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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

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Efficient and Effective Care

“Proliferation of these staffing models (increasing the use of PTA’s and aides) has been driven by managed care organizations, the introduction of prospective payment systems, and low reimbursement rates, as well as workforce shortages in allied health.”

For those that are unfamiliar with physical therapy and what the titles mean lets do a quick refresher:

PTA = licensed physical therapist assistant (high school + 2 years)

PT = licensed physical therapist (Bachelor’s or Bachelor’s + years)

aide = no required degree with on the job training (no degree needed)

MPT = Master of physical therapy degree (Bachelor’s plus 27 months)

DPT = Doctor of physical therapy degree (Bachelor’s plus 33 months)

Based on the above, one can see that the aide would be paid less than the PTA.  The PTA would get paid less than the PT based on education level alone and all other things are equal.

When insurance companies cut pay to professionals, companies have to decrease their costs in order to continue to make margin.  One way to cut costs is to have fewer PT’s and more PTA’s or aides.  The ethics/legalities of the decision are for a different day.

Some insurance companies are refusing to pay for services provided by PTA’s.

The reason that I bothered to look at this research was a large discussion that took place on a professional FB page in which PTA’s were arguing that the care shouldn’t change from PTA to PT, seeing as PTA’s can perform most treatments that a PT can perform.

I decided to look into this to see if there was a difference and I was shocked by what I found, based on my own experience working in a hospital system.  On the same note, I wasn’t shocked based on some of the reports that I hear from patients and others in the profession.

“Use of support personnel in outpatient therapy settings can double the number of patient visits a therapist can manage per day, thus increasing clinical productivity.”

If I am a PT making $50/hour (using round numbers to keep it simple) and in a typical day I could treat 10 patients with an average reimbursement rate of $95 (please go watch all the videos from Dr. Ben Fung ), then I would cost the company $400 dollars, but make the company $950 dollars.  A gross profit, with the removal of only the PT salary, of $550 dollars per day.

Now, if we have that same PT making $50/hour and a PTA making $30/hour (again round numbers to keep it simple), with each therapist seeing 10 patients per day, then the following numbers are the result.  The salaries would cost $640, but the therapists would generate $1900/day.  A gross profit, with salaries of the therapists removed, of $1260/day.

As you can see, the company would be able to generate more money by hiring PTA’s instead of a second PT.  The question then becomes is it cost effective to have the PTA compared to the second PT.  The answer at a glance is “of course”!, but looking a little deeper may force a company to weigh values (i.e. profit or outcomes) before making that second hire.

“While some advocate use of support personnel to increase productivity without loss of quality, others warn that an over reliance on support personnel can negatively affect outcomes and compromise quality.”

This is essentially the discussion that occurred on FB.  Some people say that PTA’s provide the same quality of care as PT’s and others state that PTA’s offer less quality care than PT’s.

I’ve worked with rockstar PTA’s (plus my wife is a PTA so I am already a little biased) and I’ve worked with some PT’s that I would never refer a patient to (no offense if you think that this is you).

“Three dependent variables were analyzed: high PTA utilization, number of visits per treatment episode, and patients FHS (functional health status) at discharge…high PTA utilization, defined as a patient seen by a PTA 50 percent or more of the treatment time”

High PTA utilization, in this study, meant that the PTA was seen by the PTA for over 50% of the visits.

Again, I have worked in locations in which this was true and locations in which we had no PTA’s, so I have seen the results from both.

Looking at treatments per episode is a means of measuring efficiency of treatment.  It may not be the best measurement, but is one way of looking at treatment efficiency.

Looking at outcomes is one way of looking at effectiveness of treatment.  Again, it may not be the best way, but it is one way.

“…less than 2 percent of patients were treated by the PTA for more than 75% of the treatment time, and 8 percent were treated by the PTA 50% of the time or more.”

I’ve been in clinics without PTA’s and with PTA’s.  This stat will be correlated with the amount of PT’s/PTA’s in the clinic.

In private practice, it was 0 PTA’s.  In the hospital we had 1.5 PTA’s for 4 PT’s.  Currently, in my practice there are 2 PTA’s for 1.5 PT’s.

“The second dependent variable, number of visits per treatment episode…We believed that fewer visits per treatment episode were a marker of greater efficiency of care”

This is debatable by people.  I’ve actually been involved in these on-line debates.  Some people will fight that more visits equals better, but more is not always better.

If we can get patients better in shorter visits, then this seems to be ideal to me.  If additional visits would correlate with increased function, then I would be all for increased visits if the patient is willing and able to pay for increased visits (time and money).

“The majority of physical therapy care was delivered by PTs with no reported assistance from PTAs.”

Again, in a clinic without PTA’s, there will be no reported assistance from PTA’s.  This study used data from FOTO, which included private practices and hospital based practices.

“PTAs were involved in the care of patients only 35% of the time. High PTA utilization was relatively uncommon, with only 7.7 percent of the patients seen by PTAs more than 50% of the time.”

This is interesting.  It is becoming more and more common to find clinics advertising/marketing that the patient will only be seen by a PT, or even a step further a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  I don’t know how well this marketing is going.

When seeing it, it subconsciously implies that a DPT is better than a PTA.  I think that this is very individualized.  For example, a PTA that has continued to improve over the years through independent study may be a better clinician than a PT that never sees patients (administration/teacher/manager).

“Medicare patients who were seen in private practice were 48 percent less likely to have had high PTA utilization.”

Some insurance companies require that a patient be seen by a PT and prohibit PTA’s from treating patients.  This will skew numbers towards the PT in private practice.

“Treatment with a therapy aide for 1-25 percent time and greater than 25 percent compared with 0 percent, and high utilization of the PTA were associated with 1.8, 2.6 and 2.0 more visits, respectively.”

Lets break this down.

Being treated by a therapy aide for 1-25% of the time resulted in 1.8 more patient visits per episode.

Being treated by a therapy aide for > 25% of the time resulted in 2.6 more visits per episode.

Being treated by a PTA for greater than 50% of the time resulted in 2.0 more visits.

Remember, an aide is someone that may not have any college experience or degrees.  The aide is not legally able to treat patients that are payed by the government.

Utilizing an aide only results in slightly more visits than using a PTA! Why is this?!

An aide is paid much less on average than a PTA.  For example, the aide may only cost the employer $12.50/hour.  The PTA will cost the employer $30.00/hour.

I see employers trying to cut costs by hiring more aides (not ethical to call it physical therapy if it is not provided by a licensed physical therapy professional IMO).

If it doesn’t change the outcomes though, who’s to argue against it?

I can see both sides of the coin.  Margins (profits) in physical therapy is small, so cutting costs is a business decision.

Providing quality care is something that IMO we should all strive for.

“Greater than 50% time spent with the PTA was predictive of lower discharge scores as was time spent with a therapy aide.”

This part may be the most important statistic in the article.  Seeing someone other than the PT led to worse outcomes.

This is the statistic that I was looking for because of the original question asked.

In other words, the PT will get a patient better than a non-PT and do it faster in an outpatient setting.

Strong words for businesses and people looking to go to PT school.

What is the future of PTA’s?  I don’t know.  Medicare just announced that they will be reducing reimbursement rates for PTA’s in an outpatient setting.  Pair this with the small margins in physical therapy and the question becomes is it profitable to hire PTA’s in an outpatient setting, seeing patients according to Medicare rules?

“…our analysis shows that Medicare regulations for continuous in-room supervision of PTA’s in private practice are associated with a decreased likelihood of high PTA utilization.”

 

“High utilization of PTA’s, and use of therapy aides were each independently associated with more visits per treatment episode, and lower functional health. Thus our findings suggest that use of care extenders such as PTA’s and therapy aides in place of PT’s is associated with more costly and lower quality care delivery in outpatient rehabilitation.”

 

I advise all people to look to the source:

link to article

 

Prone lying

I hear it frequently…this is an exercise?!

Sure, if it fulfills the purpose of making one more mobile, more resilient and more awesome!

This position is called prone lying and just means that you are lying face down.

For people with back pain, this has been referred to as the rescue position.

This position can be highly effective in reducing back or leg pain in 49-64% of people with symptoms.

Is it for everyone?

No..of course not. There is not a single exercise that is beneficial for 100% of the population that has pain, but there are patterns.

If your pain worsens with sitting, bending or twisting then this may be beneficial.

If your symptoms worsen withstanding or walking, this position may not work well for your symptoms.

Some things to note:

1. If you get into this position and your symptoms move further away from your spine…no good and you should stop and seek a full evaluation

2. If your symptoms move closer to your spine, you should pick up the book “Treat Your Own Back”.

The importance of sleep

“Humans spend roughly a third of their lives sleeping.”

Some people say that there will be time for sleeping when we die.  Unfortunately, by having this attitude, one may get to test it sooner rather than later.  There is no shame in sleeping.  Some wear it as a badge of honor that only 4 hours of sleeping is needed, but as you’ll see later this is not a good idea.  Here’s a list of power people that sleep less than the 6-8 hours per night recommended.

“…it has been recommended to consider sleep as another vital sign, as sleep can give insight into the functioning and health of the body.”

There have been multiple suggested vital signs such as pain, walking speed and now sleep.  I am not saying that sleep isn’t important, but to call it a vital sign may be over-rated.

“…between 50 and 70 million adults in the US experience chronic sleep disturbances, and 62% experience a sleep problem several nights a week.”

Sleep is vital, but maybe not a “vital sign”.  If you are having a problem with sleep, this could be a sign of something more serious, if not it could lead to something more serious.

For instance, my daughter has Down Syndrome.  This is a genetic mutation of the 23rd chromosome, which leads to multiple physical changes.  One of the changes is a larger than average tongue and smaller air passages.  This is in combination with low muscular tone.  The incidence of sleep apnea in kids with Down Syndrome is 50-100%.  One of the side effects of sleep apnea is right sided heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and delayed growth.  These are some serious effects of a lack of sleep.  I can speak for my daughter, but she will undergo a sleep study around the age of 3-4.  I have some patients that have sleep issues and this is what I hear about doing a sleep study:

“It will be too inconvenient”

“I don’t want to know the results”

“I don’t want to have anyone watch me sleep”

In the grand scheme of things, I will not let ego override my daughter’s long term health.  I don’t understand this belief system, but will always try to educate the patients in order to ensure that my patient’s health is as good I know that it has the potential to be.

“Costs associated with insomnia, which is the most prevalent sleep disorder, are over $100 billion per year due to health care costs, accidents, and decreased work.”

Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is termed insomnia.  Think of how much money we spend in health care related costs.  Add musculoskeletal pain costs to isomnia costs and the total is 340 billion.

If you could save $100,000/year, it would take you 3,400,000 years to save 340 billion dollars. If you could save $10,000 every single day, then it would only take you 93,151 years to save 340 billion.

As you can see, if we can start to improve national health, then we have the potential to save more money than I could count to in a lifetime.

“…proposed that knowledge about sleep and skills to screen sleep disorders and to promote quality sleep are important components for physical therapists to promote health and wellness.”

I’ll be honest.  We don’t learn much about sleep in school.  At least we didn’t 10 years ago.  It’s hard to say if this has changed much in the previous decade, as I don’t hear many new graduates talking about sleep.  Everything that I learned about sleep and health has come from a few podcasts from people like:

  1. Dr. Kirk Parsley
  2. Tim Ferriss
  3. Dave Asprey

It’s great that there is more research being published in the field of PT regarding sleep, but this is a population health issue and needs to be addressed by all health care professionals.

“Of the 43% who reported that they do not routinely assess their patient’s sleep habits or sleep quality, the most frequently reported reason was: ‘I do not know how to assess sleep habits or sleep quality.'”

I am not surprised by this number…actually I am.  I am shocked that it is not higher.  I am shocked that half of all therapists are actually assessing sleep habits or sleep quality.  I think that most of us, in orthopedics ask whether or not sleep is disturbed, but I don’t know if this qualifies for asking about quality and sleep habits.  Actually, I hope it doesn’t because this is a basic question that doesn’t assess much other than sleep or no sleep due to pain.

I ask my patients about urinating during the night, how many hours of sleep is achieved during the night, what the environment (room) is like regarding electronic devices and lights.

This is stuff that I had to learn on my own and wasn’t even mentioned in a Doctorate program.

“sleep is critical for immune function, tissue healing, pain modulation, cardiovascular health, cognitive function and learning and memory.”

We already talked about heart health and sleep quality in the personal story of my daughter.

There is some published research regarding a lack of sleep and an increase in Substance P.

Dr. Kirk Parsley speaks frequently of the effects of a lack of sleep on cognition.

“Without adequate sleep, people can experience increased pain perception, loss of function and reduced quality of life, depression, increased anxiety, attention deficits, information processing disruption, impaired memory and reduced ability to learn new motor skills, and are at an increased risk for accidents, injuries and falls.”

I don’t think that too many people will argue about the importance of sleep.  We absolutely need it, but some can go days without sleep.  Albeit, there will be some side effects.

“People with sleep disturbances report increased sensitivity to pain, but also those experiencing high pain intensity have reported significantly less total sleep time, delayed sleep onset, increased nighttime wakening, and decreased sleep efficiency.”

As a therapist, this part plays an important role in my care.  I would estimate that about 90% of my patients are coming to me for some sort of pain complaint.  Sometimes this pain can keep the patient awake.  Knowing the role of Substance P regarding pain and sleep, I ask 100% of my patients about sleep.  If sleep is disturbed, then I know that I have to attempt to understand the problems with sleep.  If the problems go beyond sleep hygiene, then the patient is referred out to a doctor that specializes in sleep studies.

“providing interventions to improve sleep may impact pain and thus improve outcomes”

This is why it is so important for PT’s to ask about sleep!  It may affect our outcomes!

We are all (I’m an optimist) trying to get patients better and we have to look at all of the variables that we can manipulate in order to achieve this goal.

“understanding the important relationship between sleep and pain could profoundly influence the treatment interventions targeted toward changing the patient’s experience of pain”

Just by improving sleep, we may be able to decrease a patient’s pain experience and improve function as a result.

“long duration of sleep (>8-9 h per night) was associated with an increased mortality due to cardiovascular disease and increased risk of developing coronary heart disease…short sleep duration (<5-6 h per night) was associated with an increased risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease and weakly associated with developing other cardiovascular diseases.”

This is the paradox of sleep.  Get too little and no bueno, but get too much and equally no bueno.  Looks like 6-8 hours per night appears to be the right amount.  Reading this paragraph makes me think of the three bears.

“Sleep apnea…increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease…heart failure and stroke…breathing stops temporarily, which decreases the level of oxygen in the body alerting the brain to excite certain receptors.”

Fight or flight? When a person stops breathing, the body becomes excitable and stresses out.  This stress can raise BP, increase heart rate and cause other neurological responses.

“About 75% of people with depression experience symptoms of insomnia…almost 20% of those with insomnia have clinically significant depression and anxiety.”

This is a quick question that we can ask when someone notes that they have anxiety or depression, which is typically asked on a history intake form.

“sleep may play an important role to the development of Alzheimer’s disease”

This has to do with neurofibrillar tangles in the brain.  This is another topic of concern for me and my family.

We are doing a lot of studying in order to understand the ramifications of Down Syndrome and there is a high likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

We put some coconut oil in her cereal and oatmeal.

“…sleep hygiene has been associated with improved sleep quality in college students and in patients with low back pain…reduce pain and fatigue in people with fibromyalgia”

Sleep hygiene is ensuring that the environment and other factors surrounding the act of sleep are ideal for sleeping.

 

Sleep hygiene education

  1. “Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day and exposure to bright natural light is helpful to set your natural biological clock”
    1. some people will use blue lights in the AM to try to help with waking or to prevent the “winter blues”
  2. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. Do not eat, work, or watch TV in bed.
    1. Getting a little graphic, but the bed needs to be a place meant for things done horizontal.
  3. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
  4. Avoid moderate to vigorous activity at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  5. Avoid caffeinated foods and drinks at least 4 hours before bedtime
  6. Refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.  It can cause you to wake up during the night and smoking can act as a stimulant
  7. Do not take un-prescribed or over the counter sleeping pills
  8. Avoid daytime napping so that you are tired at night and can fall asleep easily.
    1. Some people advocate for polyphasic sleep
  9. Make your sleeping environment comfortable and relaxing. Avoid light, wear earplugs and use a mask if needed
  10. Avoid eating a large meal or spicy food 2-3 hours before going to bed
  11. Talk to your doctor or health professional if you still have trouble sleeping.

Thanks for reading.

You can find me at movementthinker on Itunes and if you have questions can also send me a message at Goodliferehab.com.

Excerpts taken from:

Siengsukon CF, Al-dughmi M, Stevens S. Sleep Health Promotion: Practical Information for Physical Therapists. Phys Ther. 2017;97:826-836.

Car 54

Do we see a problem with this picture?

How far do we have to go still in order to educate the public?

When people think back pain, they don’t think of physical therapists. When people think concussion, they don’t know where to turn.

As a professional, I do all that I can to educate the public, but in the end still have to apologize for our profession’s apathy.

We have no brand…better yet we have a brand, but not a consistent one.

I believe it was Therapy Insiders that did an episode of asking people on the street what they thought of when they heard the term physical therapy. Our roles in the SNF and acute care hospitals seem to be cemented in people’s mind because these answers were given, but we weren’t the first ones thought of for pain or back pain.

We have to do a better job folks. Get out there and educate the public on SoMe, in person, small groups or online. Every little bit helps. Let’s hope that if this same survey were done again in a year that the number would be far less.

Online presence

I think that this sums it up. If we aren’t posting online on our personal websites, on social media (SoMe) or on a work website then we are missing out on contact points with over a third of the population. Our role has to grow larger than treating the patient that walks in the door with a referral. We, as a profession, have to go out there and educate the public, medical doctors, podiatrists, dentists, laborers, plumbers, and at times other therapists.

We don’t get to sit in our offices anymore and wait for patients to come to us, but we have to go out and educate!

How are you establishing a presence in your community, your workplace and your profession?

Leave comments below.

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.

Ivory tower of PT

 

This was a refreshing article regarding the creation of a progression to a doctoring program for a school in Australia. Although this school is a world away from my practice, they face the same situations that we do here in the states. I was impressed with the thoroughness of the article’s message and am excited to see the students that graduate from a program like the one described. I would love to see this type of program offered in the states, as I personally don’t feel that this type of education is being offered. At least I haven’t seen many students that possess these traits in my clinic yet. Those that do, I am uncertain if they were learned in school or through inherent characteristics.

 

  1. “Chronic disease management requires holistic, patient-centered care, with collaborating and respectful teams of interdisciplinary providers (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health workers).”

 

I see where the authors are going with this, in that they are creating the lead in for the rest of the article. On a side note…I can remember in 6th grade reading/composition learning how to make a house in order to get a point across. You had to start with the roof, which is the overall theme and then build the house down from the roof by adding in the thesis and supporting points. Mrs. Hart..I didn’t forget. With that in mind…that analogy doesn’t apply to this type of writing, as I simply brainstorm and just try to keep up with my thoughts on paper.

 

Back to it. We should be collaborating for all patients, not just chronic illness based patients. All patients should expect the same high level of care, which involves calling other professionals with results if need be. I see way to often the lack of communication when working with patients in the clinic. Luckily, no one has suffered greatly from the lack of communication, but luck shouldn’t be my basis of success.

 

  1. “health care ‘now requires large enterprises, teams of clinicians, high-risk technologies, and knowledge that outstrips any one person’s abilities’”

 

I beg your pardon?! I am very capable mind you…just kidding. No one person can know all of all things. It is important for a PT, or any one for that matter, to know his/her weaknesses and place him/herself in a position to leverage strengths, while hiding weaknesses. For instance, I am very good at orthopedics, which means that if I work in a clinic that sees more than just orthopedic patients (which I currently do), then I have to partner my skills with those of someone that is very good at everything else. Luckily, I have. If I were to ever leave to open up my own practice, I would have to either 1. Work on my weaknesses (I’ve never been a fan of that) or 2. Be so good at treating orthopedic conditions that I can refer those patients that encompass my weakness to a colleague or a friend at another clinic. WHAAA?! Turn away patients…sacrilegious! I wouldn’t want my mother to see me if she had Dandy Walker syndrome…it’s not my specialty.

 

  1. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently implemented bundled payments for hip and knee replacements…the hospital that performs the surgery will be accountable for the costs and quality of related care for the episode of care…The payment structure incentivizes better coordinated care”

 

SIGN ME UP! Accountability paired with incentives to improve patient outcomes. This is a great thing. Some people are scared of this bundled payment thing, as they talk only about loss of profits. I only see rewards for fixing patients quicker, with fewer complications, leading to increased pay.

 

EVERYONE NEEDS TO WAKE UP THOUGH! This is happening. You need to do a better job of choosing your provider. If you ask a friend and learn that the friend got crappy care from their provider…don’t go there! Even if others (namely health care professionals) are trying to push you in that direction, make more informed decisions. Get a second opinion before going there.

 

  1. “The curricula need to engage students to develop the necessary attributes, knowledge and skills in health leadership, policy, advocacy, and research…physical therapy curricula need to be forward thinking and innovative.”

 

AWESOME SAUCE! Now…I’ll believe it when I see it. I totally agree that PT’s need to be better trained when coming out of a Doctorate program, but unfortunately tradition appears to be taught more so than forward thinking…or thinking in general. We have come past the recognition and regurgitation aspect of therapy. We need to do a better job of teaching how to think.

 

The rest of the article went deeper into the curriculum for the program. I highly recommend any and all teachers of health care to read this article. It touched on some very important points and I look forward to practicing alongside those that graduate from a program like the one described in the article.

 

Quotes taken from:

 

Dean CM, Duncan PW. Preparing the Next Generation of Physical Therapists for Transformative Practice and Population Management: Example From Macquarie University. Phys Ther. 2016; 96:272-274

Core stability and Swiss Balls

MORAL: Boys, put your balls away. Nothing more to add

 

  1. “Developing core strength has been emphasized as a valuable component in general and sports conditioning programs in addition to active rehabilitation programs for individuals with low back pain (LBP).”

 

What is the core? We all see the late night infomercials talking about core strength and see people with washboard abs. Is this core? Not exactly. Picture this: the strike zone in baseball. Not the MLB, because that strike zone is almost non-existent, but little league baseball. The old middle of the thighs to the letters of the jersey, that’s the strike zone. Now, picture all of the bones and muscles that are in this area. Do the same thing for the side of the body and the back of the body. Most everyone neglects the back and sides. We all want that beach body you know. Unfortunately, that beach body is all show and no go.

 

Core stabilization is more of a communication thing than an Incredible Hulk thing. The muscles of the “core” (strike zone) have to be able to transfer the amount of force that your legs are generating and apply it to something that your arms want to do. All of the body by Jakes or ab rockers won’t get you there. They will do a great job of strengthening your target muscles for that specific exercise, but they won’t do anything for making you a better athlete or better person for that matter.

 

  1. “Numerous studies have placed individuals on trunk exercise programs that in turn resulted in a greater increase in endurance and decline in reports of LBP episodes”

 

If you are a couch potato, than doing anything may be better than doing nothing. If this is you, then stop reading because the ab rocker is waiting for the next set. If you aspire to more than just couch potato, then doing unweighted trunk strengthening exercises may not be enough for you.

 

  1. “It is apparent that training while under unstable conditions does increase the activity of these (trunk) muscles”

 

Enter the Bosu ball or the Swiss Ball. This one statement has created rooms of balls in gyms and has spawned people marching in place while sitting on a ball in the physical therapy clinic. If you are one of these people and really think that you are being uber effective, then this article may be offensive. PUT YOUR BALLS AWAY!

 

But I can already hear you say: “increased activity” blah, blah, blah. Look, being busy is not the same as being productive. Increasing activity does not lead to increasing strength, unless you are increasing the load as well. When I say load, I mean weight. The kind of stuff of the legends of Paul Anderson, Franco Columbo, Kaz (he is so legendary that he only needs to go by his nickname). Look these people up. I can say with certainty that they weren’t training on balls.

 

  1. “Behm et al had subjects perform various trunk-stabilizing exercises with stable and unstable (Swiss ball) conditions. Results indicated that the abdominal stabilizers, LSES (back muscles) and ULES (upper back muscles) exhibited significantly greater activity with the unstable conditions. The 2 most effective exercises for trunk activation were the side bridge and superman”

 

Again is you are weak than doing anything is better than doing nothing. If you have weak muscles, then lifting a spoon is difficult and your muscles will get activated. “Only the strong survive.” I don’t want to activate, I want to get jacked. Why? Because someone that is strong will be able to get their butt off of the toilet at the age of 80, without the use of handrails. Someone that is jacked will not have difficulty getting off of the floor and being a stereotype like on the commercial. People…it is not about turning on muscles. I can turn on my butt muscles by squeezing my ass cheeks together. Activation does not equal functional and surely doesn’t mean strong.

 

The Swiss ball is one of the worst things to be introduced into our profession. That’s right…I said it! We as a profession spend way too much time training unstable situations when the patient needs to get stronger. I can hear the PTs arguing now: “What about balance patients? What about patients that need to walk on unstable surfaces?” Great! Do Swiss ball stuff for this purpose, but stop selling the unstable training as a means to get stronger. I am saying “I AGREE WITH YOU”! Ok, now get rid of the Swiss ball for all other purposes. We are doing the patient a disservice. The logic made sense years ago, but the research just isn’t there.

 

On a side note: I want as many patients as possible to read this blog. This way the patient can be armed with facts to go into the PT with in order to question the activities that are being performed in the clinic. If I can’t give a good reason for why I am doing what I am doing, then fire me! We are in a day and age in which results will be the driver of our profession. This is already starting to happen with “bundled payments for total joints” ( I highly suggest that you educate yourself on this also. I may or may not write about this soon). We need to make sure that as health professionals that we continue to get smarter and better at what we do. Patients need to continue to educate themselves about their health for two reasons 1. IT’S YOUR BODY! 2. You will challenge your health care provider to either get better or get lost.

 

The two most effective exercises for trunk activation are the side bridge and superman, said no strongman, crossfitter or strongman ever!

 

  1. “Swiss balls have been incorporated into strength training programs on the belief that a labile surface will provide a greater challenge to the trunk muscles, increase the dynamic balance of the user and possibly help to stabilize the spine in order to prevent injuries”

 

Coming soon: Humans on Mars. Same kind of statement. The above quote starts by talking about beliefs. Look, are we a faith or are we a science? We can’t have both. If we believe something to be true…it also has to be true. For a long time, the world was flat. We believed it to be true, so it was true. We have come a long way since Galileo. We actually have to test our beliefs to see if it is worth using.

 

I am a meathead. Swiss balls are fun to play tug-o-war or work on balance (such as advocated by Paul Check), but they are not good for building stability. To be stable is to be the opposite of mobile. We need to make our trunk opposite of mobile. We can do this by resisting a heavy load.

 

  1. “…one must ensure that their training regimen incorporates training specificity”

 

Joe Weider. The name brings back memories of the old Weider barbell sets sold at Sears. We had the concrete filled plastic weights. My how far we have come…and yet the same principles still apply. If you want to get better at throwing a punch, don’t work on kicks and if you want to be a better swimmer, don’t practice skydiving. If we want to be strong and stable (i.e. immobile), then we need to practice on being strong and stable.

 

  1. “The practical application of training the trunk stabilizers from a supine or prone position may not transfer effectively to the predominately erect activities of daily living”

 

If we pair point 6 and point 7, then there’s only one real reason to practice exercises in a horizontal position…you know what I mean (wink, wink).

 

Anyway, the new buzz words are functional fitness. The above statement is essentially saying that doing exercises that are not similar to what you would do during your day may not be functional. You hear the old joke about 12 oz curls, yeah I’ve heard it too. If all you do all day is drink grape nehi, then you don’t need to do anymore than that. It’s functional for you.

 

  1. “Perhaps a combination of relatively high-intensity resistance using free weights (light to moderate instability) can provide greater activation than the very popular instability exercises commonly used today”

 

DUH! Anyway, the authors are finally talking about a quantity of activation. There is no doubt that lifting a beer bottle will activate your arms and trunk muscles, but I’ll take the guy that is lifting kegs for fun if I was a betting man.

 

  1. “The 80% 1RM squat exercise exhibited significantly greater LSES EMG activity than all other exercises…exceeding the body weight squat, deadlift, superman, sidebridge exercises by 56, 56.6,65.5 and 53.1% respectively”

 

When compared to dead lifting, side bridging and superman, the squat is THE KING OF ALL EXERCISES! For lumbar spine muscles. Hear that all you bird-doggers! Hear that all you supermanners! There is nothing better than loading a heavy barbell with 45 pound plates and squatting down and standing up. I miss the sound of the 45 pound plates vibrating next to each other when you walk the bar out. I use bumper plates nowadays. Not as much testosterone as the steel, but a hell of a lot safer for my garage floor if I have to dump the weight.

 

Put it into perspective, this exercise is 50% better than most popular exercises. Everyone can squat. Everyone has to get off of the toilet. If you don’t, you will end up in a home because no one wants to help you off of the toilet and wipe your behind for free.

 

  1. “The 80% 1 RM deadlift exercise exhibited significantly greater ULES EMG activity than all other exercises”

 

There is a reason why powerlifters have such thick backs. They specialize in the 2 exercises that work both the lower and upper lumbar muscles.

 

  1. “…it may be unnecessary to add calisthenic-type instability exercises to a training program to promote core stability if full-body, dynamic, upright exercises are implemented in the program”

 

Time to turn off the t.v. Stop buying all of the infomercial crap and just get up off the couch…now sit down…stand up…sit down…stand up…sit down. Now go do the same thing while holding a can of soup. You are now stronger than you were yesterday.

 

Excerpts taken from:

Hamlyn N, Behm DG, Young WB. TRUNK MUSCLE ACTIVATION DURING DYNAMIC WEIGHT-TRAINING EXERCISES AND ISOMETRIC INSTABILITY ACTIVITIES. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research. 2007;21(4):1108-1112.

 

 

Whatcha lookin at? Part III

Whatcha lookin at? Part III

 

The topic of the day is overall wellness of the individual and of society as a whole. I have some strong opinions regarding this and if you disagree with what I right, that’s your prerogative. Please leave a comment stating why you disagree.

 

  1. “ Work Well-Being Dimension satisfies the thirst for purpose…need for fulfilling a purpose in ones’ vocation”

 

This is important. Think of all of the people on disability, whether short or long-term. If there is no purpose, then how empty are we? This reminds me of a story: My dad…my Superman retired in 2005-ish. When he retired, he asked me about some symptoms he was having. Coughing up blood and difficulty sleeping. He attributed it to getting kecked by a horse in the previous week. I saw red flags. One thing led to another and he was initially thought to have lung cancer. The man didn’t smoke and as long as I can remember never smoked. After retirement, he spent his time sitting around watching Bonanza. He had a surgery and removed a mass from his left lower lobe, which was non-cancerous, but was due to a bacterial infection. This is a moot point, because the bacterial infection would have killed him also. Anyway, after the surgery, my brother bought him a horse. He found a new passion…a new purpose. My dad is healthier now than I have seen him in a long time. My mom doesn’t particularly like his spending time with the horses, but he has a purpose. My mom still searches.

 

We all need a purpose…we all need a why. If you don’t have one, keep looking because someone we all have talents and can all be helpful to someone else if we take the time.

 

  1. “Play Well-Being Dimension acknowledges that play provides the individual

with laughter, cheer, energy, and balance”

 

From the work well-being to the play well-being. I think that we have confused busyness with work and/or play. For instance, many of us say that we are busy when asked how we are doing, as if busy-ness implies that we are working. This is not always the case. I am way more productive when I am not busy. Play is difficult for many people because we, I , forgot what it means to be “unbusy”. This time of laughter and cheer. Having a daughter has greatly helped, a I recently went down a sslide for the first time in a long time. If you know me, then you can image “big guy in a little coat”. That’s how it felt going down the slide.

 

  1. ‘Well-Being of Our World Dimension reflects an individual’s perceptive on living in a healthy environment and protecting natural resources…broad overview of the world…responsibility, justice, an earth-caring lifestyle, a desire of well-being for all”

 

I don’t know if I agree with this dimension totally. As much as I am for a “green” environment, I don’t know how much someone’s throwing away electronics affects me personally. I won’t judge someone taking plastic over paper. Short story: While in Poland, we went to the grocery store weekly. We had to pay for every bag that we used. It was about a nickel in US dollars. Although it wasn’t much, remember that people there don’t make as much as we do here, so this is a major sacrifice in order to carry the groceries out of the store.

 

  1. “Even when a individual presents with signs and symptoms of pathology, education of secondary complications prevents further signs and symptoms leading to disability”

 

I see many patients with low back pain. Most of these patients come into the clinic looking for one thing (and research shows this is the number one thing that patient’s want): education. They want to know why they are experiencing symptoms and how can they go about fixing themselves. If we can educate patients or society as a whole regarding normal compared to abnormal experiences, there may be less disability.

 

  1. “Prevention practice encompasses health care designed to promote health, fitness, and wellness through education and appropriate guidance designed to prevent or delay the progression of pathology”

 

Those promoting health should also demonstrate a healthy lifestyle. Without a doubt, if I passed you on the street, you may ask “Do you even lift bro?”, but I can squat with the best of them (drug free of course). Many therapists don’t allow for time in their day to exercise and to me this is hypocrisy, seeing as exercise is the intervention charged the most in our profession.   It’s like a Doctor telling you to quit smoking though you see the stains on the fingernails. Hypocrisy!

 

  1. “Preventive care also includes instruction to minimize or eliminate injurious forces throughout daily life. This instruction includes recommendations to optimize conditions for performance, whether the performance is related to simple activities of daily living, work activities, leisure activities or activities related to competitive sports”

 

Robin McKenzie, Shirley Sahrmann, Stuart McGill, Brian Mulligan, Florence Kendall, Geoff Maitland, Stanley Paris: These are the giants of the previous century. They took therapy and principles of health to the health care practitioner. Giants of today are: Grey Cook, Kelly Starrett, Quin Henoch, Therapy Insiders, Barbell Shrugged guys, because they are taking healthcare to the patient.

 

As a PT, I can affect one patient per hour. Writing this blog, I have already affected twice as many people and I only hope for exponential growth.

 

Excerpts taken from the following:

 

Thompson CR. Prevention Practice: A Holistic Perspective for Physical Therapy. In: Prevention Practice: A Physical Therapist’s Guide to Health, Fitness, and Wellness. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated:2007.