Explaining Context

When people ask “why does it hurt?” I’ll get around to stating that “… also, context of [your pain] is a factor in how it feels.”

Now this may make sense to you, the PTBT audience, but this is often not an idea that people have thought of. Most people only remember a politician saying his/her words were “taken out of context” so it may be important to explain context.

Here are two quick context stories I tell. Please use them, please make them your own…

spooky-forrest

1.) Context example… “So now let’s say you are walking in a spooky forest, it’s dark out, you’re by yourself, a bit creeped out and you feel this on your shoulder (lightly tickle the skin), what would your reaction be?” Often a patient will exaggerate looking back quickly or state “I would jump, think it was a spider or something”, etc. Continue reading

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If a Tree Falls in the Forest

tree-falling

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Ah yes, a classic riddle indeed and one I will answer. No. It does not make a sound. Let’s explore this, and how it relates to understanding pain and sensation.

First we will define a sound. The English Oxford dictionary defines it as “Vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear.”  You need both waves and an ear to complete the “hear.” So in our above riddle, there is no hear of the sound due to there being no person’s ear in the riddle, as it is in the definition. Continue reading

Peri-pain Education

Allow me to make the case to discuss modern* pain science views with all who will listen, importantly, people who are NOT in pain.

There seems to be support for pre-operative pain education as an effective intervention. Studies have shown improved surgical experience and reduced health care utilization (1), improved short term pain reporting, quicker return to activities and utilization of nonpharmalogical pain management strategies (2). Long term pain outcomes are not significantly effected (that I could find), but it certainly helps the patient in meaningful way (3). Continue reading

Time

Time lapse ptbraintrust

Enter a caption

There is no such thing as Time Management. There is only Self Management, time goes on as it will, no matter your intentions for it.

So what can happen over time? Time is one of these factors that is hard to account for, but does a lot of the treating of a patient for you. (see: It’s not ALL about you).  The biology of tissue healing occurs over a timeline and it occurs at a pace that is affected, but not determined, by us or your patient. Continue reading

Patient Education Binder

Seeing is believing. It can be also expressed as “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing” which you surely have heard as a popular argument on many fronts.

Well, your patients are human, and thus, adding physical evidence to your statements or positions can aid in understanding and spur conversation.

Dr. Spencer Muro ( @SpencerMuro ) suggested that, when educating pt’s on pain science or imaging results, we use the above concept to corroborate our “claims.” Use visible evidence, not just repeat it verbally. Enter: The Patient Education Binder.

We used to show patient’s pictures of these images on our phones, but a print-our hard copy in large font is more useful and meaningful (personal anecdote). So we did not make these images, and I will give credit to the maker’s / authors of them. I asked The Sports Physio ( @AdamMeakins ) to tweet some of them, PainCloud.com ( @PainCloud1 ) produces great stuff, the rest are found on Twitter or a search engine. Disclaimer disclaimer etc.  (Most credit is available on the image itself). They are great representations of current understanding.

If they help us understand, why not share with your patient? Continue reading

Pain is like the Wind

Pain is like the wind.

It can only be viewed by its interface with the environment. 

We see the trees move, the leaves rustle, the flower petals quiver. We see the thick dust in the air, the yard furniture toppling in a pile by the fence, the branches dropping to the street.

Our skin turns alive with an unseen pressure. We are urged to move to the left by an unseen force from the right. It blew my hat off.

“I cannot take a picture of the wind. I can show you a picture of a windy day… but not the wind.” Continue reading

I just want you to KNOW…

Image Credit

I was getting sick. Ugh. I was able to hold off long enough to finish my caseload, but once I was home, I let my resistance to the bug go. My clinical crew knew I wasn’t feeling well, but I thought I’d be back by the next day.

Next morning: nope. I needed to stay home. I tell my wife I’ll be staying home as she leaves for work, “s’all good, honey.”
So I call in to the clinic to let them know.  When they answer the phone my voice changes a bit ( I notice retrospectively). I explain I’m worse *cough*, and thank them for arranging the schedule to cover me *cough*. Then hang up.

What was that about? I ask myself. I was not sure that I sounded sick, or did I?  Did I just throw in an extra throat-clear for emphasis? I realized that I felt a strong urge to sound sick, to “sell” that I wasn’t feeling well. My sickness was the truth. Yet, I was pulled very strongly to embellish it in my short 30 second interaction… hmmm.

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The purpose of communication is often to get a point across to some audience outside of yourself. You express yourself so others will know what you mean, how you feel, why you think, etc. Continue reading

On the subjective nature of pain

Image Credit: "Inverted qualia of colour strawberry" by made by Was a bee. - Original strawberry's image is from Image:Fragaria_Fruit_Close-up.jpg uploaded by User:FoeNyx,and original man's image is from Image:Munemitsu Mutsu 2.jpg uploaded by User:Ueda.H,and I User:Was a bee combined it in one image.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inverted_qualia_of_colour_strawberry.jpg#/media/File:Inverted_qualia_of_colour_strawberry.jpg

Image Credit: “Inverted qualia of colour strawberry” by made by Was a bee. – Original strawberry’s image is from Image:Fragaria_Fruit_Close-up.jpg uploaded by User:FoeNyx,and original man’s image is from Image:Munemitsu Mutsu 2.jpg uploaded by User:Ueda.H,and I User:Was a bee combined it in one image.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inverted_qualia_of_colour_strawberry.jpg#/media/File:Inverted_qualia_of_colour_strawberry.jpg

Some things in life are definite. Some are definitely not. And some are somewhere in between.

Same goes in healthcare and medicine. When you see a hyperactive deep tendon reflex or produce an upper motor neuron sign via Babinski or Hoffmann’s, its pretty obvious. Usually, there isn’t much debate about its existence. There may be some back and forth about the degree to which it exists or to its implications; but, again, most parties will agree “that just happened.”

Same goes for an infected wound. One look, maybe one smell, most people can agree about the degree of bacterial colonization (i.e. infection or no). We can take this further with abnormal heart sounds, clubbing of the digits (indicative of lung/heart disease), or yellowing of the sclera indicating jaundice. The list can go on, but it doesn’t need to. There are a host of objective signs that indicate the presence of disease or pathology. We can even go further with laboratory diagnostics and imaging studies to attempt to confirm or rule out suspicions about the presence of a disease processes.

We have quite a body of information and resources at our disposal when trying to figure out what is wrong with the patient sitting before us. Even more than that, we have gained enough knowledge to decipher and utilize people’s reported symptoms, their subjective report, to aid in this process. As fraught with bias and inaccuracy as an individual’s own perception of their situation could be, we still have found ways to weed through the minutiae and find bits of key detail that aid in the diagnostic process. It could be how long their symptoms have been present, or what activities exacerbate their symptoms. You might ask, “Do you have any popping or clicking? Or feelings of instability?” Or if the patient reports numbness or tingling in a certain area. All of these details paint a little more of the broad picture of the patient’s condition. And one of the most helpful details when painting that picture Continue reading

The Thousand Word Image

There is no more credible a thing than an image. Seeing is believing. I’ll have to see it to believe it. A picture is worth a thousand words. Vision trumps other senses (McGurk Effect).

How are the words you choose to use, in the healing context of your presence, going to combat the fact that it has been visually shown that things are “messed up in there” ?

It is not our fault, us humans. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen developed this lovely technology. About a month later, humans were using it clinically.  It is amazing. And I mean X-ray, CT-scans, MRI, fMRI, UltraSound… it’s all incredible. It was developed so we used it. We used it on people in pain, people with broken limbs, people with ailments of this nature or another, and that is the vantage point from which our opinions were based. We saw people with pain have strange looking images. We therefore conclude, that the changes we saw were the cause of the pain, and here we are today.

Post Hoc, Ergo Proctor Hoc. After this, therefore because of this. It is all in the development of the tool. We pointed our delicate and precise imaging tools at the sick, and we found sickness. Continue reading

Does the weather make pain worse?

People say it all the time: “Oh, it’s gonna rain, I can tell in my knee” or “My knees really hurt over the weekend… they do that with bad weather.” What is it with these magical knees? From my personal vantage point, there is no logic to this… it’s simply psychological mis-attribution of causes… but it is heard so often, is there something to it?

Well, I asked on Twitter and fully enjoyed the convos that occurred…

Matt Dancigers Twitter convo weather

So here is a summary of what was shared: Continue reading