Thursday 1 February 2024

Approaching Chronic Pain Holistically with a Local Physical Therapist

Posted by at 12:35 PM

Chronic conditions are a major concern for Americans.

A 2019 CDC study found that over 20% of adults had chronic pain and over 7% would say they were ‘highly impacted’ on a day to day basis.

Chronic pain is sometimes treated with opioids, which are linked to substance abuse.

Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic, now over 20 years old, has claimed thousands of lives.

Chronic pain often requires different treatment than an acute injury.

Adam Zamane is a physical therapist with Health in Motion in Merrill.

He says that most of the patients he sees struggle with chronic pain.

In most Western healthcare settings, the biomedical model is in use; a model which suggests that all problems in the body can be traced back to physical origins.

Zamane says that while providers use this model to try to treat chronic pain, it’s too limited.

He brings up phantom limb pain, for example.

“If everything is due to structure, that should not be painful,” he explained.

Intuitively, we know that pain can be more complex.

“When we have a headache, for example, we're not thinking about, ‘what's wrong with my head?’ We might think about, ‘okay, did I have too many margaritas last night? Did I not get enough sleep? Am I stressed out about an upcoming meeting?’” he explained.

In practice, Zamane suggests you think of your nervous system as a home security system.

Pain is like an alarm, meant to get your attention and alert you to danger.

If you’re in chronic pain, that alarm bell is constantly ringing.

Zamane believes it’s important to treat persistent pain holistically, beginning with patient education.

Understanding how your system works can actually help calm it.

Chronic pain can indicate a nervous system in fight or flight, so step one is to bring those excitation levels down through meditation, deep breathing, pacing, or other techniques.

Then, once the system is calmed, you can begin working on strengthening.

“So these notes are what we call success stories,” he says.

Zamane points out the posters lining the front desk at Health in Motion.

“So this one was a patient that had written, she can lie on her hips without pain. She was told for 30 plus years that she had bursitis in both hips, but it was probably due to weaker back and hip muscles. So this one, we didn't have to get too much into pain education, it was, let's get you strong, so that one was more something we could just exercise through,” he explained.

Zamane says pain is always real so that means we need to treat patients more holistically.