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How do you explain pain to a patient?

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How do you explain pain to a patient? How do you reeducate the nervous system to be less sensitive? These are the questions that Tara Sullivan, PT, DPT, PRPC, WCS, IF, and Alyson N Lowrey, PT, DPT, OCS address in their new course Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population. The chronic pain population is often dismissed or misled that they have something drastically wrong with them, or worse, nothing wrong with them at all. Alyson and Tara share that “this population often has the most functional deficits and the worst clinical outcomes. We want to change that.”

Tara has specialized exclusively in pelvic floor dysfunction treating bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunctions, and pelvic pain since 2012. Alyson became involved with pelvic rehabilitation through working in a clinic with Tara Sullivan. She is a board-certified orthopedic specialist and primarily works with the ortho patient population. When Tara came into the clinic she brought along the pelvic floor population and they joined forces. Alyson, with her ortho perspective, is better able to recognize that in some of her orthopedic patients, a lot of their pain was coming from the pelvic floor. The pelvic pain patient population crosses over from physical therapy to the orthopedic and occupational therapy worlds. By treating their patients wholistically Tara and Alyson have been able to make a huge difference to both of their practices.

By focusing specifically on the topic of pain science in their new course, Tara and Alyson delve into the true physiology of pain including the topics of central and peripheral sensitization. Pelvic specialists that can benefit from this course are those whose patients have chronic pelvic pain including endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginismus, vestibulodynia, primary dysmenorrhea, and prostatitis. The biggest thing is to learn how to recognize if there is a sensitization component to your patient’s pain.

Alyson shares that being able to recognize chronic pain in the patient is huge, that this is “not your regular patient who has a peripheral injury and we just need to rehab them through that process. It’s a whole different ballgame when we’ve got our nervous system in a hypersensitive state.” She continues, “a huge part of the treatment is educating your patient about pain and trying to decrease the fear around movement…and how we use our words to decrease fear is huge.” This course also discusses how to desensitize the nervous system through dry needling, diaphragmatic breathing, sleep hygiene, and bowel and bladder retraining.

Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population is scheduled for February 19-20, May 21-22, and September 10-11. This course is targeted to physical therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapist assistants, registered nurses, nurse midwives, and other rehabilitation professionals. The full interview with Tara Sullivan and Alyson Lowery is available on the Herman & Wallace YouTube channel.

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