Alyson Lowrey, PT, DPT, OCS is the co-instructor for the H&W course Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population - Remote Course alongside Tara Sullivan, PT, DPT, PRPC, WCS, IF. Alyson treats the pelvic floor patient population through an orthopedic approach, working closely with pelvic floor specialists.
Pain neuroscience education (PNE) is the explanation of the neurophysiological changes in the central nervous system in patients with chronic pain. It includes how the nervous system functions and factors that influence its function such as social, psychological, and environmental factors. Pain neuroscience education aims to increase the patient’s knowledge about pain, decrease the threat of pain, and allow the patient to reconceptualize pain from a biopsychosocial perspective.
As a clinician seeing a patient with chronic and complex pain, it can be very daunting trying to determine how much education you should give the patient. Patients are generally very invested in improving their quality of life and therefore invested in learning how to treat their pain. Using techniques such as motivational interviewing is one way to determine if a patient is receptive to new information about pain and how to deliver that information. Education about pain needs to be varied and tailored to each patient based on their prior knowledge and perceptions, learning styles, their language, and their health literacy.
When a patient has an increased understanding of their pain and how their nervous system works, it can change their perspective about their pain by decreasing the threat value of their pain. PNE is the first step in the process of increasing a patient’s pain thresholds during exercise and functional activity. When patients no longer fear their pain as a sign of tissue damage, they can become empowered to re-educate their nervous system and pain processing centers in their brain. As providers, we are able to do this in several ways. We can do this by helping build new coping strategies and thought processes around their pain and dispelling misconceptions about their pain and physical ailments. We can suggest lifestyle and movement modifications that allow for more functional movement that doesn’t increase their pain activation centers. We can also adjust and modify our treatment plan around the patient's needs for success at each session. Consistently being a voice of encouragement, empowerment, and validation is also a very important component of PNE and our treatment as clinicians for our patients with chronic pain.
This course provides a thorough introduction to pain science concepts including classifications of pain mechanisms, peripheral pain generators, peripheral sensitization and central sensitization in listed chronic pelvic pain conditions; as well as treatment strategies including therapeutic pain neuroscience education, therapeutic alliance, and the current rehab interventions' influence on central sensitization. The rehab professionals who attend will be provided the understanding and tools needed to identify and treat patients with chronic pelvic pain from a pain science perspective. Lecture topics include the history of pain, pain physiology, central and peripheral sensitization, sensitization in chronic pelvic pain conditions, therapeutic alliance, pain science and trauma-informed care, therapeutic pain neuroscience education, the influence of rehab interventions on the CNS, and specific case examples for sensitization in CPP.
This blog contains an interview with Alyson N Lowrey, PT, DPT, OCS. Alyson treats the pelvic floor patient population through an orthopedic approach, working closely with pelvic floor specialists. Alyson’s clinical interests include evaluation/treatment of chronic pain, lumbar and cervical spine disorders, foot and ankle disorders, pelvic pain, and clinical instruction. Alyson is the co-instructor for the new H&W course, Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population - Remote Course scheduled for July 17-18, 2021.
Q: Who are you? Describe your clinical practice.
A: I work in an outpatient hospital-based clinic where I am able to provide true 1:1 care to patients of all ages and orthopedic conditions. Since pelvic floor therapy came to our clinic, I have developed strong clinical and personal relationships with pelvic floor therapists. We have been able to successfully combine our respective expertise into a wholistic approach for improving patient’s functional outcomes. My knowledge and relationships with pelvic floor therapy have allowed me as an ortho clinician to recognize when a patient’s dysfunction may have a pelvic floor component and refer appropriately. I am also in a unique opportunity where my pelvic floor colleagues will co-treat or transition care of a patient to me to continue to improve their overall function by providing functional strengthening and neuromuscular re-education to the pelvic floor musculature and other supportive muscular systems. This relationship also allows us to treat comorbid orthopedic conditions and pelvic dysfunctions such as low back pain or SIJ dysfunction as well.
Q: How did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?
A: I became involved with pelvic rehabilitation through working in a clinic with Tara Sullivan. Her knowledge is immense and our working relationship has shaped and changed how I assess patients. My practice has expanded drastically knowing so much more about pelvic floor dysfunction. I also have personal struggles with pelvic pain, which has given me a patient’s perspective as well on how important pelvic rehabilitation is.
Q: If you could get a message out to other clinicians about pelvic rehab what would it be?
A: I would encourage all ortho clinicians to educate themselves on pelvic rehab. Pelvic rehab is not yet fully integrated into our DPT curriculums and is often treated as a very separate area of dysfunction. Integrating pelvic floor function and dysfunction into my ortho world has drastically changed how I see and treat many patients.
Q: What made you want to create this course, Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population?
A: Tara and I wanted to create this course to help other clinicians become more proficient at treating chronic pain. A large portion of our caseloads is chronic pain both generally and with pelvic conditions. Patients with these conditions are often overlooked and not treated appropriately by the medical system at large. They are often dismissed or mislead that they have something drastically wrong with them, or worse, nothing wrong with them at all. This population often has the most functional deficits and the worst clinical outcomes. We want to change that.
Q: What need does your course fill in the field of pelvic rehabilitation?
A: There is a need in rehabilitation and medicine to understand pain from a biopsychosocial approach and to treat chronic pain conditions from that perspective. Pain is complex, and treatment is complex. Chronic pelvic pain is a subdivision of prevalent chronic pain that is not talked about or treated often enough.
Q: Who, what demographic, would benefit from your course?
A: Any clinician who treats chronic pain conditions can benefit from this course.
If you would like to learn more about chronic pelvic pain, you can join Alyson at Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population - Remote Course scheduled for July 17-18, 2021.