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A Simple Guide To Patient Centred Exercise

After ‘pain science’ and ‘biopsychosocial’ the latest buzz word on our horizon seems to be ‘patient-centered care’ or PCC for short.

Now for a buzzword, it is pretty poorly defined and we don’t really have a strict description, but I think PCC is really how we should be implementing the BioPsychoSocial (BPS) model and what the BPS model was really meant to be about rather than the more pain focused version we have today.

This blog aims to focus on how we might apply PCC in the context of an active approach to treatment but don’t be surprised if it meanders off course a bit.

Patient Or Person?

Most of the available literature in this area discusses “patient-centered care” but I much prefer “person” centered care as it turns the patient well ….into a person and a much more ‘real’ entity in a two-way relationship.

The term ‘patient’ has long been open to discussion and this is an interesting read on the subject and I picked out a couple of quotes.

“Do we need a new word for patients?”

Patient comes from the Latin “patiens,” from “patior,” to suffer or bear. The patient, in this language, is truly passive—bearing whatever suffering is necessary and tolerating patiently the interventions of the outside expert”

“An unequal relationship between the user of healthcare services and the provider”

These are interesting perspectives that highlight the potential perspective of the ‘patient’ as a passive recipient to be told what to do and without concern for them as an individual. After all tissues and pathologies really don’t care how they are treated so why the need to worry about it?

What Actually Is PCC?

Maybe by definition, PCC is tough to define for all? What is person-centered for one may not be for another, but there do appear to be some broad themes and ideas that can be discussed.

Patient (person) centered care has previously been defined as:

“willingness to become involved in the full range of difficulties patients bring to their doctors, and not just their biomedical problems” – Stewart 1995

“the physician tries to enter the patient’s world, to see the illness through the patient’s eyes” McWhinney 1989

Two-person medicine (rather than one person)” – Balint e al 1993

(Quotes in Mead et al 2000)

For me, a good start for PCC is not to see the therapist or technique or method or exercise as the star of the show. It’s about the PERSON that really needs our help. That does not mean fanfares, razzmatazz, and pedestals, it really means that we try to think about what THIS person in front of me needs, what is it like to walk a mile THEIR shoes?

Another very simple way to look at it is, how would YOU like to be treated?

Mead et al in “Patient-centredness: a conceptual framework and review of the empirical literature” defined 5 key aspects of a “patient-centredness”

  • The biopsychosocial perspective (the patient’s life)
  • The patient as a person
  • Shared power and responsibility
  • Therapeutic alliance
  • The doctor as a person (Personal qualities such as Humanness)

Wijma et al explored “Patient-centeredness in physiotherapy: What does it entail?”

They defined PCC as

“Patient centeredness in physiotherapy entails the characteristics of offering an individualized treatment, continuous communication (verbal and non-verbal), education during all aspects of treatment, working with patient-defined goals, a treatment in which the patient is supported and empowered, and a physiotherapist with patient-centered social skills, confidence, and knowledge”

What PCC Is Not

There are some criticisms of PCC that seem to centre around the idea of consumer-driven healthcare and doing ‘whatever someone wants you to do’. Maybe the idea of ‘shared decision making’, intrinsic to PCC, seems to open up this idea of consumer healthcare for some.

These discussions are often dominated by the type of treatment and the application of more passive modalities and we really need to guard against this reductionist perspective of PCC.

Rather than MAKING the decision based on someone’s preference, PCC instead really should be about people being involved in decisions, a key part of PCC, and this should reflect the best information around treatment that we have available and frank and honest conversations around the best course of action. Not simply “what treatment do you want”.

Makoul & Clayman in “An integrative model of shared decision making in medical encounters” discuss a number of steps involved with shared decision making

  • Define or explain the problem
  • Present options
  • Discuss the pros and cons (benefits/risks/costs)
  • Assess patients’ values or preferences
  • Discuss patient ability or self- efficacy
  • Provide doctor knowledge or recommendations
  • Check or clarify understanding
  • Make or explicitly defer the decision
  • Arrange follow-up

 

What Do People Really Want?

That leads us nicely into “what DO people want” and this does NOT seem to revolve around their favourite treatment type.

PCC is perhaps thinking about what healthcare can do for the end-user, the person rather than how do they fit into the broader healthcare world. What better way is there to do that than ask them : ).

The increase in qualitative research is fantastic and really helps us understand what people think, feel, and ultimately need.

This is a really interesting paper regarding a two-person perspective in back pain Listen to me, tell me’: a qualitative study of partnership in care for people with non-specific chronic low back pain

The authors here identified some key areas.

Partnership With Practitioner

“All participants expressed the need for mutual enquiry, problem-solving, negotiation and renegotiation between care-provider and care-seeker to establish mutual therapeutic goals “

‘Ask Me’

“All participants reported that engagement with their health care-provider improved if they were explicitly asked for their opinions and goals.”

‘Understand Me’

“Consideration of life circumstances and preferences was important to all participants in developing therapeutic partnerships and optimising exercise outcomes”

‘Listen To Me’

‘Explain it so I can understand’ – Valuing competent and empathetic listener

I know my own body   – Participants framed the ability to ‘know your own body’ as empowering

This sentence particularly resonated with me however

“Tension existed between patients’ wanting a genuine voice in the partnership and them wanting a care-provider to give explicit diagnosis and best management instruction

Does It Matter?

A question I often hear asked about person-centered care is does PCC actually improve ‘outcomes’? I suppose my response would be does the effect of PPC on outcomes actually matter and which outcomes are we discussing?

Although we know that contextual factors have an effect on outcomes we don’t know if PCC specifically improves the most common outcome measures, but, in my opinion it is the RIGHT way to treat other people regardless of if it changes pain, function, or whatever. Although we don’t really have much data currently, my biases say for many it would make a difference, if not to common outcome measure then to the person’s experience in healthcare (which might be an outcome measure in itself).

 

The Application Of PCC

Maybe we should NOT see a person-centered approach to activity/movement/exercise just about the type of exercise or the sets and reps. Instead, it’s about all those things AROUND the moving as well and I will focus mostly on these (you can retain your exercise bias : )

Starting With The End In Mind

Unless we define what recovery might look or feel like it is probably hard for anyone to know if they are actually getting there. Really the role of the therapist should be to see where someone wants to get to, where they are currently, and then help them bridge that gap.

The best place to start might be with the end in mind and this first and foremost really involves listening. Listening and understanding is, in my opinion, the real essence of PCC but many people don’t feel that this always happens in their HealthCare experiences.

This short excerpt is from the excellent From “Non‐encounters” to autonomic agency. Conceptions of patients with low back pain about their encounters in the health care system”  

Holopainen 2018

“Patients felt that they were not being heard. They felt that the encounters were expert-driven, and the HCP interrupted them and dismissed what they had to say, without listening to their wishes and opinions”

We also have to acknowledge that for some who have had pain for a long time this process of defining goals or recovery can be really tough. It’s often difficult to see outside of the pain and suffering to have a sense of what ‘life’ actually looks and feels like again.

“Patients identified the effects of pain on their lives. They reported that their circle of life had shrunk and they had given up doing things they used to enjoy” – Holopainen 2018

I try to highlight to people that they are not just moving for the sake of moving (although this can be a positive thing), we are moving to get further towards valued activities and goals that we have discussed and hopefully, this can tap into people’s intrinsic motivation.

A big problem, IMO, with goals, is that we can measure their success via their effects on more generic measures such as pain or function (certainly in research around physical therapies).

We have a wonderfully personal and specific thing, the goal, and we should actually measure the success of a goal by achieving……the goal! If that involves changes in pain then of course with a person-centered approach we have to involve pain in the goal. But we might have no changes in pain (our outcome measure) but reach a valued goal that has a huge effect on someone’s quality of life and may not always be captured by the more generic measures.

I do believe that the ‘WHY’ behind action has to be driven by the person. So much of what happens in therapy is driven by the biases of therapists about the best way to get people pain free or functioning better.

Maybe the ‘methods’ employed often fit better with the identity and values of the therapist rather than the patient?

Shared Decisions And Responsibilities

As we discussed earlier, PCC and shared decision making is not just doing what someone wants. We need to present the best available information and our professional opinion on the best course of action to properly inform decision making.

Autonomy has been shown to have an influence on exercise outcomes “Autonomy: A Missing Ingredient of a Successful Program?”. Perhaps some autonomy and choice might lead to better ‘bonding’ with exercise in rehab?

As there are a whole bunch of ways to exercise, move, and load it should be not to hard to present a number of options and allow people some choice on the best way forward. Equally, it is a therapist’s responsibility to give their opinion about the best course of action that they think will ‘fit’ the person based on the best data and a sprinkle of experience.

Laying out each other’s responsibilities in the process is an important step. I always say I am here to guide and help but you have to go and do it and believe in it for it to work. I believe we need accountability towards each other sometimes.

Planning

This for me really is true biopsychosocialism.

We are all people ‘embedded’ in the world with work, family, and social pressures. One of the best ways to implement a BPS perspective is to realize that any movement/exercise plan is not going to come at ‘no cost’ in terms of time, effort, and sacrificing something else.

People don’t just need something to do, they also need a plan to be able to do it. A destination is great but we also need a path to get there.

How many things do you never quite get around to doing because you don’t have a clear time, place, and structure to get it done?

When’s the best time to do some exercise? Before or after work. How much is OK? What should it feel like? Do they have the required information to facilitate doing it?

Another passage from From’Non‐encounters’ to autonomic agency” highlights this.

 “A lack of written instruction prevented them from doing prescribed exercises because they were unsure of what they were supposed to do”

Helping people to navigate their own individual social environments is also a beneficial way to help. We cannot often modify many ‘social’ things but we can help people understand and navigate them better. For example, how might someone access community support with getting more active? Are there free or low-cost resources that they can use? Are there support groups or family members or friends that might be able to help.

Acting as a guide rather than a healer can be really helpful for many!

Support & Motivation

Picking someone’s exercise form apart or highlighting some kind of movement dysfunction really is the opposite of PCC. It shows a complete disregard for how that might make someone else feel and how that might impact on their behaviours. But I suppose if you feel you are just dealing with a pathology then why should that matter?

We could say that view is quite the opposite of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Perhaps we can think about how we might lift someone up rather than pick them apart. Think about highlighting strengths and positives. We entirely underestimate the power of motivation and optimism in healthcare in my opinion. This is a fundamental part of the role of the coach or trainer in the world of fitness but has been lost in the translation of exercise to the world of medicine.

People even say this themselves!

“patients reported that they needed someone to push them, like a personal trainer” – Holopainen 2018

 

Conclusion

 

  • Person-centered care is defined by the person
  • PCC is not just giving people what they want
  • People are people not just patients (passive recipients)
  • Think about “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes”
  • Think more about shared decisions (within evidence base)
  • Start with the end in mind, tie into valued activities
  • Help people navigate their ‘world’
  • Build people up rather than knock them down

Articles Of The Week September 20, 2020

Much of the United States, Canada, and even areas overseas are currently blanketed in forest fire smoke. Could this affect people’s pain? Here’s a study that looks at the effects of tobacco smoke on pain and rest.

Effects of smoking on patients with chronic pain: a propensity-weighted analysis on the Collaborative Health Outcomes Information Registry – James Khan et al.

 

Another mention to the constant fatigue that many of us are likely experiencing in these days and times. This article continues to go into depth about the varying causes of lower energy and provides more tips on how to combat it.

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It – Mark Pettit

 

We all know that pain benefits from exercise in the long term, but only some of us might be aware of the short-term analgesic effect from movement as well. An easy assumption is that this is all an endorphin effect, but are there other mechanisms at play?

Exercise Induced Analgesia –Todd Hargrove

 

If you’re looking through these articles, great! You’re a research-conscious practitioner. As such, it’s good to point out the occasional limitations of the research that you’re reading in order to fine-tune your perspective. This article, for instance, looks at the need to adjust our experimental groups for low back pain-clients in order to create better date.

A need of subgroups with the large group of people with (chronic) low back pain – Hester de Bandt

 

Research into the causes of autism are a hot topic that many of us may not want to touch, but it’s ok to look at the scientific research objectively. In particular, we stumbled upon this new relationship while researching into hypomobility syndromes.

Researchers have identified a relationship between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and autism – Emily L. Casanova

 

Hold Times For Stretching In Manual Therapy

I’ve been in this niche of manual therapy for nearly 3 decades.

When I entered this world, via myofascial release (MFR) training, hold-times were taught at a “minimum of 90-120 seconds”, as this was the time it was said to have taken for the fascia to begin to change from sol to gel.

But we were encouraged to stick around longer, as most patients were said to have multiple restrictions that would need to be worked through. I got quite comfortable reminding in place with hold-times often far exceeding 5-minutes.

After I left the formal MFR tribe in 2006, supposed newer advances in the understanding of fascial change moved the time frame of hold-times to 5 minutes, based on how concepts of mechanotransduction were said to influence the work we did.

That’s how science works, adaptation in models occurs as science uncovers more information.

However, did the sol-gel theory or does properties of mechanotransduction fully explain the reason why many of us stick around for really long hold-times? Is there evidence beyond the fascial science that comes into play when we linger for long time periods with our techniques and, if yes, are there additional aspects of our interactions that allow longer hold-times to have effects beyond, or rather than, that fascial science?

During the Covid shut-down, I rewrote my entire seminar curriculum, which included rebranding what I use, as a therapist, and what I teach, as an educator. As reported earlier, I moved my brand away from MFR and into Manual Therapy.

While there were and are many reasons for this move, one was the silo-like perspectives that are taken in nearly all manual therapy/massage branded modality lines of education. Each claims validations from disparate sources of evidence and science which often conflicts with the manner in which the therapy is applied. Early in my MFR career, I was struck by the vast difference in pressure application between MFR (as I learned it) and Rolfing.

MFR was slow and gentle, using long hold times that was said to be supported in the evidence. On the other hand, Rolfing used quicker strokes that were much more aggressive and it had been stated that these types of strokes were supported in their evidence. But when I went into the research citations used by each camp, there were a LOT of the same research articles. If found that odd at the time, but I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and not challenge authority.

I’ve lost touch with what sources of evidence each of these camps now uses and I suspect there have been updates all around, but even back in the early 1990s, I suspected that there were more universal (less fascial-based) explanations for how and why longer hold-times seemed to have efficacy for producing changes in fight/flight, pain, and movement problems.

Without bogging down this post too much, I came upon a study by Cerritelli (2017) titled, “Effect of Continuous Touch on Brain Functional Connectivity Is Modified by the Operator’s Tactile Attention”.  To summarize the study, the researches wished to look at whether or not the clinician’s attention to the patient mattered. One might summarize this study to ask that if a clinician was distracted, would the potential therapeutic effect be less than if the clinician attended to the patient.

Therapists often use vernacular from their modality or beliefs to summarize the need for attention to the patient, but as far as I know, this was the first study of its kind to put those concepts into a research study. The study was set up with a patient being attended to at their ankle by a clinician. fMRI monitoring was made during the course of the “interaction” to determine if brain activity changed with the intervention. The clinician did nothing at the patient’s ankle except to have light pressure; no “therapy” was done of any sort. They were just asked to attend to the patient’s ankle. There were two test groups, with the only variable the state of the clinician. In one group the clinician was supplied with headphones that transmitted loud sounds, meant to distract the clinician. In the other group, the clinician had no such sounds to interfere with their attending to their patient.

The study showed that with the group being attended to by the clinician wearing the headphones (loud noises to interfere with their concentration), little change in patient brain activity was registered. But in the group where the clinician was allowed to attend to the patient without distraction, there was a decided shift in activation of brain centers toward improvements in functional connectivity.

I will leave it to you to explore the paper to read the details of this result at the full-text link here. But what I found most fascinating was that “improvements in functional connectivity” peaked at 15-minutes of hold-time (contact-time). Allowing for a sustained input, as we do in MFR-styles of engagement, may allow that added benefit of neurological input/output to maximize.

As clinicians, much of the new evidence has shown that our outcomes are not due solely to what we do with the tissues, but are a complex, multi-factorial cascade of effects from peripheral, to the brain, and back to the periphery.

Behavioral factors may play a larger less than perceived local tissue-based responses (BIalosky, 2009, 2010, 2018; Geri, 2019, Kolb, 2020). What we see as outcomes of longer hold-times embedded within the MFR culture MAY be due to mechanical properties attributed to the fascia, but we now know as well that such hold-times are absorbed by the brain of the patient, which possesses the capacity to downgrade fight or flight to rest and relax, modulate pain, and improve movement quality.

I find all of this fascinating, as it moves the bar of proof from the questionable interpretation of evidence into “fascial evidence”, toward plausible narratives, accepted by the wider scientific community, which is what we should be seeking. yes, it may reduce the importance of fascia to a level where it is simply a part of the whole and not the forgotten tissue that has been taught to many of us. Peripheral input is detected via the various receptors throughout the tissues, be it skin, fascia, muscle, joints, etc., and sent to the brain for processing.

Kolb (2020) writes about the evolution of understanding of similar concepts in his article, The evolution of manual therapy education: what are we waiting for? He reports that such information has been freely available, information that puts the effects of manual therapy not on the individual tissues, but on the whole person, though manual therapy educators continue to defy what has been known to push their beliefs onto therapists about their favored tissue-based models. I think back with sad irony at many of the concepts taught to me by my MFR educator about how medicine as a whole was stuck in outdated mindsets when, in fact, MFR education lags behind modern neuroscience. In Kolb’s words, what are we waiting for?

This sort of information does not negate the value of what we do, but may (should?) make us question the way that we frame our work. Unlike what I was taught, hold-times may matter more to our patient’s brain than to their tissues.

Articles Of The Week September 13, 2020

In a pandemic world, stress can leave us worn down and with less energy to carry on our day-to-day lives. This article looks at the syndrome, which some of us may have once called “adrenal fatigue” and analyzes the actual mechanism at play.

Do you have Stress Bod? The surprising science of feeling awful – and what to do about it. – Ryan Maciel et al.

 

Are you still blaming a weak tranverse abdominus or multifidus muscle for your patients’ low back pain? It may be time to take a new look at better interventions.

Why We Need To Stop Blaming Tranverse Abdominus For Back Pain – Brandon Mouatt

 

We have long-since agreed that DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is likely the result of microdamage to muscle fibers during exercise. However, there’s a very interesting new theory that points out possible neuropathic origins instead.

Have We Looked in the Wrong Direction for More Than 100 Years? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Is, in Fact, Neural Microdamage Rather Than Muscle Damage – Balazs Sonkodi et al.

 

Many of us have treated frozen shoulder in patients and can probably agree that our understanding of the condition is still thin. Here’s one more interesting piece of the puzzle regarding a factor that may predispose to the condition – that being diabetes!

Frozen shoulder and diabetes: What’s the link? – Kelly Wild

 

Putting together exercise programs can be challenging; not because we don’t know enough, but often because it’s easy to overthink it! Here’s a great article with tips that can be applied to exercise-planning for anyone from elite athletes to elderly patients.

5 Strategies to Avoid Overthinking Strength and Conditioning Programs – Eric Cressey

4 Instant Ways To Assess And Move For OA Of The Hip

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been discussing different ways we can help patients who are dealing with OA of the hip.

Here are some relatively simple assessments you can do, which will also be great as homecare exercises!

When looking at all of these movements/tests it is recommended that you demonstrate it once to the patient, then have them do a practice run before the actual test takes place.

Sit To Stand Test

You start this with just a chair placed with the back of it against a wall. The patient sits with feet shoulder width apart and arms crossed at the chest.

You then have them rise to a standing position, then return to seated position for as many times possible for a 30 second duration.

Doing this can help give us an idea of some activity limitations the person may have. 1

 

4 Square Step Test

The literature recommends using four canes spread out with the handles at 90°, but I didn’t have any canes, so I just used tape on the floor.

Start the person in square 1 (whichever one you dictate that is) then in a clockwise direction stepping forward into square 2, side stepping to square 3, reverse step to square 4, then side step back into square 1.

Once the person is back in square 1, you reverse the direction going counterclockwise, side step to square 4, forward step to square 3, side step to square 2, reverse step to square 1.

This is timed to see how the person can do as quickly as possible to give us an indication of how well a person can move in different directions.1

Step Test

This one is a great way to assess a persons balance.

The literature recommends a 15cm step, but I didn’t have one, so I’m just demonstrating with a platform we have at the clinic.

Have the person stand on the affected, or the test hip. With the opposite leg step up onto your elevated surface until the foot is flat on the step, then return it back down to the floor. The painful side is always the “stance” side and doesn’t move up onto the step.

See how many times the person can do this for 15 seconds.1

 

Timed Single Leg Stance

This is another one for assessing a persons balance.

Hands are placed on the hip. Testing side is the “stance” side, opposite leg is put into a flexion position so that hip is neutral.

Then time the person for a maximum of 30 seconds. The test stops if the hands come off the hips, they touch the stance leg with their hands, or the stance leg touches the non-stance leg.1

What I really like about all of these, is that while their intent is an assessment, each one of these could easily be a homecare exercise you recommend to anyone with hip issues. You can easily do any of these in your treatment room and it can give you a great indication of a patients progression or digression. As always don’t just give them this with no reasoning behind it, make it meaningful to the person, find out their goals and explain how these or any other exercise can help them attain that goal. Make it about them!

References

  1. Cibulka MT, Bloom NJ, Enseki KR, MacDonald CW, Woehrle J, McDonough CM. Hip pain and mobility deficits—hip osteoarthritis: revision 2017: clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability and health from the orthopaedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2017 Jun;47(6):A1-37.

Articles Of The Week September 6, 2020

As some communities look to get businesses and other activities going again, some are taking on huge efforts to sanitize and clean. However, are these efforts going to be the major thing that stops the spread of Covid-19? Interesting points made in this article.

“Hygiene Theater Is a Huge Waste of Time” – Derek Thompson

When we’re recommending homecare to one of our patients, one of the obstacles can be finding the time to actually do the homecare. This can be especially true with new parents. Now while I don’t necessarily agree with some of the comments about posture, this article does give some good advice on finding time to exercise for new moms.

“How To Focus On Fitness When You Just Don’t Have Time – Monday Workout Motivation For New Moms” – marsstarsbaby

Could something as simple as education actually alter the treatment of our patients dealing with persistent pain? While patient education is quite often one of the big recommendations when we look at the clinical guidelines of a certain pathology, this papers shows us that a simple pain education lecture to students altered how they treated patients.

“Research: Can a Pain Neuroscience Education Lecture Alter Treatment Choices for Chronic Pain?” – Adriann Louw

Don’t let the title of this one fool you, your core isn’t weak. Fortunately, this article dispels the myth of a weak core and it’s correlation to back pain.

“Your Core Is Weak” – Ellie Somers

We are pretty big advocates for movement and exercise around here but sometimes we have to acknowledge our bias and ask why? Well here are some of the reasons for and also some reasons against.

“Why Use Exercise” – Adam Meakins