Within the biomedical model, pain is considered a consequence of tissue damage. However, we all know now that a precise biomedical diagnosis cannot be given in the majority of the low back pain (LBP) patients. Enter: the biopsychosocial perspective.
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Musculoskeletal pain is a highly prevalent disorder. People often seek help from a physiotherapist to relieve their pain and related limitations.
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On October 3rd 2016 a (Dutch) blog post was published on our website concerning a study comparing ‘back school’ and ‘brain school’ in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy, titled “Rugschool of pijneducatie bij chirurgie voor lage rug- en beenpijn”.
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Many patients with chronic pain suffer from stress intolerance, and some patients have developed chronic pain during or following a stressful period or (life) event (e.g. motor vehicle accident, trauma exposure). When chronic pain is present, stress typically worsens the pain (severity). Taken together, stress and chronic pain are closely connected. In this blog post fascinating research findings regarding the effect of chronic stress on the brain are presented, providing a neuroscientific explanation why chronic stress may lead to the development of chronic pain.
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Manchikanti and colleagues (2011) make in their paper entitled ‘placebo and nocebo in interventional pain management: a friend or a foe – or simply foes?’ an argument for a revaluation of placebo effects in clinical practice. They make the claim that clinicians should not try to avoid the placebo effect, but should try to potentiate it, as this effect isn’t just unethical and mythical but must seen as a very real phenomenon, which can be understood from a vast body of both psychological and neurophysiological research.
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​There is wide international consensus on the need of having agreed and standardised sets of outcomes, better known as ‘core outcome sets’ (COSs). A COS represents the minimum that should be measured and reported in all clinical trials for a specific health condition, and that can also be suitable for use in other types of studies or clinical practice.
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Chronic back pain (CBP) is an important clinical, social, economic, and public health problem. Many risk factors are associated with CBP. However, the evidence is often cross-sectional. In an innovative study, researchers from the Northwestern University of Chicago explored the relationship between smoking, transition to chronic pain and functional characteristics of the brain.
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Conventional rehabilitation for people with chronic pain is often unsuccessful and frustrating for clinicians. What it is becoming clear more and more is that new therapeutic approaches are needed in view of current understanding of neural mechanisms underpinning chronic pain. In this regard, three papers aiming to summarize the role of central sensitization in chronic musculoskeletal pain and looking for guide clinicians in the rehabilitation of patients with chronic pain have been recently published.
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​Pain is the number one reason for patients visiting a physiotherapist. Chronic pain is the most costly condition affecting the Western world. This comes as no surprise: pain is omniprevalent among a wide variety of medical disciplines, ranging from oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics, rheumatology, orthopedics, neurology and internal medicine. For reducing the costs associated with chronic pain, correct mechanism-based classification of the pain type is the first step.
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​Some months ago I came across a novel study by Harvie and colleagues (2015); they used virtual reality to investigate the effect of overstated or understated visual information on cervical rotation in patients with neck pain. This empirical study shows that we might need to reconsider how we interpret diagnostic provocation tests in daily care, e.g. that it is not a solid measurement for primary nociceptive information or tissue provocation.
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​In a very recent review and clinical guideline of Heather Kroll, a nice overview is given about how exercise affects pain. But besides listing possible mechanisms of exercise induced analgesia, she reviews the therapeutic modalities and benefits for a wide variety of chronic pain diagnoses.
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​Several studies demonstrated the importance of assessing the perceptions of patients regarding their illness (i.e. the illness perceptions) as they are of prognostic value.
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​Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a complex problem and has significant psychological, physical, social and economic implications. There is inevitable pressure for hospitals to reduce waiting times and improve treatment outcomes. Given the significant burden upon the individual, society and the economy, it is important to identify more effective management strategies.
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Clinically it is important to distinguish between the three main pain mechanisms that may present with our patients experiencing chronic pain (Nijs et al 2014). Here I describe my clinical findings in two chronic low back pain patients, one with chronic nociceptive pain and the other with chronic central pain mechanisms.
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The concept of myofascial trigger points keeps on inspiring researchers and clinicians. With the recent publication of an interesting review article in Rheumatology, the concept is really challenged.
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Research has suggested that exercise is effective in the treatment of chronic low back pain (CLBP), regardless the characteristics of the exercise selected. Although it’s effective, exercise as intervention alone does not seem to take into consideration the maladaptive pain cognitions and illness behavioural characteristics frequently identified in CLBP patients.
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Therapeutic pain neuroscience education (TPNE) is becoming increasingly popular as (part of) the treatment of (chronic) pain and aims at altering the patient’s thoughts and beliefs about pain. Previous research has demonstrated the efficacy of TPNE in the treatment of chronic pain. TPNE is mostly given in one-on-one sessions, which has limitations, as it is time intensive, cost intensive and limited to patients in remote areas. Pain in Motion previously showed that written TPNE does little to alter pain, pain cognitions or illness perceptions in patients with fibromyalgia.
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Interpreting scientific results in clinical practice can be, to say at least, challenging. Especially when it is somewhat contradictory to what you have heard during all those years of extensive training in both physiotherapy education and other courses. As one of my friends recently put it this way: ‘The more I learn about pain, the less I know and the more confused I get.’
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A recent article by Lance M. Mc Cracken and Stephen Morley published in the Journal of Pain addresses the place of theory and models in psychological research and treatment development in chronic pain. It argued that such models are not merely an academic issue but are highly practical. Such models ought to integrate current findings, precisely guide research and treatment development, and create progress. The dominant psychological approach to chronic pain is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
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The study by Schabrun et al. published in Brain Stimulation 2014 is one of the most interesting papers I have read last year. This might be due to the fact that I am not at all an expert in neuromodulation, but even so the study is highly innovative and has amazing findings. The paper reports a placebo-controlled cross-over study investigating the effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) combined with peripheral electrical stimulation (PES) treatment on pain, cortical organization, sensitization and sensory function in 16 patients with chronic low back pain. It was found that a combined tDCS/PES intervention is more effective for improving not only chronic low back pain symptoms, but also for improving the mechanisms of cortical organization and central sensitization than either intervention applied alone or a sham control.
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In 2011, Pain in Motion published a paper explaining to clinicians the various options we have for treating the mechanisms involved in central sensitization.
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Even though nociceptive pathology has often long subsided, the brain of patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain has typically acquired a protective (movement-related) pain memory. Exercise therapy for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain is often hampered by such pain memories.
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