Posted on 11/10/2017 by Select Physical Therapy and NovaCare Rehabilitation
For the management of some types of pain, prescription opioids can certainly help. However, there is not enough evidence to support prolonged opioid use for chronic pain. We sat down with Katie McBee, P.T., DPT, OCS, M.S., CEAS, regional director of our WorkStrategies Program, to ask her a few questions regarding opioid use, chronic pain and the benefits of physical therapy as a safe alternative to prescription medication.
In your opinion, what are the main reasons for the opioid epidemic in the United States?
There is no simple explanation as to what caused the opioid epidemic in the United States. Opiates are not a new drug and have been abused at other time periods in American history, but not nearly to the extent that is happening now. Initial research on opiate medications said they were effective and safe and addiction was rare when used for short-term pain1. The development of FDA approved OxyContin in 1995 had labeling that stated iatrogenic addiction was “very rare,” and a widespread marketing campaign to physicians started to build medical providers’ confidence in prescribing these medications to decrease pain-related suffering2. Add to that the 2001 standards implemented by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations for organizations to improve their care of patients with pain medication and this is probably what catalyzed the beginning of our current opioid epidemic.
With medical providers focused on pain as a vital sign, pain quickly became the enemy and had to be eradicated to show successful management for many conditions with an increased focus on post-operative pain management. As drugs became more widely available, aggressively advertised and culturally acceptable, a three-fold increase in prescription rates for these medications ensued. With the increase in opioid prescription rates, death rates from side effects also increased by three-fold to more 16,000 by 2011.
What is the difference between chronic pain versus pain suffered as a result of an injury?
Pain is a mechanism designed to protect us from harm. Pain is not the enemy. A common misconception about pain is that it is not a simple cause/effect relationship. The amount of injury does not equal the amount of pain we experience. Pain is a complex process based on many areas of the nervous system and the brain communicating together to let us know what we need to prioritize and protect. The more threatening the brain perceives something, the more we potentially feel pain.
Acute pain or pain suffered immediately after an injury or surgery to the body’s tissues is a protection mechanism from the brain to remind you to protect the area so that no further harm is done. As the tissue heals and time passes, there is less threat of injury so the brain stops signaling, the pain eases and you slowly get back to normal activities.
In chronic pain, the tissues are not signaling danger to the brain as much as they are in acute pain. When the brain perceives threat for extended periods, it starts to change the nervous system to become a pain-producing machine. It creates new nerve junctions to make things hurt that wouldn’t normally hurt, like light touch on the skin. It can decrease the amount of pressure needed to create a pain signal. It creates more chemicals along the nervous system so it can create greater pain experiences with fewer stimuli. Research is still trying to figure out why some individuals have pain that goes away as the tissues heal and others have pain that persists despite the fact that the tissue has healed.
Individuals can be at risk of developing chronic or persistent pain for a number of reasons, including unhelpful coping strategies, stress, chronic illness and poor sleep habits. It appears the more emotional or physical stress going on at the time of the injury and/or during the healing process, the more at risk you can be of developing a persistent pain issue. A holistic approach to address some of these drivers of persistent pain is showing promise in being able to reduce the pain and get people with chronic pain back into their normal lives again.
Why is physical therapy important and what are some of the benefits to patients?
Physical therapy is an ideal treatment for many types of acute and chronic pain and should be a part of any single or multidisciplinary treatment plan for pain. The goal of physical therapy is to increase function and keep people in their meaningful life activities while they are healing. Physical therapists are trained to address many of the drivers of chronic pain and can perform testing and screening to see if your pain system is sensitized and adjust treatment to desensitize the pain system as well as address the functional limitations many people often experience when they are in pain.
Physical therapists have many tools they can use to decrease pain and desensitize the pain system. These tools include education on pain to discover what could be driving pain issues. Once the pain drivers are discovered, a physical therapist will develop a holistic plan to address these drivers, including increased activity, sleep hygiene, stress management skills and pacing techniques.
The best thing about physical therapy for pain is that the outcomes for some of the techniques are better than many medications and procedures available; plus, there are no negative side effects. If you or someone you know has an issue with pain, consult with a physical therapist as a component of care.
For more information on physical therapy and its benefits, or to request an appointment today, please contact a Select Medical outpatient physical therapy center near you.
Porter J, Jick H. Addiction rare in patients treated with narcotics. N Engl J Med. 1980;302:123.
Van Zee A. The promotion and marketing of OxyContin: commercial triumph, public health tragedy. Am J Public Health. 20:99 (2):221-227.
Posted on 10/31/2017 by Valerie L. Bobb, P.T., DPT, WCS, ATC
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a time to honor to those who have been affected by the disease. Approximately one in eight (12 percent) women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, so chances are you have been touched by somebody who has had breast cancer. The good news is breast cancer death rates continue to decrease each year. This leaves women (or men!) free to live a full life once they have recovered from treatment.
Any type of surgery can leave a patient with restriction in their neck, shoulder or arms, fatigue from chemotherapy or radiation and at risk for bone loss. However, physical therapists trained in treating cancer can design a program to regain motion, return to a healthy exercise program and return to all those things you love. That is why you fought so hard to overcome cancer!
Exercise is shown to reduce nausea, pain and stress and maintain a good weight. With your doctor’s permission and a physical therapists help, you can begin a program that focuses on moderate cardiovascular training, light weight training, flexibility and stress reduction.
Specific shoulder range of motion and strength exercises can help recovery from breast surgery, improve function, quality of life and body image and confidence. Resistance training is safe after surgery (once your restrictions have been lifted) and focuses on the muscles affected by the surgical procedure and what muscles you need to get back to your activities. Aerobic exercise is recommended three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes and can consist of walking, swimming or your favorite low impact exercise.
Both aerobic and strength training is vital to counteract bone loss related to chemotherapy. It is especially important if you are post-menopausal when you are diagnosed. Physical therapists can also teach you better ways to move and lift that will reduce chance of injury and excessive pressure on your spine. Fatigue is also another side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. Besides exercise, things such as deep breathing, stress reduction techniques and proper nutrition also help with recovery.
Many risk factors for breast cancers are beyond our control, such as age, family history and other medical conditions. However, you can control others, such as:
Weight: Being overweight, especially in postmenopausal women, is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Estrogen is stored in fat and, after menopause, is our body’s main source of estrogen. The more fat tissue you have, the higher your estrogen levels.
Diet: Diet is suspected as a risk factor; however, research is not clear on exactly what foods increase our risk. It is recommended to limit foods high in animal fat and read labels to make sure the source has limited added hormones and soy. A low-fat diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is generally recommended.
Exercise: There is growing evidence that shows exercise can reduce breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise five or more days a week.
Alcohol and Smoking: Studies show that breast cancer risks increase with regular amounts of alcohol consumption. Smoking in general increases alcohol levels. Please contact your local hospital for a cessation program.
Please contact your local women’s and men’s health physical therapist for guidance on an exercise program for breast cancer recovery and return to your life!
Valerie BobbBy: Valerie L. Bobb, P.T., DPT, WCS, ATC, women’s and men’s heath physical therapist for Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation Outpatient Services in Dallas, TX. Baylor, NovaCare Rehabilitation and Select Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.
Posted on 10/19/2017 by NovaCare Rehabilitation and Select Physical Therapy
Play It SafeOne of the most devastating injuries in sports today is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. We sat down with Trent Nessler, P.T., MPT, DPT, national director of sports medicine innovation, to ask him a few questions regarding ACL injuries and his exclusive evidenced-based ACL Play it Safe Program.
What are three measures that can be taken to prevent ACL injury?
If you were going to break it down into three measures, these would be:
Education – Almost 80 percent of ACL injuries are non-contact in orientation. This means there is no contact with another player or structure, but typically result from a rapid change in direction or jumping motion. There are certain movement patterns that put an athlete at greater risk for these non-contact injuries. Using a baseline movement screening process is critical to identifying those at risk. The results should further guide training that can be implemented throughout the season to reduce the athlete’s risk of injury.
It is also imperative for athletes, coaches and parents to understand that when you address movements that are associated with non-contact ACL injuries, they see a significant impact on their on-field athletic performance. The knee abduction that occurs not only puts excessive stress on the ACL and structures of the knee, but also results in a significant loss of kinetic energy transfer from the lower limb, hips to the core. This loss of energy has a direct impact on vertical jump, sprint speed, explosive power and pitching velocities.
Movement Assessments – There are many movement assessments on the market today. Although some have become the standard of practice in our industry, the fact that we are still depending on the eyeball to score the majority of these assessments introduces a tremendous amount of subjectivity into the equation. Three-dimensional technology, complete with cameras and wearable sensors, however, are removing the subjectivity from the equation and allowing for improved reliability.
Training – Many good injury prevention programs out there have been shown to reduce injury rates in athletes. However, the challenge is the adoption of these programs as a standard part of an athletic program or season has been very low. Why is that? If the program takes too long, then teams, coaches and athlete are less likely to do it. Knowing that these programs improve movement and movement efficiency, we should be promoting the impact on sports performance versus injury prevention. Approaching a coach or athlete with an effective and proven 20-minute program that helps to improve their sprint speed and vertical jump will cause the adoption rate to become much higher.
Technology is an ever-changing industry, and ACL injuries are a prevalent occurrence. How do the two go together and benefit patients?
One of the most exciting trends we are seeing today is the adoption of 3D wearable sensor technologies. These can and are having a huge impact on ACL injuries. The technology inside a 3D wearable sensor is what’s called an inertial measurement unit (IMU). An IMU detects and records motion, rotation and acceleration data. We now use these for movement assessments in our athletes to detect degree of knee abduction and the speed at which it occurs within a very high degree of accuracy. In addition, this becomes a much more efficient and reliable way to measure movement that puts athletes at risk for injury and performance issues. This is a huge step in ACL prevention! For the first time ever, we are collecting movement data with technology and combining it with demographic data for every athlete assessed.
Aside from use of IMUs in assessment, it can be used in training. We are in the process of leveraging this same technology to track movement during single limb training. This will not only give the athlete immediate feedback on how they are moving, but will identify those athletes at risk during their training. This information could be used to refer them to a provider for a more extensive movement assessment and treatment. This would expand the scope of ability to identify athletes at risk beyond just those who have a physical or who see a health care provider.
You developed a nationally recognized non-operative ACL program – the ACL Play it Safe Program – to decrease the likelihood of injury and enhance athletic performance. What sets this program apart from others and how can folks learn more about it?
Trent ACL 2As a result of numerous researchers’ hard work and the influence of great mentors, the development of the ACL Play it Safe Program was made possible. The things that set this program apart are:
The ACL Play It Safe program is specifically designed to improve performance on the movements that are assessed with the ViPerform Athletic Movement Index (AMI). So, athletes can be assigned to the level of the program based on an assessment.
The program has four distinct levels of progression; level one for athletes who don’t move very well, all the way up to level IV for athletes who move efficiently.
This program has a pre-practice routine that takes five minutes and a post-practice routine that takes 15 minutes. The post-practice routine is a fatigue-based training routine. This is where fatigue from practice is carried over in the post-practice routine. From a training specificity standpoint, we find that training in a fatigued state has better carry over to later in the game when performance issues are likely to arise and injuries rates increase.
Each athlete is given a kit that has standardized equipment in it. This prevents them from using different types of equipment or variations in resistance from training session to training session, allowing for more consistency in the progression.
The program offers a video instruction of each exercise that can be accessed on the complimentary ACL Play It Safe app. This ensures there is no error or change in interpretation of the exercise from athletic trainer to coach to athlete.
So far, this program has been implemented with more than 3,000 athletes across the country. We are using this as a part of their rehabilitation and return-to-play. When implemented correctly and with the ViPerform AMI, we are seeing an average of 58.2 percent reduction in lower extremity injuries from the spine to the foot and ankle.
For more information on this program, folks can email me directly at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you!
Posted on 10/6/2017 by Melissa Bloom, P.T., DPT, NCS
Cooler temperatures, students returning to school and the start of another football season are all the telltale signs of fall. And with football back, reports of concussion will inevitably follow. While advancements continue to be made in regards to concussion prevention and treatment, the long-term effects of head trauma, specifically chronic trauma encephalopathy (CTE), remains a huge concern.
You may have previously heard of CTE from the movie “Concussion,” or even from recent media reports. CTE is a tough topic for me. My trouble with the conversation is that there are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. With the potential for serious injuries, there is the chance for panic and decisions made on emotions versus science. Moreover, ignoring the conversation leads to misinformation. So, it’s time we talk about CTE; what is it and what it means for the future of football.
What is CTE?
CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head trauma. CTE involves cellular pathological changes similar, but different, to Alzheimer’s disease. The buildup of Tau protein in the brain causes cell death, atrophy and abnormal functioning. CTE can currently only be diagnosed after death by examining the brain under a microscope.
Symptoms can be physical, involving gait abnormalities and slowness of speech, or psychiatric and behavioral, including personality changes, depression and aggression. Various cognitive and processing deficits are also common with CTE, including difficulty thinking, concentrating and remembering.
One consistent scientific challenge is understanding the extent to which age-related changes, psychiatric or mental illness, alcohol or drug use, coexisting dementia or other unknown factors play a role in developing CTE. Currently, this is largely unknown and has not been accounted for in research. CTE is more common in contact sports, but other factors in these athletes may also lead to the disease.
Recent Study and Media Interviews
Earlier this year, the Journal of American Medical Association released an article on CTE. The study looked at participation in American football along with multiple physical and psychosocial variables, and they compared these factors to diagnosis of CTE. Results of this study travelled across the media quickly, with the overall conclusion that players of American football may be at increased risk for CTE. Of the 202 individuals in the study, they found 177 were diagnosed with CTE. The researchers further concluded that 99 percent of subjects who played in the National Football League (NFL) were diagnosed with CTE. What a headline.
Not to downplay the severity of CTE and valid concerns that exist about it, but I want to discuss some limitations about what we can take from these results. First, they conducted their study with football players whose brains were donated for research of CTE, creating a significant selection bias. It was known that their brains would be studied regarding a possible connection with CTE and their participation in contact sports. Individuals and their families who participated (i.e., donated their brain) may have noticed symptoms consistent with CTE prior to death, which led to their participation.
What trends did they find?
Beyond the expected motor, cognitive and psychological involvement known to accompany CTE, there were other notable trends. Substance abuse was noted in 67 percent of those diagnosed with mild CTE, and 49 percent in those diagnosed with severe CTE.
The presence of co-morbid neurodegenerative diseases was also common, including Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) and other motor neuron diseases. In fact, more than 19 percent of the subjects with CTE presented with LBD alone. The current study was not designed to determine the impact these factors had on the development of CTE.
Even the authors note that caution must be used in interpreting the high frequency of CTE in their sample. Their results do not allow for estimates of prevalence, due to the lack of comparison groups. Additionally, the sample population was not representative of the overall population of former players of American football. The majority of players only play youth or high school levels, but most individuals in this study played at the college or pro level.
Evidence supports an association between long-term cognitive, neurobehavioral and psychiatric problems with participation in contact sports, such as football, boxing, soccer, etc. While it seems plausible there is a connection between CTE and repetitive impacts seen with American football, it is currently not possible to determine the causality or risk factors with any certainty. We need to proceed cautiously and collect additional research. However, concussion screenings and efforts to minimize concussion can improve the current health of players even if the long-term effects are unknown.
There is an inherent risk with contact sports for concussive and sub-concussive impacts. The challenge now is evaluating the risk given uncertain long-term consequences and the many scientific questions we don't have answered. For now, let’s continue to play smart, wear protective gear, get baseline tested for concussion and, should a concussion occur, thoroughly go through the rehabilitation process for safe return-to-play and activity.
Melissa Bloom By: Melissa Bloom, P.T., DPT, NCS. Melissa is a physical therapist with Physiotherapy Associates in Atlanta, GA. Melissa is a board certified neurology specialist. She specializes in vestibular rehabilitation and concussion management and teaches nationally on both topics.
Physio, NovaCare Rehabilitation and Select Physical Therapy are part of the Select Medical Outpatient Division family of brands.