Much of my early professional years were spent watching competitive sports. After 1-2 years in general practice I was hired by Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Assistant Athletic Trainer. Tulane University competed in Division I Athletics which meant that a majority of their student athletes attended on a ‘full-ride’ scholarship; our ability to keep them healthy was taken quite seriously.
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A universally accepted term for the phenomenon ‘central sensitization’ in humans is not available yet and a proof of this fact is that its use in scientific literature is still under debate (Kosek et al. 2016).
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Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is predominately characterized by knee pain, which can lead to impaired physical function and decreased quality of life
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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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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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​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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​Even though a total knee replacement is an effective surgical treatment for end-stage knee osteoarthritis and the majority of patients report significant pain relief and functional improvement post-surgical, literature shows that up to 20% of patients undergoing a total knee replacement are dissatisfied and complain of persisting pain, functional disability and poor QoL ( Scott et al. 2010).
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​Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee has long time been considered as a structural pathology with a clear nociceptive explanation, resulting from joint degeneration. Nevertheless, recently awareness is growing for the involvement of the central nervous system in the amplification of pain in OA. This may explain why many patients still suffer chronic pain after surgery, long time after removal of the source of nociception.
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​Osteoarthritis (OA) is traditionally considered a progressive disorder of articular cartilage in the joint, yet increasing evidence suggests that at least in an important subgroup of patients with OA the clinical picture is dominated by sensitization of central nervous system pain pathways (i.e. central sensitization) rather than by structural dysfunctions causing nociceptive pain (reviewed by Lluch et al. 2013).
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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 systematic literature review recently showed that approximately 30% of patients with osteoarthritis have central sensitization pain, implying that their pain is dominated by central factors (i.e. the increased hyperexcitability of the central nervous system) rather than peripheral (i.e. joint) factors.
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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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The April issue of Pain reports a sound study examining self-perceived pain changes during walking in patients with osteoarthritis. Pain in Motion previously reported that up to 30% of osteoarthritis patients have central sensitization, and this new study from U.S. researchers suggests a role for central sensitization in explaining pain changes during daily physical activities like walking
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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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