HOW PT CAN HELP WITH FMS

HOW CAN PT HELP WITH FIBROMYALGIA?

I was recently asked in an open forum how PT can help fibromyalgia.  I hope the summary of this article sheds light on how important of a role PT’s play in this ailment.

“…Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) as a syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 predefined tender points”

First, when something is characterized as a “syndrome” it means that there is a cluster of symptoms that are common amongst people, but there is no definite test in order to prove that it is the cause of symptoms.

This makes FMS difficult to treat and understand because we don’t have a specific test in which to try to “fix” the underlying cause.

This article will go into what we know about FMS and what is hypothesized about FMS to further the patient’s knowledge of how PT can help.

“…prevalence rates between 0.5% to 6%”

This means that in the general population we will see this diagnosis between 5 in 1,000 and 6 in 100.  Depending on the setting that a PT works in, the prevalence rate may be much higher.  I can say personally that this is either the primary diagnosis or a secondary diagnosis in about 25% of my current caseload.

“…high comorbidity with other disorders, particularly chronic fatigue syndrome and mental disorders, including depression and anxiety disorder”

FMS is not frequently a diagnosis on its own. The patient with FMS may also have other issues such as chronic fatigue, which is not the same as FMS.  The person may also have a psychological issue, which may play a role in FMS.

“FMS is not only a chronic pain syndrome but also consists of a whole range of symptoms referring to effort intolerance and stress intolerance, as well as hypersensitivity for pain and other sensory stimuli”

Fibromyalgia goes well beyond pain only.  The patient with FMS is not frequently able to tolerate a great deal of activity without worsening of symptoms.  This is a major role for the PT to educate the patient regarding when it is safe to push harder and when the patient may need to back off activity in order to allow the system (read that as body as a whole) to calm down. A good book for this topic is “A World of Hurt” by Annie O’Connor and Melissa Kolski.

Hypersensitivity is a key finding in FMS and this will be spoken about later in the article.

“The precise etiology and pathogenesis of FMS remain undefined, and there is no definite cure”

When I read this, it sounds doom and gloom, but if you read it more like a science person instead of as a layperson it makes sense.  If we don’t know the cause of a specific action, then we can’t possibly know how to stop the action or prevent it in the first place.

“It is not our intention to advocate that physical therapists are able to manage a complex disorder such as fibromyalgia on their own”

Because there are multiple components to the syndrome (remember the psychological issues spoken of earlier), this is not a problem that can be handled by one professional without help from others.  As PT’s, we can play a role in managing this process, but that’s it…we play a role.

“Fibromyalgia syndrome is characterized by sensitization of the central nervous system, which explains the majority of, if not all, symptoms…Once central sensitization is established, little nociceptive input is required to maintain it…an increased responsiveness to a variety of peripheral stimuli, including mechanical pressure, chemical substances, light, sound, cold, heat, and electrical stimuli…results in a large decreased load tolerance of the senses and the neuromuscular system.”

When your nerves are more sensitive, then the sensations that you feel such as pain, heat, pressure, etc may be felt quicker and more intense than those without this syndrome.  This is the concept of little nociceptive input (pain input) is required to maintain sensitivity.  For instance, when someone has a lower threshold for pain (not an ego thing) then smaller deviations will cause pain.  I have treated patients that claimed to have increased pain from being touched by a feather! It is real and the patient’s experience of pain cannot be denied.

“…pain facilitation and pain inhibition is influenced by cognitions, emotions, and behaviors such as catastrophizing, hypervigilance, avoidance behavior and somatization”

This is a great article because the authors did a great job of attempting to summarize FMS in a concise manner. Pain is an experience.  It doesn’t mean that a tissue is injured, as pain can be felt in the absence of injury.  A person can also have a severe injury and not have pain.  A person’s emotional state can override the pain response. For instance, I experienced a major injury to my face in which my nose was pulled from my face during a weightlifting movement.  I had no pain until I actually saw the injury in a mirror.  The injury was unchanged from the minutes of standing at the bar until I went into the locker room and saw the injury.  What changed was my mental state.  I started worrying about severe damage, financial concerns, loss of work etc.  All of these are the same worries that everyone else has when they experience a pain that is not explained (this is the definition of catastrophizing).

Avoidance behavior means that a person will stop performing activities because of fear of making symptoms worse. Finally, somatization indicates that a person experiences symptoms in the absence of a test that can show anything is actually causing the pain.

Avoiding activity and catastrophizing actually causes a change in the nervous system in that it may sensitize the spinal cord.

“…abnormal functioning of the stress system seems to occur mostly in the aftermath of a long period of overburdening by physical and emotional stressors and to be precipitated by an additional trigger in the form of an acute physical or emotional event.”

Now you, as the reader, can see why PT’s can’t solve this puzzle alone.  There are so many variables that play a role in this syndrome that more than one professional needs to be involved in the care.

“…many patients with FMS have maladaptive illness beliefs, cognition, and behaviors that preclude successful rehabilitation.”

The primary intervention that takes place in therapy, almost regardless of the diagnosis, is education.  When a patient understands their own beliefs and how they may play a role in hindering progress, we have actually reached a milestone.  This is very much based in education.  If we can educate the patient enough regarding pain and more importantly how to respond to pain and its meaning, then we can progress towards other interventions.  If we can’t teach the patient or come to a mutual understanding regarding pain and how it is thought to work, then progress will be difficult.  As stated in the following portion of the article; “Poor understanding of pain may lead to the acquisition of maladaptive attitudes and behavior in relation to pain”. This means that the number one treatment that PT’s can offer to patients with FMS, and any other pain disorder for that matter, is education.

“…more adequate pain beliefs lead to increased confidence, which, in turn, leads to increased activity levels. An education course directed at improving self-efficacy for the management of the pain disorder ameliorated symptom severity and improved physical function”

We have to break the cycle of pain.  This may be achieved by breaking any part of the cycle.  The thought is that if we can increase a person’s activity level, or tolerance, that we could improve or decrease how sensitive the nerves are to outside stimuli.  This would allow a person to slowly tolerate more and more activity with less pain over time.  This is considered graded exposure.

“Evidence in support of activity management alone for those with FMS is currently unavailable. However, it is generally included in cognitive behavioral therapy.”

The thought is that if we can reduce the stress (think physical, emotional and otherwise) that a person is experiencing, that we would be able to reduce flare-ups.  This is a good thought, but hasn’t been proven.  What we know is that we need to increase activity levels because there are many good benefits from an active lifestyle such as decreased risk of mortality, increased lifespan, and improved quality of life.

“Limited evidence supports that use of spinal manipulation and moderate evidence supports the use of massage therapy in patients with FMS”

There are many in the field of PT, including the American Physical Therapy Association, has stated that the passive use of physical therapy should be questioned if it is the primary treatment.  Passive therapy is treatment done TO the patient instead of done BY the patient.  This “passive therapy” also fosters the dependence of the patient on the therapist.

When a patient is dependent on a therapist for improvement, the winner is always the therapist and his/her bank account.  In the end, we want to empower the patient to take control of his/her pain status and start to experiment with activity in order to establish a baseline activity that can be performed without flare-ups.

“Strong evidence supports aerobic exercise, and moderate evidence supports muscle strength training for the management of FMS”

This is an easy statement to make, but many patients tell me that “they couldn’t tolerate any exercise”. This is where the therapist-patient team (therapeutic alliance) really comes into play.  It is the therapist’s job to listen to the patient in order to provide treatment strategies that will improve the patient’s fitness levels, WITHOUT flaring-up symptoms.

“Physical exercise is troublesome for many patients with FMS due to activity-induced pain, especially for patients with severe disabilities”

This statement sums up the challenge of physical therapy and the challenge for the physical therapist.  A patient with FMS cannot be issued a check-list of exercises to perform in the clinic.  There has to be a relationship of trust between the therapist and the patient.  When a patient comes into the clinic, he/she trusts that the therapist is issuing interventions with the patient’s end-goal in mind.  If, at any time, the patient feels that the therapist is not providing GREAT care, then the patient needs to leave and find a therapist that treats them as a person and not a number! This is important and will come up again towards the end of the article.

“Nonspecific factors such as the patient’s emotional processing of the encounter with the health care professional, the quality of the therapeutic alliance, and the patient’s treatment preferences may be important in predicting therapeutic outcomes.”

THIS IS HUGE! The emotional processing of the encounter….Read that again….How the patient perceives being treated during the session plays a role in the outcomes. When we know that there is an emotional component to FMS, it is our responsibility to ensure that we accommodate this by trying to provide the best experience as possible. This starts from the initial phone call and progresses through the initial visit.  This perception starts prior to the patient coming into the clinic.  The patient needs to be heard and feel important in order to get the best results. I would say that this should hold true to all patients and not just for those with chronic pain or FMS.

Thanks for reading and I hope it was helpful.

Excerpts taken from:

Nijs J, Mannerkorpi K, Descheemaeker F, et al. Primary Care Physical Therapy in People with Fibromyalgia: Opportunities and Boundaries Within a Monodisciplinary Setting. Phys Ther. 2010;90(12):1815-1822.

Not knowing versus not learning

“Ignorance: a limited understanding of all the relevant physical laws and conditions that apply to any given problem or circumstance”

I don’t think that this is much of a problem in the physical therapy profession for the basic concepts of the profession.  The issue of ignorance comes into play when we start discussing current evidence.  A new graduate’s primary responsibility is to pass the boards ( a national test in order to determine basic competency in order to practice as a PT).  Unfortunately, the boards are based off the books used during the physical therapy program and the books are based from research that is at least 5 years old or older.  This means that the students are being tested on material that is greater than 5 years old.  Current published research may not make its way into an educational programs curriculum due to time constraints.  In this fashion, the students may be ignorant to current research or niche research.

“Ineptitude: meaning that knowledge exists, but an individual or group fails to apply that knowledge correctly in a particular circumstance. “

This is common.  We know that therapists are not staying current with published research.  Time and access are two barriers to staying up to date on the research.  Just a quick example.  I dedicate 10 minutes per day to reading.  Even 10 minutes per day is hard to fit in with all the other hats that I must wear such as: business partner (http://www.goodliferehab.com/) , father, husband, running a separate Facebook page that interviews influencers and performing community lectures.  There is only so much time in the day and I can understand how some therapists will have a difficult time fitting learning into their day.  Barriers to obtaining current research can be the cost of a subscription to get the journal articles.  For instance, I pay over $1,000/year just to have access to research.  This is a big chunk of money when you consider all the other life activities that aren’t free.  Pair this with the fact that the “average” salary for PT is 80,000 ish and that students have well over $100,000 in debt.

, that $1,000/year over the lifetime of a career becomes expensive!

“For instance, through numerous scientific breakthroughs, there has been a repudiation of ‘folk’ treatments in our profession-such as hot packs or ultrasound for heat therapy-in favor of treatments based on scientific evidence.”

Going to PT should not resemble going to a spa! If you are going to PT and getting electrodes placed on you…getting hot packs placed on you…getting rubbed with gel while someone is moving a wand on your skin…or getting a rubdown…THAT IS NOT PHYSICAL THERAPY! On the flip side, PT should not resemble personal training! Going to your therapist and getting a list of exercises for you to perform independently while your therapist is chatting with others…IS NOT PHYSICAL THERAPY! The closes profession that I can equate therapy to is that of a teacher-student (and not always is the therapist the teacher!).  This healthcare relationship should be a personal relationship that takes place in a private setting allowing for open communication between the therapist and patient.  The patient should walk out of each session with more knowledge than they walked in with. The patient should understand why interventions are performed…or better yet why some aren’t performed.  We need to get away from the tradition of PT and move towards what the evidence tells us.

“However, despite the excellent EBP (current evidence) resources now available, ineptitude remains a major 21st century challenge in medical and rehabilitation care”

I have a dare for all of you reading this.  When you go see your next healthcare practitioner I want you to ask a simple question: “How much education do you get every 2 years?” In PT, we are required to get a minimal amount of continuing education to maintain our license.  DO YOU WANT TO BE TREATED BY SOMEONE THAT IS ONLY GETTING THE MINIMAL AMOUNT OF EDUCATION OR SOMEONE THAT IS DEVOTING TIME TO FURTHER THEIR KNOWLEDGE OUTSIDE OF THE MINIMAL STANDARDS FROM EACH STATE!

“…3 types of influence that have been shown to relate to the rate of spread of an innovation: (1) perceptions of the innovation, (2) characteristics of those who adopt the innovation or fail to do so, and (3) contextual factors”

The following will discuss how these all relate.

“First, the perceived benefit of the proposed innovation relative to its cost is the most powerful influence.”

For instance, a hot pack may not give much benefit, but it is cheap and relatively safe.  You will see this frequently in a PT clinic that sees a high volume of patients because of its relative ease of use and safety…assuming the therapist is asking you how you’re doing and checking a few things before, during and after.

Cold laser treatment is slower to take off in our profession because it is an out of pocket intervention…which means that your insurance company won’t pay for it regardless of whether it works.  This intervention is slower to be used in the clinic because it may be cost prohibitive for some patients.

“Second, rapidity of change is directly related to how compatible the innovation is to values, beliefs, and history.”

There are some “treatments” that become popular during years of summer Olympics.  In 2012, a specific brand of tape was seen on many of the “big name” volleyball players.  The thought was that it “kept things more supported”.  There is no research that conclusively states anything near this type of statement…but there is a lot of research that says the opposite.  We still see it used in clinics today…which is okay, if the rationale for using it is what is intended from our current knowledge base.  For instance, we know that it reduces pain and allows for increased ROM…sometimes.  If the patients are educated in this regard and not that it “keeps things in place” …go for it.  It seems like 2016 was the year of the octopus.  If you looked at one of the “world’s most famous swimmers”, it looked like he wrestled with an octopus underwater.  This technique has been around for centuries.  Some therapists are starting to do it because patients are asking for it.

“Third, the complexity of an innovation affects the rate of its adoption, and, as expected, simple innovations spread faster than complicated ones.”

Ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and traction are all very easy to perform…since the machine does most, if not all, of the work.  These were quickly adopted into our profession and are hard to convince some clinicians to stop using…regardless of what the evidence states.

More complicated interventions such as “critical thinking” are harder to adopt.  For instance, when assessing a patient with back pain or vestibular issues, there is a plethora of research showing that if we can classify it that we have a better outcome.  Classifying the problem requires (1) knowledge, (2) assessment, (3) application, which is a lot harder than just pushing a button on a machine.

Some of the personality types are as follows: 1. Innovators, 2. Early adopters, 3. Early majority 4. Late majority, 5. Laggards

A lot of these are self-explanatory, but it trends from those that jump onto something quickly to those that just hate change.

“Organizations that foster social exchange among its members are likely to see faster adoption of innovations as compared with institutions and organizations that foster habits of isolation and tradition.”

Essentially, workplaces that allow for communication will allow for change faster than workplaces that keep everyone separate.  This has to do with changing a culture.  A business that has a fluid culture (one that is easily adjusted), is more apt to change than one that has a strict culture.

“Publishing our work in journals is essential-but publication of research is not, by itself, sufficient if our goal is to change clinical practice. People follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take up an innovation and change the way they practice!”

This is huge! Any profession is a small world and PT is no different.  To push the profession forward, we must depend on more than just published research.  There are many influencers in our sphere such as Dr. Ben Fung, Dr. Jarod Hall, the team from PT on ICE, the team from Evidence in Motion, Dr. Richard Severin, and myself (I’m always trying to sneak my way into this group of titans).  By seeing others lead the way, it is much easier to follow.  Only the innovators and early adopters will feel comfortable at the front of the pack.

As a patient and therapist, you may want to assess your therapists/mentor and determine which of the 5 personality types he/she has.

 

Thanks for reading.  Please leave a comment on my FB page letting me know what you think.

EXCERPTS TAKEN FROM:

Jette AM. Editorial: Overcoming Ignorance and Ineptitude in 21st Century Rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2017;97:497-498.

 

link to abstract

 

Revision ACL surgery

“anterior cruciate ligament… Sixth most common procedure performed by orthopedist, with more than 100,000 ACL reconstruction’s being performed annually in the United States”
In comparison to other types of surgeries, this is not a large prevalence. Anytime there is a surgery though, that injury is important to that one patient. This article cut my attention because of the author Dr. Bach. He practices fairly close to my region and I’ve seen previous patients from him. It’s always helpful to learn about the procedures that physicians perform in your area so that way you can be better prepared to treat the patients that these physicians operate on.
” The definition of ACL failure in simple terms includes symptomatic instability, pain, extensor dysfunction, and arthrofibrosis.”
  This essentially means that if there are continued symptoms after the surgery, that the surgery was a failure. I treated one patient previously, not from this doctor, in which the screw from the initial ACL reconstruction was never moved. The patient continues to have pain immediately upon starting therapy and I was beating my head against the wall trying to figure out why the patient continued to have pain. As a physical therapist we hate seeing patients experience symptoms that we can’t control. After sending the patient back to the doctor, it was found that the previous screw was in the joint space and causing the patient’s symptoms.
“Failures that occur within six months of reconstruction can be due to surgical technique, incomplete graft incorporation, and excessive rehabilitation or premature for trying to athletic competition.” 
The case described above, is an example of an error with surgical technique. I have also seen cases in which the patient was progressed through rehab to aggressively and the patient continued to worsen over the course of time. We have to honor the patient’s pain response when giving exercises and trying to make progressions.
“Revision ACL reconstruction’s are a “salvage” procedure to allow the patient to perform activities of daily living… Only 54% returned to their pre-injury level of activity”
To freeze this bluntly, let’s get it right the first time. As a physical therapist I will take part of the blame because sometimes our profession may progress patient a little to rapidly. We have to honor the patient’s pain and movement response.
There are a few parts of this article that I found very interesting. The doctors described patient positioning on the table and we are making conscious effort’s in order to reduce lumbar extension for prolonged periods of time in order to reduce strain on the lumbar spine. They went into great detail to describe how they remove the screw or insert the screw deeper from the initial ACL reconstruction surgery. I didn’t know that they could insert the screw deeper instead of just remove the screw all together.
“with the help of a physical therapist, and emphasis is placed on achieving full extension and equaling the opposite knee. Full flexion is usually achieved by 6 to 10 weeks.”
I fully appreciate the special mention a physical therapist in this article. The physicians did not have to describe this portion at the end of the article. PT’s are part of the medical team. If you or anyone you know is recovering from an ACL reconstruction, please seek out a physical therapist by word-of-mouth or through recommendations from friends and family. One could also look online to investigate the therapist that is treating you or your family member. The therapist that you were seeing should be educating you or your family member at each session and explaining the rationale behind each exercise, movement or hands on technique.
Excerpts taken from:
Creighton RA, Bach BR. Revision anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with patellar tendon allograft: surgical technique. Sports med are thre revision anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with patellar tendon allograft: surgical technique. Sports med arthrosc review. 2005;13(1):38-45.

Results based care

Results based care

 

I’m going to get away from typing out all of the quotes, which is what I have been doing for the previous year, for the sake of time. I have opinions that can be expressed without the need for the direct quotes. I’ll still link to the article so one can go back to read it if interested.

 

Health care is changing. We are moving from a fee-for-service type of setting to pay-for-performance setting. Some of us are thinking “about damn time!”

 

Fee for service indicates that a person gets paid for doing things to do. For instance, if I keep you for 90 minutes and do a bunch of stuff with you, then I would get paid much more than if I only spent 45 minutes with you. Now, if I see you for 90 minutes and see you 3 times per week for 4 weeks, then I would make a lot more money from the patient than if I saw for 45 minutes 1-2x per week. There is absolutely no incentive to get a patient better quickly. Do the patient’s realize this? I hope that this article goes viral so that the patient’s have a better opportunity to read this information. Some health care providers would hate for this to happen and other are thinking “HELL YEAH!”

 

Pay for performance: Some of the ways that this is being done is that a certain dollar amount is allocated for a specific diagnosis and this amount is paid regardless of how often or how many times I see the patient. I now have a huge incentive to get you better fast and to make you as independent as possible so that you no longer need to seek treatment for the same issue. If the patient can get better faster, then there is more money to be made in healthcare because we are not treating out of fear, but instead out of ambition. Some companies are afraid to discharge a patient because there may not be another patient taking that spot anytime soon. I’ve worked in these situations multiple times before, so I am not talking out of my A$$. Treating out of ambition allows the therapist to apply the evidence as best fits for the patient in front of us in order to get that patient better faster. No offense, but I want my patients to get better and leave. Hopefully, to never come back for the same thing again. I was listening to an episode of Mechanical Care Forum in which the therapist (Mark Miller) was describing an embarrassing moment in which Mark had a patient returning to therapy for the same complaint that the patient was there previously. He was proud because he thought the patient was coming back because he did such a good job the first time and the patient was satisfied with the treatment, but Robin Mckenzie, one of the most influential PT’s of the last century, noted that if the patient was actually better and if Mark did his job then the patient would know how to address the situation without seeking help again. I want to treat with the hope that the patient will only come back because they have a separate issue that needs a consultation for treatment. This is the ambition that I am talking about.

 

The article speaks of staying up to date on the literature, regularly attending continuing education classes, learning new approaches, tracking outcomes and adjusting treatment according to the patient. I would love to say that 100% of PT’s are performing all of the above in the list, but I can’t. There are countless articles speaking to the reasons that PT’s give for not staying up to date with the research, which indicates that there are some aren’t doing their professional or social duty. I take this stuff seriously. It’s Easter and I am typing about the stuff I just read. It sucks to take time away from work in order to find the articles, read them and then try to put the information out on the World Wide Web for patients and other therapists to read and criticize. I’d love to relax with my beverage of choice and just not think about it, but my patients and society, as a whole deserves better from my profession and me.

 

Anyway, Medicare is moving more towards a pay for performance method of healthcare and their goals are pretty aggressive. Medicare will have up to 50% of patients on this type of fee schedule by 2018 and for those that are still fee-for service, medicate will tie the payment to outcome measures in 90% of the cases by 2018.

 

I’m doing my part to educate, educate and overeducate the patient in order to get the patient on board with treatment. If I can get the patient to play an active role in the treatment, then I know that I have a better chance of getting that patient better.

Themes taken from:

Jannenga H. Tracking for success: Why outcome measures are essential to your practice. IMPACT. Jan 2017:53.

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.

Why we do what we do

I’ve been writing blogs now for about a year.  Soon will be the 100th blog post.  I don’t make anything for this.  I don’t get any recognition for this.  Big picture, there is no incentive for me to do this blog. So why do it?

I owe it to the profession that has given me the capabilities to treat patients, make a living, and pay my bills.  My job is not that hard.  I don’t have to dig ditches (what my dad did for a living working in water and sewer), I don’t have to drive a forklift (which is what I did prior to going into PT school), I don’t have to teach kids in high school (which is what I initially intended to do).  This job of a Doctor of PT is not that bad.

Looking at it realistically, writing this blog actually makes me a worse clinician.  I spend a lot of time reading.  Instead of spending 30-40 minutes typing a blog weekly, I could be reading to enhance my own knowledge of the profession.  I could be reading to improve my skills.  I could be spending extra time with my family.  There are a lot of things that I could be doing instead of writing the blog.  This isn’t a rant, but why do I do it?

I have students that come through me as a clinical instructor.  It is my responsibility to pass off the knowledge that I obtained over my years in the profession.  It is my responsibility to coach up others around me and those in the profession that may not have the want to actually do the research themselves.  There is a saying on a t-shirt that I read in a Crossfit arena that says something to the effect: the only knowledge wasted is the knowledge not shared.  This really hit home for me.  I spent a lot of time acquiring knowledge through reading books, research articles, spending time in the gym, watching youtube videos and so on and so forth.  I have a lot of hours put into increasing my knowledge and now that I think of it…it would all be for a waste if I don’t attempt to share it.

I owe a big thank you to Dr. Ben Fung for inspiring this blog.  I owe a thank you toDr. Mickey Shah  for his years of mentorship through my growing process.

 

If any of you have a topic that you would like to see covered on this blog in the future, please send me the topic and I will do the work of reading and writing about the research.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

  1. Lumbar spinal stenois (LSS)…defined by any narrowing of the spinal canal and/or nerve root canals…In patients with severe LSS, a space reduction of 67% has been found in the spinal canal.”

 

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the holes of the spine. The spine has 3 holes in it in the lumbar region. Each hole carries a nerve. It could either be the nerve of the spinal cord down the middle, and larger, hole. It could be the nerve roots out of the holes on the side of the spine. Each hole needs to be big enough so that it doesn’t irritate the nerve that it allows to pass through the hole. Picture a water pipe. If you put too much stuff in the pipe it will clog up. Sometimes there are tissues that can make their way into the holes of the spine to clog the holes. When the hole is clogged, the nerves don’t have as much room to do their job (transmitting signals to and from the brain). Now take that same pipe and come back and look at it over decades. There will be sludge and stuff built up around the pipe. This is essentially creating a smaller diameter on the inside of the pipe. This smaller diameter due to sludge is also creating a smaller hole. This could happen in the spine with severe arthritis or degenerative disc issues in which the hole gets smaller. A visual is much better so maybe this will help. image for spinal stenosis

 

  1. “…estimated the incidence of LSS in Denmark to 272 per one million inhabitants per year”

 

In other words, it is not very common in Denmark.

 

  1. “…it is important to discriminate between LSS and disc generated pain since these conditions have different prognoses and the range of evidence based treatments are different, as well.”

 

The treatment between the two issues, discogenic back pain and stenotic back pain, is very different. A thorough evaluation can start to correlate symptoms with either discogenic pain or non-discogenic pain. Many patients believe that an MRI will be the answer to why they have pain, but unfortunately this isn’t so.

 

  1. “a valid and reliable clinical assessment protocol for identifying LSS would be valuable in terms of choosing relevant treatment and informing the patient about the prognosis as early as possible.”

 

This article was written in 2009. The medical profession has existed for eons. There is still not a valid way to assess a patient in order to determine spinal stenosis. There are biologically plausible ways, meaning that when I assess you, I can make an educated guess from some of the findings in the history and physical, but it is not a valid (proven) way of coming to a conclusion.

 

  1. “The high sensitivity and specificity of MRI suggests this is a good test for ruling in and out the disease.”

 

The MRI does a great job of telling us what is abnormal, but it doesn’t do a great job of telling us if the abnormal finding is causing symptoms. As seen in the link above, there are abnormal findings in a population without symptoms. We have to take the imaging findings and see if they make sense after performing a physical exam.

 

  1. “…history will provide strong clues to the presence of spinal stenosis…more than 65 years of age…prolonged history of low back pain and intermittent radiating symptoms having developed gradually…limited walking capacity…Movements or positions involving flexion e.g. sitting or stooping, will often abolish symptoms…total loss of lumbar extension range is usually found, while flexion most often is well preserved.”

 

The typical patient with lumbar spinal stenosis will notice that the ability to walk has gradually reduced over time and there is a need to sit due to back or leg pain. Sitting will typically turn down or off the symptoms rapidly. This patient will have limited motion into extension (think of looking over your head to see the stars or bending backwards while standing).

 

  1. “…stenosis from zygapophyseal joint hypertrophy, ligament thickening or other degenerative changes, it cannot be expected that physical exercise or manual treatment will create a lasting change in the degree of space reduction in the spinal canal or intervertebral foramina”

 

In the presence of physical changes to the bones, ligaments or loss of disc height, there is nothing that a PT can do to change these back to the way that they were previously. These have been described as wrinkles on the inside. If we look at your face we can start to see how much age you have based on the wrinkles in the face. This is also done on the inside in that some “degenerative” changes are normal. Wrinkles are normal; they are not symptoms of anything sinister. The same can be said for physical changes on the inside. They don’t have to be pain generators. It takes a physical exam to determine how your symptoms respond and whether or not this matches the images on an MRI or X-ray. Even then, we can’t say that movement won’t help, only that we won’t change the physical “inside wrinkles”.

 

  1. “The main purpose of this pilot study is to evaluate the validity and intertester reliability of an algorithm of physical examination tests, in relation to identifying symptomatic lumbar spinal stenosis.”

 

This is good. A pilot study is like a pilot for a t.v. show. This is done to see if additional episodes should be done. This study will conclude if additional studies on this topic should be done.   What it hopes to find is a reliable (consistent) way of determining validity (actually seeing what the test hopes to see) in testing for lumbar spinal stenosis. A test that is both reliable and valid should be able to test for spinal stenosis regardless of who is performing the test and who is measuring the test.

 

  1. “Two patients were classified as “LSS” and five patients “Not LSS”, meaning a 29% prevalence of “LSS” Intertester agreement for overall diagnostic conclusion was 100%”

 

There are so few patients that this study will likely not yield any results that are actionable. The interesting thing is that the examiners agreed 100% of the time. This is not common in the medical field to have 100% agreement on near anything.

 

  1. “…the algorithm in its present form can not be used as a screening test to rule out LSS, although it may be able to diagnose the condition.”

 

There were so few people in the study that it is hard for any clinician to put it to use in the clinic. It may be able to diagnose the condition in that it demonstrated a specificity of 1.0, which is really good.

 

 

Excerpts taken from:

 

Lengsoe L, Lyhne S, Melbye M. An algorithm for clinical identification of spinal stenosis-a pilot study of validity and intertester reliability. International J of MDT. 2009;4(2):21-28.

 

Can’t find the abstract to the study, but it is listed under the author’s CV http://pure.au.dk/portal/en/persons/martin-melbye(ed4ee688-2d9e-4c17-b0b1-44a5b4b59ada)/publications/an-algorithm-for-clinical-identification-of-spinal-stenosis–a-pilot-study-of-validity-and-intertester-reliability(6d714ee0-d910-11de-9e3b-000ea68e967b).html