated with this insurance.

“A recent study challenged the need for formal physical rehabilitation after anatomic total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA), finding that a home-based, physician-guided therapy program provided similar results with lower costs.”

If a patient can get better without going to PT, we should all be in support of this.

This study tracked patients with Human, which included 20.9 million people. This is a huge sample size. This information was compared with a 5% sampling file of patients utilizing traditional Medicare. The study collected data for a long period of time, from 2010-2015 and the patients had to undergo a TSA or RSA (reverse shoulder arthroplasty). Rehablitation visits were tracked for 6 months after surgery, by tracking charges that are traditionally utilized in rehabilitation. Any date that a specific charge was utilized was counted as 1 visit.

The grouping was paired as follows: 0 visits of rehabilitation, 1-5 visits of rehabilitation, 6-10 visits of rehabilitation, 11-15 visits of rehabilitation, 16-20 visits of rehabilitation, 21-25 visits of rehabilitation, 26-30 visits of rehabilitation and greater than 30 visits.

“The study included 16,507 patients”

This was a huge number of patients. This strengthens the reach of the research. The more patients that are included in a research study, the stronger the statement can be made (regardless of the statement) at the end of the study.

“In general, the Humana cohort had higher overall physical rehabilitation utilization than did the Medicare population across all factors.”

Patients with Medicare are not treated in physical therapy as much as non-Medicare patients.

“The Humana and Medicare populations had a similar percentage of patients with 0 visits.”

“The Humana population had a higher percentage of patients in all visit categories above 1 to 5 visits”

“…with the Midwest having significantly less physical rehabilitation utilization, which is best demonstrated by 69% of patients in the Midwest undergoing only 5 or fewer physical rehabilitation visits, compared to only 54% of patients in the Northeast and 53% of patients in the West.”

This is the anomaly that I would like to know more regarding. Why do patients in the Midwest choose to not utilize PT? This could be poor education of patients regarding the importance of PT. It could also be that PT’s in the Midwest are following more of a HEP based protocol and only having patients return to update the HEP.

“the possibility of patient-directed rehabilitation at home having equivalent outcomes to formal office-based physical rehabilitation was brought to the forefront after Mulieri et al demonstrated equivalent outcomes after TSA when comparing the 2 therapy programs.”

This is a study that I will attempt to get in the next couple of weeks. If a patient does not need PT services in order to improve function, then Boo Hoo for our profession, but we have to do what is best and right by the patient. Should this study demonstrate that PT’s aren’t able to provide additional value beyond not performing therapy, then patient’s should not seek out PT.

I’d like to believe that we have a place in the rehabilitation process post TSA, but I also don’t think that our place is one of > 20 visits.

Excerpts taken from:

Wagner ER, Solberg M, Higgins LD. The Utilization of Formal Physical Therapy After Shoulder Arthroplasty. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2018;48(11):856-863.

 

One piece of equipment that may benefit your rehab process after a shoulder surgery is the following:

https://amzn.to/2BHMpX7

I find that over the door pulleys are easy to use and quick to install.

 

Plantar Fasciitis and Ultrasound: questionable at best

“The plantarfascia is a thick, nonelastic, multilayered connective tissue crossing the plantar part of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is the main cause of pain in the plantar surface of the heel.”

The plantarfascia is located at the bottom of the foot, between the heel and the toes.   It is very thick and a tough band.

A part of physical therapy school includes dissecting the human body.  Some people find this disgusting, but it is actually an honor.  We were told that only 5% of college students will ever be able to dissect the human.  The bottom of the foot is very intricate. There are multiple layers of muscles, but the plantar fascia is a very taut band that requires a scalpel in order to tear.  In other words, it is very strong tissue.

“In the United States, more than 2 million people are treated for plantar fasciitis every year…the most common signs for identifying plantar fasciitis are pain and tenderness in the medial …heel bone, as well as an increase in pain when taking first steps in the morning and pain in prolonged weight bearing.”

First, plantar fasciitis is mostly diagnosed through a patient’s history.

Second, there are a lot of people with plantar fasciitis that seek out treatment.

This leads us to the next statement from the article

“…researchers have not determined the most effective combination of treatments due to the dearth of high quality research in this area.”

Feel good about this condition yet? So many treatment options are available, but few with solid research to back them up.

If you are interested in learning more, check out this  Link

“One of the most widely used electrical devices among physical therapists in Israel and worldwide is therapeutic ultrasound…Yet there is insufficient high quality scientific evidence to support the clinical use of therapeutic ultrasound in treating musculoskeletal problems.”

I find it funny that PT’s should know this information and yet they act opposite of what the evidence indicates.  There are running jokes that using ultrasound may be just as effective turned off as when turned on.

If your PT continues to utilize ultrasound, ask why?

Sometimes the answer may simply be: it is easy, it can be charged and it will do no harm.

Treatment:

Both groups were given stretches for the Achilles/calf and the plantar fascia.  One group was issued ultrasound at a higher intensity in order to create a thermal effect and the other group was given ultrasound that was low intensity and not postulated to have any physiological effect, as the intensity was low and the depth of treatment was considered more superficial.

There was no significant difference in the number of treatments per group.

Result: There was no additive effect of ultrasound on the treatment of plantar fasciitis for pain, function or quality of life.

There are reasons to use ultrasound from a business perspective, but the more and more that I read research I find fewer reasons to perform the intervention medically.

Reference:

Yigal K, Haidukov M, Berland OM et al. Additive Effect of Therapeutic Ultrasound in the Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Orthop Sports Phys. 2018;48(11):847-855.