Pain management is one of the biggest discussions in the medical community today. The New York Times has dedicated numerous articles to discussing the chronic pain problem plaguing our nation, and campaigns like #ChoosePT serve to educate consumers about the dangers of misdiagnosis and over-prescription of opioid drugs.
This is why we spoke with esteemed physical therapist, Herb Silver, PT, DSc, MBA, to discuss his decades of experience managing – and eliminating his patients’ chronic pain.
According to Herb, many patients often arrive eager to focus on segmented, isolated pain. While, admittedly, his back, head and shoulders also hurt, the patient wants to focus on pain in his neck. Herb aims to eliminate this frame of mind by focusing on the systemic problem of chronic, wide-spread pain. Rather than focus on one area, Herb takes in the big picture with the goal of eliminating the root of his patients’ chronic pain.
A patient should expect his first PT appointment to begin with a standard exam, including an orthopedic, neurological and a manual therapy exam, as well as identifying pieces of patient history that may contribute to chronic pain. Perhaps he struggles with sleeping or anxiety or balancing work and play. Many times, these factors can intensify pain from an injury.
By incorporating a mindfulness of the entire central nervous system, Herb is able to lead his patients into recovery – one free of both pain and pills.
Mindfulness does not suggest that pain is just perception. It incorporates shifts in neurotransmitters as well as an injury or an area that physical therapy can address – which is why it is unique. PTs have the tools to treat localized pain while also being mindful of the central nervous system.
And these “mindfulness” techniques are quantifiable.
When treating an issue stemming from the central nervous system without being mindful of the root cause, the “bear” – as Herb describes it – will keep attacking. Patients begin losing sleep, suffering from anxiety. The brain remains in a state of attack. A PT may recommend something as simple as refocusing throughout the day – focusing on breathing, for example – or may even recommend more elaborate lifestyle changes.
When your brain perceives an attack, it reacts. But by incorporating techniques into daily life to eliminate the “bear,” a patient can eliminate the root of his pain.
Moving forward, Herb anticipates a continuous shift in the medical community to incorporating a holistic approach to pain management, one that includes physical therapy in its core. If you suffer from chronic pain, find a physical therapist near you.