CF 129: Updated Thinking On Chronic Pain and Exercise
Today we’re going to talk about chronic pain and exercise.
But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music
OK, we are back and you have found the Chiropractic Forward Podcast where we are making evidence-based chiropractic fun, profitable, and accessible while we make you and your patients better all the way around.
We’re the fun kind of research. Not the stuffy, high-brow kind of research. We’re research talk over a couple of beers.
I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.
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You have found yourself smack dab in the middle of Episode #129
Now if you missed last week’s episode, we talked about Tylenol failures, cervical disc research, and we talked about complementary and alternative treatment for headaches and migraines. What’s the current research and thinking? Make sure you don’t miss that info. Keep up with the class.
While we’re on the topic of being smart, did you know that you can use our website as a resource? Quick and easy, you can go to chiropracticforward.com
, click on Episodes, and use the search function to find whatever you want quickly and easily. With over 100 episodes in the tank and an average of 2-3 papers covered per episode, we have somewhere between 250 and 300 papers that can be quickly referenced along with their talking points.
Just so you know, all of the research we talk about in each episode is cited in the show notes for each episode if you’re looking to dive in a little deeper.
On the personal end of things…..
Well, so far, no blowback from my rant on last week’s podcast so sometimes no news is good news. You either all agree with me or you’re not listening.
Rocking and rolling here at work, last week was finally the busiest I have been since late January or early February. It was quite a blessing. I have to admit, I’m not used to working that damned hard anymore but it’s OK. I just need to get back into fighting shape so I can see them all.
Last week we saw about 135 patients. Pre-COVID numbers were anywhere from 185-225 so I’m still significantly down but it’s trending upwards and it’s looking good right now. I cannot and will not fuss about it. Especially when I read that several are just now going back to work and have been closed completely this entire time. We’ve been fully, completely open for more than a month now. It’s hard to imagine being closed down any longer than we were honest. I don’t know how companies survive.
I see reports that the virus may have mutated to a lesser severity. Not only are some doctors claiming that people are getting less severe when they do get sick, but they are not getting sick as easily. That’s some exciting news if it is indeed a fact. Time will tell.
I don’t want to hear anything about ‘new normals’. Once this dude settles down, life will be normal. Not a new normal. It’ll be back to the way it was. I’m guessing August but who knows? It could be in the Fall. Maybe even the Spring. But it will be the old normal. You can count on that.
your businesses are picking back up as well. I hope you’re seeing those old familiar happy faces coming back into the office to greet you. I hope you’re back on track to showing the world how effective and amazing chiropractic can be when practiced by an evidence-based, patient-centered professional. That’s you. That’s who listens to this show and I’m proud of you all. You make this profession better every day and I thank you.
I just hope you get something good from me every week. If you do, I won’t be shy about asking you to share this podcast with your colleagues. We are growing all of the time but it’s never quite fast enough to feel like I’m on a roll. So, with your help in sharing and talking about us, I think we can truly make a big difference and take this thing of ours to another level.
This first one this week is called “Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia Is Impaired in Chronic Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) With Both Aerobic and Isometric Exercise”
by Smith et. al(Smith A 2020). and published in Clinical Journal of Pain in May of 2020. Oy…..that’s smokin’ hot!
Why They Did It
First, let’s define Exercise Induced Hypolagesia. It is a generalized reduction in pain and pain sensitivity that occurs during exercise
and for some time afterward. So, for normal, asymptomatic people, when they exercise, there’s less pain and they feel better and that lasts for a while when they finish exercising.
Exercise induced hypoalgesia can be impaired in patients with chronic pain and may be dependent on exercise type. Factors predictive of Exercise induced hypoalgesia are not known. This study aimed to:
How They Did It
- compare Exercise induced hypoalgesia in participants with chronic whiplash associated disorders to asymptomatic controls,
- determine if exercise induced hypoalgesia differs between aerobic and isometric exercise,
- determine predictors of Exercise induced hypoalgesia.
What They Found
- A pre-post study investigated the effect of single sessions of submaximal aerobic treadmill walking and isometric knee extension on exercise induced hypoalgesia in 40 participants with chronic whiplash associated disorders and 30 controls
- Pressure pain thresholds were measured at the hand, cervical spine and tibialis anterior
- Appropriate baseline measurements were performed
Participants with whiplash-associated disorders demonstrated impaired exercise-induced hypoalgesia
There was no difference in exercise-induced hypoalgesia between exercise types
Wrap It Up
“Individuals with chronic whiplash-associated disorders have impaired exercise-induced hypoalgesia with both aerobic and isometric exercise. Higher levels of physical activity and less efficient conditioned pain modulation may be associated with impaired exercise-induced hypoalgesia.”
This last one is by the great Dr. Craig Liebenson and is called “Pain with Exercise: Is it acceptable & if so how much & for how long?”
and was published in First Principles Of Movement on May 20, 2020(Liebenson C 2020). Pow! Hot like a firecracker folks.
For articles, we dispense with our normal outline and we hit the high spots and interesting points.
Craig starts by quoting a paper by Smith, Littlewood where they say “Protocols using painful exercises offer a small but significant benefit over pain-free exercises in the short term, with moderate quality of evidence……Pain during therapeutic exercise for chronic musculoskeletal pain need not be a barrier to successful outcomes.”
He also quotes Annie O’Conner’s, author of World of Hurt, where she says we must violate the patient’s expectation that hurt equals harm. Especially with light pain.
Craig also refers to a photograph from Silbernagel’s paper demonstrating a Pain-Monitoring Model where the safe zone on the VAS was 0-2, the Yellow or acceptable zone was 3-5 on the VAS, and the red high-risk zone was 6-10.
Silbernagel says, “Biological plausibility/explanation and reasoning ranks high and then you can individualize. Meaning waiting for the pain to subside does not work because you get weaker and the tissue decreases its tolerance to load. So loading with pain is beneficial to get the structures to improve. However, if it is a fracture it might be very different so know the injury and tissue.”
I like this quote of Craig’s from the article: “Many people believe the medical adage – “if it hurts don’t do it”. We know that for some this promotes illness behavior by giving the idea that the body is fragile. Ben Smith & Chris Littlewood’s shoulder paper, Annie O’Conner’s WOH book, some of K Thorberg’s groin work, & you’re tendonopathy paper all show yellow pain is acceptable
He says the idea of, if it hurts, don’t do it brings about clear yellow flags. Yellow flags such as
- Hurt = harm
- activity is harmful
- if an activity hurts it should be stopped
On the topic of osteoarthritis, he says
- The patient decides what’s tolerable,
- Above 5 is the red area
- If pain increases with exercise, that’s OK as long as by the next day it has calmed.
He goes on to cite a new paper in JAMA by Ben Cormack asking about pain tolerance vs. using the traditional Numeric Rating Scale. They’re suggesting asking if the pain is tolerable is a better way to deal with it.
- “The exclusive focus of the numeric rating scale (NRS) on pain intensity reduces the experience of chronic pain to a single dimension.”
- “This drawback minimizes the complex effects of chronic pain on patients’ lives and the trade-offs that are often involved in analgesic decision-making.”
- “Furthermore, continually asking patients to rate their pain on a scale that is anchored by a pain-free state (ie, 0) implies that being pain-free is a readily attainable treatment goal, which may contribute to unrealistic expectations for complete relief.”
The modern approach to managing disabling musculoskeletal pain is to shift the focus from chasing symptomatic relief to addressing activity intolerances related to symptoms.
- “ The overarching goal of chronic pain treatment is to make the pain tolerable for the patient rather than to attain a targeted numeric rating.”
- “Our findings confirmed the intuitive assumption that most patients with low pain intensity (ie, NRS score, 1-3) find their pain tolerable.”
- “In contrast, the tolerability of pain rated between 4 and 6 varies substantially among patients.
- “In this middle range, if a patient describes the pain as tolerable, this might decrease the clinician’s inclination to initiate higher-risk treatments.”
- “A substantial subgroup of patients with severe pain reported their symptoms as tolerable.”
Dr. Liebenson wraps up the article by saying, “This discussion highlights that hurt does not necessarily equal harm. Nearly all musculoskeletal pain guidelines over the last 30 years have emphasized that pain does not equal tissue damage or impending injury. This study goes a long way to show us better ways to educate people in reassuring ways that will get them back to activity and thus build a mindset that can make them feel less fragile.”
Chronic pain is interesting stuff and is a HUGE market where there are lots of opportunities for educated, smart chiropractors to stick their flag in the dirt and stake a claim.
Alright, that’s it. Y’all be safe. Continue taking care of yourselves and taking care of your neighbors. Tough times are upon us but, the sun will shine again. Trust it, believe it, count on it.
Let’s get to the message. Same as it is every week.
Remember the evidence-informed brochures and posters at chiropracticforward.com
I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment rather than chemical treatments like pills and shots.
When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show us patients can get good to excellent results for headaches, neck pain, back pain, and joint pain to name just a few.
It’s safe and cost-effective can decrease surgeries & disability and we do it through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal hassle to the patient.
And, if the patient treats preventativly after initial recovery, we can usually keep it that way while raising the overall level of health!
At the end of the day, patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment that offers the least harm. When it comes to non-complicated musculoskeletal complaints….
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We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.
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About the Author & Host
Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger
- Liebenson C (2020). “Pain with Exercise: Is it acceptable & if so how much & for how long?” First Principles Of Movement.
- Smith A, R. C., Warren J, Sterling M, (2020). “Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia Is Impaired in Chronic Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) With Both Aerobic and Isometric Exercise.” Clin J Pain.