Updated: Mar 16
*Pain education is not intended to be a solitary intervention. Pain education is best when applied in adjunct with traditional treatment and prevention strategies.
There were a couple important reality checks that I had while in PT school about the complex reality of pain.
The first occurred on a neuro education outing. As a class, we had an opportunity to head to the famous Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center for a day to learn from the neuro PTs their craft of ASIA scale testing, transfer training in their room full of plinths and get exposure to the gait lab. During one of the activities a physical therapist mentioned chronic pain following a spinal cord injury (SCI). She mentioned they had some success at Rancho with the use of projecting an image of a person walking onto the body of the person with the SCI and using a mirror to reflect the patient’s head/ face above the image of the walker. I found this mysterious and fascinating. I relegated this to interesting but not necessary info or passing my courses and moved on.
Later in my program, my orthopedics instructor gave us information on different types of pain. The information outlined different types of pain depending on the cause and longevity. I was astounded. I had always thought that pain results from injury and when an injury is healed, pain goes away- period. I thought that my role as a Physical Therapist was to help folks heal from their injuries, thereby resolving their pain.
I held these handouts in school delicately- I saved them, as I did all of my coursework in pre- digital world, in a dense 4-inch binder containing all of my orthopedic notes, labs and research. And when I wrapped up school and passed my boards, I put the binder on a shelf- barely referencing it through the years until I finally got rid of it during one of my many apartment moves in the bay area (I moved 6 times in the 7 years between graduating from PT school and starting my practice in 2013- poor baby Trina!). This is all to say, that talking about and understanding pain is difficult. It takes practice. Let’s not shove it on a shelf to collect dust.
Take a deep breath and lets do this!