10 Things I learnt From 10 Days With Diane Jacobs

Across the end of March and the start of April I spent 10 days straight with Canadian physiotherapist Diane Jacobs, who was in Australia to teach her DermoNeuroModulating (DNM) workshop, which I attended.

Twice.

The first event was held in Noosa, Queensland. It was hosted by Robin Kerr at her recently sold practice, Alchemy in Motion.

The second event was held in Melbourne, Victoria. It was hosted by me at the lovely Parkville hotel The Larwill Studio.

Each event started with a 3 hour lecture by Diane, which covered the theoretical foundation of her work, and was then followed by 3 full days of teaching the manual techniques and clinical reasoning outlined in her book.

I also spent a few days before and after the Melbourne workshop hosting Diane – we went to the zoo, some local pubs and restaurants as well as the Shrine of Rememberance and the National Gallery of Victoria. She even got to have lunch with my mum!

I thought the course was fantastic, overall one of the best courses I have attended, and definitely the best manual therapy course I have attended.

50 Years Is A Long Time

Diane is the same age as my mum. I won’t say what that is exactly (not that I think she’d mind), but she has been in practice for almost 50 years.

Her first years were spent in a hospital setting, which almost turned her off the profession. In fact, she did leave for a short while, but she found her groove, and has never looked back (mostly).

I think anyone who has lived a life, worked thoughtfully and experienced many interactions with people is worth listening to and learning from, and Diane proved me right.

Not David Letterman

In 2013, I took a visceral manipulation course. It was interesting, but implausible. I’d say that Diane’s explanations make more conceptual sense.

One of the benefits of the course was the location – it was in New York City, and while I was there I went to a recording of The Late Show With David Letterman.

His Top 10 lists were great.

I’m not sure I’m of that calibre, but here goes.

NEW YORK – APRIL 24: Dave reads the “Top Ten List” on the Late Show with David Letterman, Friday April 24, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)

On Life

Life mostly works itself out over time. We worry about things we can’t control very much (like outcomes in manual therapy) and cause ourselves a lot of bother, but it mostly works itself out.

On Work

Being a manual therapist is a peaceful way to make a living.

On Not Knowing

It’s okay to not know something, and it’s okay to have a story that may be somewhat, or even entirely inaccurate, as long as you acknowledge it.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.


Richard Phillips Feynman 

On Listening

At the Noosa workshop, Diane asked the group if anyone had neck pain, as she was about to demonstrate techniques targeting the occipital nerves.

A man in his sixties volunteered, and she asked him about his pain.

What followed was a 40 minute implicit demonstration of how to listen to someone (not just a patient). Diane seemingly made him feel as they were the only 2 people in the room with her facial expressions, body language and most importantly, her quiet attention.

I really think we need to start considering listening as an intervention itself

Alison Sim

On Manual Therapy

It’s non-specific and n=1 and that’s completely okay.

Additionally, manual therapy can be optimal when it is used for certain presentations (and not very good at all when used for others).

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“For the treatment of pain, manual therapy is always OPTIONAL, but it can be OPTIMAL” – Diane Jacobs ~ So when is manual therapy likely to be optimal? According to Diane, when pain is: ~ ▪ Localised/discrete ▪ Changes with movement/position (ie mechanical) ▪ Changes with distraction ~ Manual therapy is not likely to help (resolve the condition) when: ▪ There are multiple sites of pain that are likely to be the result of central sensitisation ▪ Conditions like fibromyalgia and hyperpathia (basically anything which is highly centralised) ▪ Most (but not all) neuropathic pain ~ I think there is a dearth of research looking at indications and dosage for manual therapy, and as a result (and due to the non specific nature of manual therapy), a lot of research into effectiveness is poor and doesnt help clinical practice. ~ What are your indications for manual therapy? (if you don’t use it, don’t comment, as I know the arguments against, I’m interested in arguments for) ~ #integrativeosteopathy #osteopathy #physiotherapy #massage #manualtherapy #myotherapy #chiropractic #clinicalreasoning

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On Interoception

Often Diane would ask someone if they had pain in the region she was about to demonstrate techniques for.

One thing that really stood out was how she always wanted to get people aware and thinking about how their body felt, rather than the labels and diagnoses they’d been given.

“Does anyone have a sore back”

“I do”

“Tell me about your sore back”

“I had a disc injury”

“How does that feel?

On Beer

Dark beers are her favourite, but The Damned Pilsener by HopNation in Footscray was pretty nice as well.

On Lifespan

It’s mostly genetic.

People try all kinds of things to live longer, but it’s mostly down to genes, and maybe stress.

On Asymmetry

Asymmetrical structure is normal, common and completely okay.

Habitual asymmetrical use of our body is possibly a predisposing factor for mechanical pain.

  • Sleeping on the same side every night
  • Curling up in the same position on the couch all the time
  • Crossing arms/legs the same way all the time
  • Standing with your weight on one leg
  • Carrying bags/children on one side

Her rationale is that such sustained postures/positions/movements relatively tension and shorten the same neural tissues in the same way over time, impacting their fluid dynamics.

Better awareness leads to better use of our body, which leads to feeling better in our body.

On Diagnostic Errors

Everything is a type 1 error (when it comes to musculoskeletal pain diagnoses).

Most of the pain problems we see in clinical practice have been given structural or biomechanical labels.

Yet, often neither changes when the pain resolves.

Or on the other hand, many people walk around with these structural or biomechanical changes and experience no pain.

She is very comfortable with simply calling something “pain”, treating it conservatively and if it improves, not pursuing it further (she will refer for investigations if it doesn’t and she suspects pathology).

DNM: Just Another Acronym?

Manual therapy is full of acronyms and techniques.

Does DNM bring anything different to the table?

Yes.

DNM isn’t about the techniques, which are lovely, but often just rebadged osteopathic techniques.

DNM is about the clinical reasoning process in manual therapy.

It is about considering the role of the nervous system in pain.

It is about understanding what we can affect with manual therapy (nerves, the most excitable tissue in the body), and what we can’t (muscles, fascia and joints – at least not directly).

DNM was the first approach to manual therapy I came across that not only considered the skin (the only thing we can touch), but the physiology and potential therapeutic effects of treating the skin.

There are no rules for DNM techniques – it’s jazz, not classical music.

It’s not copyrighted.

It’s not a business.

It’s simply one woman’s interpretation of the literature on pain, physiology and manual therapy.

Clinical Reasoning In Manual Therapy

Touch is an important part of human interaction.

Pain is an unpleasant human experience.

Touch conveys meaning that words often cannot.

Pain is often hard, if not impossible to put into words.

It is not surprising that touching people in pain is a common ritual, and it has likely been performed for thousands of years of humanity.

Touching people in pain has now evolved into specialised forms of physical therapy, from massage to manipulation and everything in between. However, what it all boils down to is touch and narrative.

Many therapists, and particularly those who define themselves by what they do (like osteopaths), will be upset to hear that I don’t think manual therapy has to (or can be) very specific to be effective for pain relief.

Manual Therapy is Applied Force

In his excellent book The Science and Practice of Manual Therapy, osteopath and researcher, Dr Eyal Lederman describes the 2 types of force you can apply to a body with your hands, instruments or body:

  1. Tension forces
  2. Compression forces

He elaborates that combinations of these two forces can also be applied, yielding resultant forces such as:

  • Torsional forces
  • Shearing forces
  • Bending forces

When you consider the other variables relating to applied force:

  • Direction
  • Speed (technically velocity)
  • Duration
  • Rhythm/frequency
  • No of cycles

You can then begin to develop different techniques.

Techniques have historically been name in anatomical terms (myofascial release, joint articulation) or by descriptors of what the technique involves or a proposed mechanism (high velocity-low amplitude – HVLA, counterstrain, muscle-energy technique/proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation).

Clinically, most therapists will say that different techniques (aka different applications of forces) result in different clinical effects and outcomes.

While there is some research to suggest there are different descending modulation pathways that are stimulated with different manual therapy techniques, overall, our current body of knowledge suggests that the effects are non-specific.

The (Non-Specific) Effects of Manual Therapy

Referring back to Lederman’s book, we can describe the effects of manual therapy in 3 main areas:

  1. Tissue effects, which are primarily local
  2. Neurological effects (yes, the nervous system is tissue, but this relates to function of the nervous system)
  3. Psychological effects

You Can’t Change Tissues, Directly

One of the big misnomers surrounding manual therapy is that it directly changes tissues like muscles, ligaments and fascia.

This is not the case – and it doesn’t make biological sense for it to be.

Imagine, if a pair of hands touching you for a few minutes could stretch out your muscles. What would happen to your muscles as you sit down, or sleep?

Manual therapy can possibly stimulate some cellular responses via mechanotransduction.

  • Mechanotransduction is the physiological process where cells sense and respond to mechanical loads. It is independent of the nervous system.
  • Mechanotherapy is the therapeutic application of force/load, used to differentitate between homeostatic mechanotransduction.

A 2012 study, Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage, demonstrated this.

While it was quite a small study, with only 11 participants, it shed light on some cellular effects as a result of massage.

The researchers induced muscle fatigue/damage via exercise (stationary cycling) and then massaged one thigh and used the other as a control.

They found that massage activated the mechanotransduction signaling pathways:

  • Focal adhesion kinase (FAK)
  • Extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2)
  • Potentiated mitochondiral biogenesis signaling [nuclear peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α)
  • Mitgated the rise in nuclear factor κB (NFκB) nuclear accumulation

However, whether at all this is clinically relevant remains to be seen. It is one small study, and most other studies demonstrate a very small effect as well.

What is relevant, is that there is a benefit to tissue repair, particularly in the first 2 weeks after injury from harmonic articulation. This is outlined further in Lederman’s text, but considering that pain often leads to decreased use of tissues, this should be considered as a potential therapeutic option.

So it is fair to say that tissue effects, via mechanotransduction are not relevant to the clinical outcomes resulting from manual therapy.

In part, this is because of the way force is distributed by the body.

The Frictionless Skin-Fascia Interface

Between the skin/subcutaneous fascia exists a frictionless interface. That is, the skin will slide over the fascia below it. Think about this, if this didn’t happen, you could pull your subcutaneous tissues around (this would not be good).

As a result, only force applied perpendicular to bone affects bone – tangential force is dissipated.

This knowledge has implications for manual therapy: can you really shear a fibula or radius? What about a vertebrae?

It’s not possible.

Again, thank goodness.

NeuroModulation?

The most likely effect of manual therapy on pain seems to be facilitating “the drug cabinet in the brain” by descending modulation.

Descending modulation is an important biological process that is protective of us in times of threat, but also helpful in managing pain.

It is known that manual therapy, and even touch can cause the brain to release inhibitory neurotransmitters that modulate pain, most likely at the spinal cord level.

As mentioned above, different types of manual therapy seem to evoke slightly different modulation responses.

Psycho(social) Effects of Touch

Touch is the most important sense we have. Without it, we cannot entirely feel pleasure or pain – we are less than human. – David J. Linden

Psychological effects have some crossover with neurological effects, and tend to evoke:

  • Descending modulation
  • ANS changes
  • Pleasant feelings (positive affect)

People can discern meaning from touch – thus can create therapeutic context with touch.

Think about this, if you caress a loved one, versus firmly grab them around the forearm, does the evoke different thoughts and feelings?

In their paper, The Skin As A Social Organ, the authors argue

However, because the skin is the site of events and processes crucial to the way we think about, feel about, and interact with one another, touch can mediate social perceptions in various ways.

The authors cite 3 mechanisms by which the skin can convey social meaning:

  1. Through affiliative behavior and communication
  2. Via affective processing in skin-brain pathways
  3. As a basis for intersubjective representation

I have never heard this described in any manual therapy course, or through my years of university study, yet it is arguably a bigger factor than mobilising joints or stretching muscles.

The Devil Is In The Dosage

There is scant (read: no) good research on dosage for manual therapy.

Practically, dosage is often constrained by patient/practitioner availability and resources (time, money etc).

Within a session, we can do more manual therapy or less. That much is obvious. However, it is hard to prescribe a dosage for intensity, unlike say, exercise.

That is because, as discussed above, the effects of manual therapy do not rely on mechanical stimulation, but rather contextual facilitation, affective change and possibly (probably) expectation.

So a simple way to gauge the response to manual therapy for dosage reasons is:

In other words, if you can gauge a response (within session changes) and measure the adaptation (between session changes) you can reverse engineer the dosage.

Within Session Changes: What to Look For

The responses we are looking for are often subtle, and if missed, can easily lead to overstimulus.

These are (tanks to Barrett Dorko for a couple of these):

  • Softening: a subjective feeling from either patient or practitioner of the tissues softening
  • Warmth: a noticeable increase in superficial warmth, typically explained as an increase in cutaneous blood flow
  • Movement: this is often spontaneous and effortless (think of a person “adjusting” themselves on the treatment table), but it can also be improved movement based on pre/post clinical assessment.

It is important to realise that within session improvements do not suggest resolution, only that there as been a response to the implied stimulus.

Is It Effective Though?

None of this matters if manual therapy isn’t clinically effective.

Here’s the rub (pun not intended): there is low quality evidence to suggest manual therapy can help certain conditions, while there is high(er) quality evidence that shows a smaller effect.

There is evidence (of varying quality) to suggest manual therapy can also influence the following processes:

  • Affects ANS
  • Affects tissue tone and ROM
  • Affects lymphatic system
  • Affects immune system
  • Affects haemodynamics
  • Descending modulation

Hence I favour a process based approach over a condition based approach to clinical reasoning.

This means that you aim to influence processes that are involved in the patient’s presenting complaint.

Putting It Altogether

In order for manual therapy to have a positive clinical effect, we have to apply the right dosage. In practice, underdosing is preferable to overdosing, as you can always do more, but you cannot take away work that has been performed.

We also know that manual therapy is non-specific, but different techniques potentially effect different descending modulation pathways. With this in mind, using a variety of forces (tension, compression, twisting etc) with a variety of variables (direction, duration, magnitude, frequency etc) will provide a hedge of sorts when an individual’s response and preferences are not fully known or understood. This can be modified over time as the practitioner-patient relationship develops.

Finally, we know that we can’t affect tissues, but we can affect processes, so again, as a hedge of sorts, it is preferable to treat a large proportion of the physical body over a localised approach. The exception to this is harmonic style techniques in the early stages of injury to enhance repair.

Conclusions

Two governing quotes govern my thinking around manual therapy for the treatment of pain:

When pain is the primary complaint, treatment of pain should be primary. – Barrett Dorko, PT

And the second:

Manual therapy is optional, but it can be optimal (for the treatment of pain). – Diane Jacobs, physiotherapist

If we understand the likely processes involved in manual therapy, and we acknowledge what we don’t know, along with what we know with a high degree of certainty is unlikely, then I can see well explained and well executed manual therapy continuing to play a role in therapy for many years to come.

If we continue to “treat anatomy” in relation to pain, then over time, funding from health systems and insurers will dry up, as the link between anatomy and pain is tenuous at best.

Finally, we have to give patients a voice. If patients determine they receive a benefit that is meaningful to them, we cannot discount that, as long as they understand the nature of the benefit (i.e. often transient and part of a bigger picture approach to health and pain management).

Workshop

If the topic of clinical reasoning and evidence informed practice with manual therapy interests you, come along to the 3 and a half day DermoNeuroModulation workshop in Melbourne at the end of March (presented by author and developer of the method, Diane Jacobs, who I’ve referenced throughout this post).

Details via the embedded link below.

Comments From Past Attendees:


Nick Efthimiou Osteopath

This blog post was written by Nick Efthimiou (Osteopath), founder of Integrative Osteopathy.

This blog post is meant as an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a qualified and registered health professional.

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References

A Process Model in Manual and Physical Therapies http://www.cpdo.net/Lederman_A_Process_model_in_Manual_and_Physical_Therapies.pdf

Mechanotherapy: how physical therapists prescription of exercise promotes tissue repair https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/4/247

Mechanotransduction: use the force(s) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4491211/

The frictionless properties at the thoracic skin-fascia interface: implications in spine manipulation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12034123

The relationship between the application angle of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) and resultant accelerations in an in situ porcine model https://www.mskscienceandpractice.com/article/S1356-689X(08)00170-7/pdf

Three-Dimensional Mathematical Model for Deformation of Human Fasciae in Manual Therapy http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2093620

Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301554

The Mechanisms of Manual Therapy in the Treatment of Musculoskeletal Pain: A Comprehensive Model https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775050/

Pain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26304172

Mobilization and Manipulation of the Cervical Spine in Patients With Cervicogenic Headache: Any Scientific Evidence? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27047446

Manual therapy, exercise therapy or combined treatment in the management of adult neck pain – A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28750310

The efficacy of manual therapy and exercise for treating non-specific neck pain: A systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5814665/

Effectiveness of conservative interventions including exercise, manual therapy and medical management in adults with shoulder impingement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/18/1340

Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis https://www.thespinejournalonline.com/article/S1529-9430(18)30016-0/abstract

Exercise, Manual Therapy, and Booster Sessions in Knee Osteoarthritis: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis From a Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29088393

Does manual therapy improve pain and function in patients with plantar fasciitis? A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29686479

Manual lymphatic drainage for lymphedema following breast cancer treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25994425

Manual Therapy Influences on the Autonomic Nervous System https://www.otago.ac.nz/physio/research/otago363201.html

Acute electromyographic responses of deep thoracic paraspinal muscles to spinal manual therapy interventions. An experimental, randomized cross-over study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28750955

Changes in biochemical markers following spinal manipulation-a systematic review and meta-analysis https://www-sciencedirect-com.wallaby.vu.edu.au:4433/science/article/pii/S246878121730067X

Assessment of skin blood flow following spinal manual therapy: A systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25261088

The Role of Descending Modulation in Manual Therapy and Its Analgesic Implications: A Narrative Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695672/

Further Reading

The Science and Practice of Manual Therapy – Eyal Lederman

DermoNeuroModulating – Diane Jacobs

Clinical Neurodynamics – Michael Schacklock

Touch – David J. Linden

11 Important Things To Know About Pain

As someone who spends his life thinking about how to better understand pain, I have reached the point where I have amassed a great deal of knowledge on the topic.

The problem with knowing a lot about a topic is, it is easy to fall victim to the curse of knowledge.

The curse of knowledge is best explained by this example:

In 1990, a Stanford University graduate student in psychology named Elizabeth Newton illustrated the curse of knowledge by studying a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tapper” or “listener.” Each tapper was asked to pick a well-known song, such as “Happy Birthday,” and tap out the rhythm on a table. The listener’s job was to guess the song.

Over the course of Newton’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only three of the songs correctly: a success ratio of 2.5%. But before they guessed, Newton asked the tappers to predict the probability that listeners would guess correctly. They predicted 50%. The tappers got their message across one time in 40, but they thought they would get it across one time in two. Why?

When a tapper taps, it is impossible for her to avoid hearing the tune playing along to her taps. Meanwhile, all the listener can hear is a kind of bizarre Morse code. Yet the tappers were flabbergasted by how hard the listeners had to work to pick up the tune.

The problem is that once we know something—say, the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind.

I, like many health professionals (and experts in every area) often struggle to convey our knowledge to our patients. This is a huge problem, as education (transferring knowledge), is one of the key strategies we can use to help people.

We say one thing, and with it we are thinking of many other things implicitly, based on our years of accumulated knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, patients only hear what we say, and not everything else that we are thinking of when we say it. To make matters worse, patients will often hear all of what we say, but truly understand even less.

So what’s the solution? How do I make this information as clear as possible?

Simple:

  • Use concrete, not abstract, language.
  • Use examples that relate to you.
  • Repeat the key concepts, over and over, until they stick.

With this in mind, here are 11 important things to know about pain.

1) Pain does not equal tissue damage

This is the most important thing to understand about pain.

Pain is not a marker of tissue damage.

Yes, it does occur with injuries that involve tissue damage. That is not in dispute. However, there are countless examples of people experiencing tissue damage and not feeling any pain. There are also many examples of people experiencing very minor or no actual tissue damage and a lot of pain.

Think about stubbing your toe. Often there is no discernible tissue damage, yet stubbing your toe hurts, a lot. However, after you look down and examine it, often the pain quickly subsides.

Or what about the examples of people who have been shot and don’t realise this until later!

Additionally, the intensity of pain we experience is not a direct measure of the severity of what is wrong. A paper cut hurts immensely, at least at first, but it is hardly a serious injury. On the other hand, many people with life-threatening cancers feel little no pain, especially in the early stages of the disease.

So if pain is not a measure of tissue damage, what is it?

2) Pain is protective

Pain is a protective “feeling” we experience with our conscious awareness.

Huh?

Well you can’t be unconscious and experience pain, by definition. That’s how anaesthetics work.

I’m going off on a tangent here, back to the point. Pain is protective.

Whether it is protective of an injured body part or protective of a threat to our brain’s concept of self pain is a biological process that is meant to keep us safe.

 

Imagine if, instead of being told that her sore knee is because of wear and tear, a doctor tells her patient that her knee pain is because her NERVOUS SYSTEM is being PROTECTIVE of it. ~ Imagine this doctor then tells her patient that to deal with the pain she needs to become more ADAPTABLE and RESILIENT, and that she can do this by improving her flexibility, strength and endurance with EXERCISE and ACTIVITY. ~ Imagine if this doctor also told her patient that STRESS and FEAR makes her PAIN WORSE, and that she not only needs to become more physically adaptable and resilient, but more MENTALLY as well, and that this is possible because even into older age, the BRAIN and nervous system CAN LEARN and CHANGE for the better! ~ #integrativeosteopathy #osteopathy #osteo #pain #neuroscience #exerciseismedicine #positivevibes

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That sentence is complicated, so read it again, and then I’ll break it down.

Pain can be protective of an injured body part. Most of us would have experienced this, but as I said above, it doesn’t measure damage. Pain can protect a previously injured body part too, often way before it is at any risk of being injured again. This is what happens when people talk about having a bad ____ (insert body part here).

Pain can also be predicatively protective. That is, we feel pain in anticipation of something happening to us. I see this lots with people who have low back pain – before they even move they feel pain, even though nothing has happened except a thought!

Finally, pain can also be protective of our concept of self. Our concept of self is the idea of “I”. It is who we think of when we think in the first person. The concept of self has been discussed anddebated in religious and philosophical circles for millennia.

The self is an individual person as the object of his or her own reflective consciousness – Wikipedia

When you understand this, you can see how pain that comes on for “no reason” can be explained as being protective of the self.

If you experience pain after intense periods of stress, then this is an example of your brain (we’ll get to that) deeming that stress as “threatening”, and along with the corresponding changes in a biochemistry during periods of stress, producing pain to get you to change your behaviours

3) Pain is produced by the brain and localised to the body

You don’t see with your eyes.

Your eyes have cells in them that respond to stimulation by light. Once stimulated, these cells send the information signal, via the optic nerve, to the brain. It is the brain which composes the “image” that we see. Interestingly, our brain doesn’t always produce an objectively accurate image. Unless we are really paying attention, it will often give us a generalised image, that is predictive, based on previous experiences. This is why eye-witness testimony is not considered reliable enough to convict as a stand alone evidence. It is thought this is to save energy.

The same goes for all our sensory experiences. Our brains produce a conscious experience based on input from the sensory nerves.

 

Most people are familiar with taste, touch, smell and hearing, which along with sight make up the “5 senses”. However, our brain is also receiving sensory information from many other nerves throughout the body. This gives us interoception (our sense of our internal body) and proprioception (our sense of our body’s position).

Along with the sensory stimuli mentioned, we also have sensory stimuli we are unaware of.

Nociception.

Nociception is “noise” from the body. Sensory nerves that respond to thermal, mechanical or chemical stimulation are constantly sending signals to the spinal cord. Most of this is blocked, because it is just that – noise. However, when when those nerves are stimulated to a greater degree – think an injury, or contacting a hot surface – then your brain becomes aware of the change to the noise levels.

Think about how you can hear your name spoken at a noisy party.

Your brain, not knowing exactly what is going on, will respond by producing pain, and will decide to protect the area where the increased nociception is coming from.

How does it do that?

With pain of course!

To make matters even more complex, we can have pain in the absence of nociception – think of amputees with phantom limb pain – but the majority of pain people experience is either the result of increased nociception or decreased inhibition of nociception.

More on that later.

4) Chronic pain is different to acute pain

Acute pain is usually a response to either a tissue injury or other immediate threat, it subsides as the injury or threat does.

Chronic pain is the result of changes to the nervous system which make it more sensitive. This means the nervous system and brain become “hyper protective”, generating pain with little or no provoking stimulus.

Whether you or someone you know has chronic back pain, arthritis, headaches or some other chronic pain condition (like fibromyalgia), it is important to know that in cases like this, the problem is pain, and it is the same mechanisms that are involved across the board.

How can this be? How can low back pain be the same as a headache or arthritis?

The changes that take place in the nervous system, predominantly take place in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). This is like the central control room for our nervous system. Thus if something is wrong with the central control room, then everything linked to it (which is everything), can be affected.

Of course, there are local (or peripheral) factors involved, which contribute to the pain being localised, but there is often a large central nervous system component to chronic pain.

As a result, chronic pain needs to be addressed as a problem in its own right, and not treated like acute pain.

5) Recurrent pain and multisite pain are both forms of chronic pain

Some people experience recurrent pain. That is pain that “comes and goes”.  They will often think that each episode is a discrete event, that is, it is the same problem happening over and over again. It gets better for a while, then it happens again.

Others experience pain in multiple body regions. They might all be one sided, or they cross midline and are above and below the waist. There may or may not be a pattern (often this pattern is explained in biomechanical terms by well meaning practitioners, but that’s another issue altogether).

This is not the case.

Both recurrent pain and multisite pain are forms of chronic pain, and need to be managed as such.

Often multisite pain starts as a single site, and progresses to multisite, chronic pain. In these cases it can be considered a progression of the same condition. It is important to understand the distinction between these presentations of pain, because chronic pain requires different management to acute pain (see no. 4).

6) Pain is never simple, even when it seems so

It may seem like some pain is simple.

You twist your ankle and it hurts.

Or, you drink lift too much and end up in pain.

We think like this because our brains like linear “cause and effect” relationships.

However, pain is not linear. It is emergent.

A linear process is when one thing progresses to another. In simple terms, it is when A + B = C.

An emergent process is when two or more things combine to form something that doesn’t share the properties of the things that make it up.

Because of this, and all the invisible and unconscious factors that contribute to us experiencing pain, we can never say that pain is simple.

When you twist an ankle, all the associations with twisted ankles you have ever experienced that are buried in your brain are activated. The meaning and context of the ankle twist comes into play (a soccer player who will miss the final will experience different feelings to someone who gets out of duties they didn’t want to do because of the injury). Sometimes the nociception doesn’t represent tissue damage at all, but spikes due to a sudden increase in load.

Why does this even matter?

Because chronic pain starts as acute pain, and in some cases, it was considered “simple”.

7) Pain is not caused by “poor posture”, weak muscles or being “out of alignment”

 


If you have understood everything up until now, this should make sense.

However, many people still think of pain being caused by these things, because we observe these things when people are in pain.

It is the common error of attribution: correlation is not causation.

When you experience pain, you might be weak, or stand/sit differently or even look and feel like you are twisted or bent. There is no disputing this.

But it doesn’t cause pain.

More likely, these things are caused by pain.

They are defensive, or protective behaviours.

8) Osteopaths (and other practitioners) don’t “fix” pain

You might think this is a strange statement to make.

Why else would you pay to see an osteopath then?

Well, there are lots of reasons, but when it comes to pain, the resolution can only come from within your own body and brain.

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A good osteopath will do everything in their power to help remove the barriers to recovery, and facilitate the physiological and psychological processes that need to take place, but no one can change you on the inside from the outside.

Even pain relieving drugs can only work if you are in the right context – morphine doesn’t always help, while sometimes a placebo pill works better than the real thing.

So if you are looking to be “fixed”, it is unlikely to happen as you want. This is probably the hardest thing to accept as both a patient and a practitioner.

9) Everything can “work”

There are claims from therapists, doctors and other kinds of healers about all kinds of treatments for all kinds of pain.

It’s likely all of these people have numerous success stories to confirm that what they do works.

But just as an osteopath can’t fix someone (see no. 8), everything can work for pain.

This is because the brain has the ability to produce pain relieving chemicals, in the right circumstances.

These pain relieving chemicals are extremely powerful, and when the context is right – belief, expectation and ritual all come into play – then the brain, in anticipation of what’s to come and in response to what has happened sends out all these amazing substances to help you deal with pain. This process is called descending modulation (or inhibition).

This is not a bad thing at all. It is actually the goal of many therapies, including osteopathy and exercise rehabilitation.

The problem comes, when interventions are sold in misleading ways, i.e. they are sold as doing something unrealistic or impossible.

In simple terms, if something sounds too good to be true (amazing success rate, top secret, revolutionary) or can only be done by a particular person, it is unlikely that the intervention is really doing what is claimed.

That’s not to say it doesn’t work, only that is doesn’t work because of what is claimed.

10) Inflammation is a good thing

Many people take anti-inflammatory medications for pain without a prescription. They don’t work (at least for low back pain).

Many others use ice after sustaining injuries.

The majority of people doing this don’t know why they are doing it. If you asked them, they might mention something about stopping inflammation.

If you asked them why they want to do this, they might say it helps with pain and recovery.

Now what is more likely?

Our bodies have, over thousands of years, evolved highly effective mechanisms for dealing with injury, part of which is the inflammatory process, or this process is an error of biology and must be stopped?

Inflammation is the body’s way of healing.

Yes, it can be painful, but pain is a protective response. And you know what needs protecting? Injured tissues.

That is not to say you need to completely rest an injured tissue by the way. It is simply saying that suppressing inflammation (particularly with drugs) can impair and delay healing.

Finally, chronic inflammation is not a good thing. However, it is usually the result of other issues, and while suppressing it relieves the inflammation, it doesn’t address the reasons why it is happening. Like chronic pain, chronic inflammation needs a different approach to acute inflammation.

Oh and one more thing,

11) How you live is more important than what you do

 

Most people in pain are looking for a fix.

Be it medication, treatments of various kinds, a specific exercise or even surgery.

The issue here, is that for many pain problems, these interventions all have low effect sizes. That means, they work, but not by very much. Hence the cost and risks often outweigh the benefits.

What is most important, particularly for sufferers of chronic pain, is living well, despite your pain.

Healthy lifestyle habits contribute to healthy bodies and brains.

Healthy bodies and brains experience less pain overall, and when they do experience pain, respond better to interventions.

That is not to say all treatments for pain don’t work.

Nor is it to say how you live can solve all types of pain.

It is simply saying, that your lifestyle plays a large role in your likelihood of developing and recovering from pain.

Think about it. If someone leads an unhealthy, high stress lifestyle, barely sleeping and consuming lots of drugs and alcohol, do you think it matters what kind techniques an osteopath uses, or what type of exercise they do?

Do you think it will make any difference in the grand scheme of things?

Conclusions

I consult with people in pain on a daily basis.

I work with them to try and help them feel and live better.

Sometimes, their pain goes away. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it gets worse. We are not predictable like a machine.

It is a really hard job, and while many practitioners love to talk about their success rate, I think if you take a big picture view, it is unlikely any single practitioner gets results above and beyond what the statistics say they should for the patient base they work with.

I do believe there are practitioners who would do worse, simply because this information about pain is still not common knowledge, even among health professionals, but to do better is unlikely.

Thus, if someone has a long waiting list, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best therapist, it simply means they have a lot of people waiting for their services.

When you choose a therapist to help you, it is less about what kind of therapist they are, and more about how they work, and whether that suits you. A good way to know if they are up to date with the research is to ask them about some of the topics above. They don’t have to agree, but if they have no idea, or dismiss things outright, that might be a hint.

Pain is a mystery, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce it, or live well with it. After all, it’s not just about the pain.
Nick Efthimiou Osteopath

 

This blog post was written by Dr Nick Efthimiou (Osteopath), founder of Integrative Osteopathy.

This blog post is meant as an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a qualified and registered health professional.

 

 



 

 

References

The Curse of Knowledge

Self

 

Pain Is A Mystery, But How Do You Solve It?

Puzzle

It is easy to think of pain as a simple puzzle. Find the missing pieces, put it all together in the right order and then voila, you feel better.

Unfortunately, as much as we’d like things to be this simple, it’s not the case, and pain is more like a mystery.

Allow me to let Malcolm Gladwell explain (1):

The national-security expert Gregory Treverton has famously made a distinction between puzzles and mysteries. Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts are a puzzle. We can’t find him because we don’t have enough information. The key to the puzzle will probably come from someone close to bin Laden, and until we can find that source bin Laden will remain at large.

The problem of what would happen in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein was, by contrast, a mystery. It wasn’t a question that had a simple, factual answer. Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much. – Malcolm Gladwell

Although it seems like there a new discoveries about pain being published almost monthly. So much about is still unknown.

And, because pain is invisible and has many unconscious components, we simply cannot know why you, or any individual is experiencing pain at a particular moment.

The Case Against Diagnostic Imaging

You would think that being able to visualise the structure of the body would be helpful to clinicians treating pain.

It turns out that this isn’t quite the case.

Firstly, there is a large, and growing, body of research that shows there is very poor correlation between the structure of our bodies and symptoms of pain.

From disc injuries (2) to degeneration (3)  and even partial or full thickness tendon tears (4), most of us are walking around with structural “damage” that would show up on diagnostic imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI etc).

Secondly, and most interesting to me, is due to the fact that the interpretation and reporting on diagnostic imaging varies wildly.

In a recent study on MRI reporting and interpretation (5), a woman with low back pain and neurological referral was sent for an MRI at 10 different locations. The results reported 49 total findings, with not one interpretive finding consistent across all 10, and only 1 finding consistent across 9 of the 10 reports.

This means:

  1. MRIs require skill to interpret, and not all radiologists are equally skilled, thus, it matters where you get an MRI done.
  2. Radiologists working in isolation from the patient, are assessing an image, not a person, and have to make a lot of assumptions, even with a comprehensive history.

What About Physical Assessments?

Physical assessments are a necessity for clinicians, but which assessments are valuable, and which just add confusion?

We can break physical assessment into 3 components:

  1. Vital signs like pulse, blood pressure and breathing
  2. Neuro-orthopaedic examinations that are designed to rule in or rule out specific pathology or conditions
  3. Functional assessment designed to determine an individual’s movement competency and capacity

It is the third area which is the most “grey”.

This is because human movement, being an emergent property, is not an easy thing to classify (6).

We can define good and poor movement, but again the definitions are somewhat arbitrary, and their are many exceptions who fall outside those defined ranges who do not have an consequences (injury, pain etc).

This isn’t to say their isn’t such thing as good movement, bad movement or better movement, but only that it is person specific.

So if we use a movement assessment to gain insight to a person’s movement at that moment in time, in those conditions (in the clinic for example)then we can look for a movements that can be better.

If we identify movement that could be better, we can challenge to brain to improve movement, with a variety of techniques.

Even Histories Can Be Misleading

A good clinician will help someone in pain by creating the right context, or environment for them to heal.

To do this, a good clinician will know what they need to know, and more importantly, what they don’t.

By focusing only on the important, relevant, information, a good clinician minimises the chance of nocebo, and maximises the chances for recovery.

What exactly then does a good clinician need to know?

Is this pain dangerous?

When consulting with a patient, first, we want to rule out risk – some musculoskeletal pain can be caused by serious pathological conditions that need medical intervention. We have to rule these out first, and when in doubt, err on the side of conservative.

As a caveat to the above section on imaging, an “unnecessary” X-ray is a small price to pay if the alternative is missing an early cancer diagnosis. This does not mean imaging should be routine!

Is this pain affected by movement or position?

Mechanical pain is characterised by changes related to movement or position. If the answer to this question is yes, this rules in mechanical pain as a diagnosis. This does not yet rule out other origins of pain.

We can follow this up with more exploratory questions around which movement or positions feel good and which don’t.

Combined with the assessment findings, this will give us some more insight into how to proceed with treatment.

What is your current autonomic state?

Your autonomic state says a lot about you.

If you are wound up tightly – in a sympathetic or stressed state, characterised by elevated heart rate and blood pressure, shallow breathing and decreased blood flow to the periphery of the body (including the skin) – then it will be hard to resolve your pain until you enter a more balanced autonomic tone.

What are the barriers to recovery?

These are often implied, and a good clinician will be able to identify these as much from what a patient doesn’t say, as what they do.

Factors that can affect recovery include:

  • Age
  • Disease
  • Nutrition
  • Thoughts
  • Comorbid conditions – anxiety, depression, high blood pressure etc
  • Medications
  • Family and friends
  • Employment, or lack thereof

As always, it’s not simple, and it’s definitely not linear.

We are, after all, dealing with people – you know, those confusing, irrational beings who like to “go out”, but not for too long, because then they have to “go home” (Seinfeld reference, video below).

The Downside of Irrationality

Human beings are irrational. This is a fact.

Being irrational has positives, the most obvious being love.

Love is a fantastic human emotion that is completely irrational. If we were completely rational beings, then we wouldn’t spend so many of our resources chasing love, or any feeling for that matter.

But, this is exactly why too much information does not help us treat pain.

Too much information can lead us to make false assumptions and draw erroneous conclusions.

This doesn’t help patients seeking help for pain at all.

Pain has very tenuous links to tissue damage, body structure, posture, strength, symmetry and stability. (8,9)

Investigating these to a high level, and then describing pain as a result of these findings is not only inaccurate, but also harmful. (9, 10)

Every time someone is told their pain is the result of the above findings, a link is made in their brain. This is called a neurotag. Think of it like a storage file in the brain. (11, 12)

If a clinician, family member or friend tells someone with low back pain they lack “core stability”, then this is added to the low back pain neurotag.

Then, because of the way our brains function, when we have existing knowledge, we look for examples to confirm this knowledge – this is called confirmation bias.

So the person with low back pain, who has been told their pain is caused by a lack of core stability, finds “evidence” to support this.

If their back hurts when they lift something, they blame their lack of core stability. If their back hurts after activity, it’s core stability’s fault.

They forget to focus on the times that they lifted something without pain, or that activity didn’t hurt.

This is just one simple example. There are many others like it.

Conclusions

Mysteries are interesting to us as humans – as long as we get closure and the mystery is solved in the end. This is the basis of the “open loop”*  TV shows, movies and books use to keep their audiences engaged.

Unfortunately life is not like a movie. We don’t always get a neat and tidy closure.**

The challenge facing any clinician, when we treat people in pain, is to focus only the important and relevant information, and to educate patients on why this is so.

The even bigger challenge, is helping patients face the reality that the mystery of pain can’t always be solved, no matter how much (or little) information you have.

 

*An open loop is used by writers whereby earlier in the story they introduce something, but don’t address it immediately, in order to keep your attention, because you want to find out what happens next.

**Except not all movies or TV shows have closure. One of the greatest TV shows of all time, The Sopranos, has a famous ending that didn’t give it’s audience the closer they were hoping for.

 

Nick Efthimiou Osteopath

 

This blog post was written by Dr Nick Efthimiou (Osteopath), founder of Integrative Osteopathy.

This blog post is meant as an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a qualified and registered health professional.

 

 



 

 

 

References

(1) Enron’s Open Secrets

(2) MRI findings of lumbar spine in people without back pain

(3) Abnormal magnetic-resonance scans of the lumbar spine in asymptomatic subjects. A prospective investigation

(4) MRI findings in throwing shoulders: abnormalities in professional handball players

(5) Variability in diagnostic error rates of 10 MRI centers performing lumbar spine MRI examinations on the same patient within a 3-week period

(6) Metastability and emergent performance of dynamic interceptive actions

(7) The fall of the postural-structural-biomechanical model in manual and physical therapies: exemplified by lower back pain

(8) Different contexts, different pains, different experiences

(9) Nocebo hyperalgesia and the startle response

(10) Context as a drug: some consequences of placebo research for primary care

(11) Pain really is in the mind, but not in the way you think

(12) Reinstatement of pain-related brain activation during the recognition of neutral images previously paired with nociceptive stimuli

Chronic Pain Is Rooted In Fear

fear painChronic pain is rooted in fear.

Chronic pain is defined as pain persisting more than 3-6 months, this is the time it typically takes for injured tissue to heal.

However, both acute and chronic pain have a tenuous association with injury (tissue damage).

People can exhibit the signs and symptoms of chronic pain earlier than 3 months.

This is influenced by factors associated with developing chronic pain, including, but not limited to, a history of anxiety and/or depression, low education level, lower income and age.

In general, most treatment of chronic pain is unsuccessful.

This is related to poor expectations of patients (after many failures, who can blame them) (1), and treatments that are overly focused on the biomedical (tissue) factors of pain, that often don’t match up with patients’ goals (2).

There have been promising results achieved by combining physical therapies with cognitive based therapies to treat chronic pain. (3)

Why Do We Experience Pain?

Professor of neuroscience and world leading expert on pain, Lorimer Moseley, has previously described pain as:

…a conscious correlate of the implicit perception that tissue is in danger

For most, the perception of danger evokes feelings of fear, heightened sensory awareness and decreased cognition.

When we assess danger, there are two main forms:

  1. Actual danger – situations where our life or safety is at risk.
  2. Perceived danger – situations where we perceive our life or safety to be at risk, but it really isn’t.

Both actual and perceived danger activate the same neuro-networks in the brain and the same physiological responses in the body. (4)

Our perceptions of danger are shaped by numerous factors, including:

  • Our age
  • Our gender
  • Our social
  • Our cultural upbringing
  • Our experiences
  • Our current capabilities.

If pain is related to a perception of danger, and our perception is shaped by all those factors, it is fair to say that pain is shaped by those factors too.

Pain science has moved forward, and beyond simply being a perception of danger, pain is beginning to be defined as a “need to protect”. (5)

The perception of danger, or threat, is in part based on predictive processing. (6)

Predictive processing is what our brains do to make sense of the world we experience and take shortcuts to achieving a conclusion.

An optical illusion based on predictive processing.

An optical illusion based on predictive processing.

Because of predictive processing, and other neural processes, we tend to not see an objective reality, but rather a subjective reality.

This is especially true when it comes to pain.

When we are experiencing pain, our brain makes predictions about whether something is going to be “dangerous”, and produces pain preemptively, in order to protect us.

Pain is not the only time that our brains use predictive processing.

Take a look at the brick wall, and see if you can spot what is not quite right.

The Neurobiology of Pain

The big problem with pain, is that pain is perception that we perceive as a sensation.

It tricks us into thinking that it is coming from our body, when in actual fact, pain is always produced by the brain and localised to the body. (7)

It is complex, and emergent, not linear.

So just because you feel a certain way after doing something, or not doing something, does not mean that your actions, or lack thereof, caused that feeling.

In the diagram below, I’ve simplified the neurobiology of pain with injury (remember, pain can occur without injury, and injury without pain as well).

neurobiology-of-pain-injury

Injury here is used loosely to describe the inciting physical event that damages the body tissue – it could be physical trauma, it could be an immune response from an infection or an auto-immune condition, like rheumatoid arthritis.

This leads to nociception – “danger” signals that convey a change to the status of the cellular environment.

That could mean a change to the mechanical load, a change to the chemical environment or a change to the temperature (the three primary types of nociceptors).

Inflammation is an immune response, and we know the brain and nervous system has a large role to play in the immune response (these days, doctors are calling it the neuro-endocrine-immune system). (8, 9)

Inflammation can lead to increased nociception, and if nociception increases, then this is a mechanism for increased inflammation. (10)

This can lead to peripheral sensitisation – where the sensory nerves in the affected body region become more sensitive due to physiological changes that take place.

All of this takes place locally, but we do not experience pain as a result of this just yet.

The Brain Modulates Everything

Modulation is a process whereby signals (nociception) reaching either the brain or spinal cord are amplified or inhibited. (11, 12)

Modulation can be affected by our thoughts – conscious or unconscious.

Here is where it gets interesting: we often think that our thoughts are ours, but there is compelling evidence that this may not be the case, and that our culture and environment shapes our thoughts, feelings and actions more than many of us would care to admit. (13, 14)

“You can do what you decide to do — but you cannot decide what you will decide to do.”
― Sam HarrisFree Will

Using this line of thought – when it comes to pain, our ideas and understanding, especially at an unconscious level are already implanted by the culture we live in.

Currently our culture around pain is:

  • Pain is bad.
  • Pain is caused by damage, or degeneration (the dreaded “wear and tear”) or misalignment.
  • “I’m just getting old.”
  • Pain needs to be “fixed” – and can be done so by the right practitioner.
  • We need to find the cause of pain, and this can be done by physical assessment and diagnostic tests (MRIs, X-rays etc).
  • The weather causes pain to flare up.

If you live in Australia, or any other Western nation with a similar culture, all of these memes, plus many others, have been implanted into your thoughts.

You don’t even question them most of the time, because you don’t know you have them, until you experience pain.

Our thoughts shape our emotions, our emotions shape our actions and our actions reinforce both.

This is especially evident when we experience pain.

Changing The Unchangeable?

We discussed earlier that pain is a protective response, which is based on the perception of threat.

There is a greater evidence of danger to ourselves, than there is of safety for ourselves. (15)

Going back to the premise of this post: chronic pain is rooted in fear.

Fear changes our perceptions.

Fear makes us think or feel that we are in danger moreso than we actually are.

Fear makes us want to find safety.

But if fear is influenced by a host of factors, many that we don’t know, and most that are unconscious, can we change it, and as a result, change pain?

I say yes.

Cognitive Based Therapy

CBT

When we can identify our fears around pain, then we take away some, if not all of its power.

Yes, pain will still hurt, that’s the nature of pain, but our suffering is different.

We stop catostrophising.

We stop worrying.

We start focusing on what we can do.

We start focusing on who we are.

The challenge of identifying and treating unconscious fears is obvious.

Fortunately, over the years, psychologists have developed many ways to explore our unconscious.

One of which, is cognitive behavioural therapy.

Cognitive based therapy is based on the premise that each thought is related to a certain emotion and behaviour, and vice versa.

By exploring each aspect around our beliefs and understanding of pain, we can change what we think, feel and do, to decrease our pain and suffering and eventually, change our unconscious thoughts.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is not only effective for treating pain, but also something that can be performed by suitably trained manual and physical therapists*.

A Way Into The Neuromatrix

The most up to date, and most widely accepted model of pain, is the neuromatrix model, proposed by Melzack and Wall (pictured).neuromatrix

What you can see in this diagram, is that there are multiple inputs (on the left) to the “body-self neuromatrix” (the representation of ourselves, within our brain) from both the body and brain, which influence what our body does, how it feels and how it functions (outputs, on the right)

These include:

  • Cognitive related brain areas
  • Sensory signalling systems
  • Emotion related brain areas.

But, that’s not all, each of these inputs can affect each other, as can each output.

Everything affects everything when it comes to pain.

What any good clinician is trying to do when treating someone in pain, is provide enough context for the outputs of the neuromatrix to change.

We do this by influencing the inputs in a way that promotes increased descending inhibition (as discussed earlier).

In addition to CBT, we can use other interventions like touch (manual therapy from intelligent, responsive hands) and movement.

Basically, we are trying to tell your brain that it’s okay, things are safe and you don’t have to be on edge.

When your brain is no longer in “fear mode”, it can resume normal modulation duties and you start to feel better.

Conclusions

Most chronic pain occurs in post surgical patients. (16)

There is an obvious physical trauma that takes place.

Many others develop chronic pain conditions after intense and/or prolonged psychological and/or emotional distress.

Something occurs to shift the brain into “fear mode”, in which it wants to do nothing more than protect itself (and you), which it does by producing pain.

We know that pain is complex and multi-factorial, but too often we think we are the exception.

It can feel like we just need to “release” that tight muscle or “crack” that stiff joint.

It can feel like there is “wear and tear” or “damage”.

But at least 40% of people with widespread arthritis don’t experience pain.

Amputees with no limbs do experience pain, in the absent limb!

You have to be fully engaged in the process, and willing to confront a lot of home truths about what you think, feel and believe if you want to treat your chronic pain successfully.

Even when you do that, sometimes you’ll still be in pain.

But, if you don’t, you’ll definitely still be in pain.

 

 

Nick Efthimiou Osteopath

 

This blog post was written by Dr Nick Efthimiou (Osteopath), founder of Integrative Osteopathy.

This blog post is meant as an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a qualified and registered health professional.

 

 



 

 

 

*If your condition was too complex for the therapist alone, we would refer you to a psychologist. In Australia, there is a mental health plan, under which your GP can refer you for up to 10 consultations with a psychologist, partly subsidised by medicare.

References

(1) Expectations and chronic pain outcomes

(2) Patient goals and measuring treatment outcomes

(3) Cognitive functional therapy for low back pain 

(4) Activation of threat-reward neural networks

(5) What is pain?

(6) Predictive processing simplified

(7) Pain

(8) Nervous and immune system interactions

(9) Structure and function of nervous system lymphatic vessels

(10) Mechanisms of inflammatory pain

(11) Descending control of pain

(12) Continuous descending modulation revealed by FRMI

(13) Free Will

(14) Myth of free will

(15) DIM-SIMS

(16) Chronic pain and surgery