patient educational tools

Recent studies12 on the effects of patient education in reducing stress and promoting long-term positive patient outcomes indicate that providing literature and visual aids that clearly describe or demonstrate the patient’s condition can help relieve anxiety and encourage a positive psychological state that fosters better health outcomes. Examples of patient educational tools include illustrated pamphlets, photographs, radiograph images, charts, and finely detailed dynamic design models to provide an overall contextual effect in framing treatment and health expectations.

Reframe Treatment Expectations by Providing Context

Clinicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists who are prepared with effective aids to answer their patients’ questions about disc herniation, bulging discs, disc degeneration, annular fissure, osteoarthritis, stability, hypermobility, nerve pain, sheer instability, neutral loading, recumbency, facet or disc pain, disc height changes with static loads, diurnal changes, and other spinal conditions can look forward to a better patient-practitioner experience, more patient cooperation,  and a better long-term treatment outcome for their patients than those who rely on simple diagnosis and treatment procedures without effective patient education.

Empower Patients with Biopsychosocial Approach

By providing patients with a better understanding of their condition through the use of dynamic models or other visual devices, practitioners improve patient-clinician treatment collaboration and empower patients to take a more active role in their own healing agenda. This biopsychosocial approach to treatment has been shown in studies to generate more positive, long-lasting treatment outcomes and improve relationships between patients and practitioners, fostering trust, communication, and respect.

When practitioners take the time to help patients understand their condition, the patient feels more supported and engaged in the healing process and report being generally happier with their treatment plan. Using a person-centered approach to healing, the practitioner is concerned not only with a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, but is also concerned about the patient’s perception of his diagnosis and treatment experience. This perception, according to studies, is more positive and empowering when the practitioner takes the time to fully address the patient’s concerns and questions and uses visual aids, images, charts, literature, dynamic designs, and other tools to demonstrate what the patient is experiencing and how the treatment will work.

Keywords: dynamic models and other tools in patient education, use of dynamic models or other visual devices, finely detailed dynamic design models, patient educational tools, biopsychosocial approach to treatment, disc herniation, bulging discs, disc degeneration, annular fissure, osteoarthritis, stability, hypermobility, nerve pain, sheer instability, neutral loading, recumbency, facet or disc pain, disc height changes with static loads, diurnal changes

A cross-sectional study 1of the multifidus muscles (MM) and erector spinae muscles of 68 women and 42 men found significantly higher levels of muscles in subjects without disc herniation than in the disc herniation group, indicating that chronic pressure on the root of the spinal nerve may cause degeneration and atrophy of the MM and erector spinae muscles groups.

 

Single-Level Disc Herniation

Model of Single-Level Disc Herniation.

 

The Study

110 LBP patients with an average age of 40 were analyzed and divided into two groups—those with single-level disc degeneration, and those without disc degeneration. Subjects with multilevel degeneration were excluded, as were those with deformities of the spine or a history of spinal surgeries. Both groups were radiographed via MRI at the lumbar levels, and the imaging results were compared to examine the paravertebral muscles, disc heights, and perpendicular distances between the laminae and MM. Statistical analysis using software compared the variables using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test to investigate data distribution.

Results

The LBP patients without lumbar disc herniation had clinically-significant greater MM and erector spinae muscles than those with radiographically-confirmed disc degeneration. No significant differences existed, however, in the disc heights, perpendicular distances between the MM and the laminae, or the psoas major cross-sectional areas of the two study groups.

Discussion

The MM stabilizes the lumbar spine and, when negatively impacted, contributes to LBP. The muscle group create more force over a smaller range than the longer spine muscle groups, which helps to stabilize movement. The dorsal rami of the spinal nerves stimulates the MM and erector spinae, but the psoas major is stimulated by ventral rami lumbar spinal branches, prior to their joining the lumbar plexus. The medial paraspinal muscles are stimulated from one nerve root, but the iliocostalis and longissimus muscles receives stimulation from many roots. Indications of muscle degeneration include decreased muscle size and increased fat deposits in the area.

Because the MM and erector spinae are stimulated by the dorsal root stemming from a singular level, the chronic and long-lasting pressure on the root due to disc herniation contributes to the degeneration and atrophy of these muscles. This atrophy is not evident in the psoas muscle because it is stimulated by the nerves of many different levels, rather than a singular source. In order for muscle atrophy to occur, there must be at least six weeks of compression, according to this study’s authors.

Conclusion

Evidence of increased fatty deposits and decreased muscle in a cross-sectional lumbar image indicates the existence of muscle degeneration in LBP patients, assuming there has been at least six weeks of compression on the MM or erector spinae muscle groups, which are stimulated by a single nerve root.

 

KEYWORDS: Muscle Degeneration in LBP Patients with Single-Level Disc Herniation, single-level disc degeneration, paravertebral muscles, disc heights, and perpendicular distances between the laminae and MM, pressure on the root due to disc herniation contributes to the degeneration and atrophy of these muscles

  1. Volumetric Muscle Measurements Indicate Significant Muscle Degeneration in Single-Level Disc Herniation Patients
lower back pain

A data review of how education of patients suffering from lower back pain (LBP) in a primary care setting affects their psychological state found moderate-to-high evidence that when primary care physicians provided information on the condition, their patients were reassured and experienced long-term healthy and psychological benefits.

patient education

Although it has been long-established that reassurance from a medical practitioner improves patient outcomes, it is also true that reassuring non-specific illness patients without educating them about their condition can contribute to stress, which can precipitate chronic pain and expensive, recurring health care costs.

Because LBP patients are often discouraged from receiving costly diagnostic imaging tests, they may not experience the reassurance that comes from understanding the source of their pain. Though only 25 percent of physicians in the UK currently order imaging as a matter of course, the number is increasing as the benefits of patient reassurance become more evident.

Another means of patient reassurance involves preplanned educational materials that explain the condition in understandable language. Booklets, diagrams, and dynamic devices that clearly demonstrate the health problem and how it can be treated may have beneficial health and psychological effects on LBP in a clinical setting, but there have been few studies to validate the effectiveness of these intervention methods. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine how patient education would increase reassurance in LBP patients and to determine which method of intervention was most effective.

Methods

A literature review of identified, eligible studies was conducted in November of 2013 and repeated in June of 2014. The studies reviewed involved LBP patient education, advice, reassurance, information, counselling, and consultation in clinical trial settings. Eligibility included LBP adult patients with acute or subacute conditions in clinical trials where more than 70 percent of the patients reported symptoms and where the interventions were conducted in a primary care setting, with at least one patient education element, either written or verbal, that provided reassurance.

Results

The data analysis of the review suggested, with moderate-to-high quality evidence, that patients with LBP are reassured when they receive education about their condition from their primary care provider and that the positive effects of the intervention are still evident at a one-year follow-up consultation. The evidence also showed that receiving education about their LBP during their initial primary care visit reduced the amount of LBP health-care visits over a one-year period. A sub-group review also determined that patients were more reassured when they received education about their condition directly from their physician, rather than from a nurse of a physiotherapist.

Discussion

The results of this review indicate that physicians who can provide their LBP patients with structured, understandable educational materials about their condition are more successful in reassuring their patients, who continue to have lasting health and psychological benefits for up to a year after their initial consultation. Because patients with LBP typically endure numerous costly treatments and may suffer from chronic pain and stress, it would be beneficial for primary care physicians to prepare educational materials that could lead to a more successful treatment outcome and reduced financial burden for their patients.

spine models, patient education, anatomy models

Dynamic spine models – Patient Education for Spine

KEYWORDS: educating lower back pain patients, patients suffering from lower back pain, patient reassurance, patient education, diagnostic imaging tests, psychological effects of LBP

A recent study  1 mapped the rate of water diffusion in intervertebral discs (IVD) of lower back pain (LBP) patients using MRI and a software program to develop an apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), or in vivo water proton measurement, shortly after spinal manipulation on the subjects. The results of the study indicate a short-term increase in apparent diffusion could be responsible for the immediate improvements in pain and mobility after a spinal manipulation, though chronic LBP sufferers, whose fissured and ruptured discs allow for more diffusion than typical healthy discs, may be less likely to experience the immediate benefits of mobilization than their acute LBP-suffering counterparts.

 

The Study

Eleven women and five men diagnosed with acute idiopathic LBP were recruited from a physical therapy practice over a six-month period. Their average age was 46 years-old, and they were included in the study based upon a shared complaint of acute LBP or stiffness of a duration less than six weeks, less pain days than non-pain days, with at least one asymptomatic month between the current and previous LBP episodes. Patients were excluded from the study if they suffered from chronic LBP, were resistant to spinal manipulation, had suffered a spinal fracture, felt pain radiating below the knee, previous spinal surgery, had osteoporosis, were pregnant, had any sort of metal implants that might interfere with the MRI machine, suffered from mental health problems, obesity, claustrophobia, substance abuse or cognitive disability.

The subjects received an explanation of the procedure and completed questionnaires about their levels of neuropathy and LBP prior to having their lumbar region scanned via MRI. After the initial scan, a spinal mobilization by an Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapist (OMPT) was performed in an adjacent room, with a scale beneath the OMPT’s feet measuring the weight change during the PA mobilization. Within the hour, another MRI scan was taken of the patients, and they were asked to answer a series of questions to rate their pain and mobility levels, post-treatment. The entire process took roughly 90 minutes per patient.

The images were analyzed visually and through a data software program in relation to each participant’s rate of a water molecule and nutrient diffusion and the sequences of diffusion pre-and post-manipulation. The images were interpreted by a single investigator and radiologist, and the ADC was calculated and verified. Clinical pain and mobility changes were noted and combined with the MRI changes before and after the PA mobilization computations were achieved.

Results

There was a clinically-significant increase in ADC values across all anatomical levels, except for L2-S1 and L2-L3. The biggest changes occurred at L3-L4, and L4-L5. The pain ratings also saw a significant reduction post-mobilization across the subjects after mobilization. These results agree with previous similar study findings, but they offer new insights into acute LBP diffusion and that of older study subjects than in previous studies. Dr. Fryer’s research was referenced in this paper. Click To Tweet The findings of this study may indicate that the phenomenon of mobilization may not be responsible for the improvement of discogenic pain and increased water diffusion, but it is clear that pain, mobility, and diffusion are linked, and mobilization during the acute phases of LBP can temporarily provide increased flow to the IVD, allowing it to expand and decrease pressure and stress on the surrounding nerves. The improved fluid-flow may also help to remove obstructions, irritants, and debris from the IVD, which could also improve function and pain levels, post-manipulation.

Mobilization during the acute phases of LBP can temporarily provide increased flow to the IVD, allowing it to expand and decrease pressure and stress on the surrounding nerves. Click To Tweet

Though there was an overall four percent reduction in ADC between typical and slightly degenerated IVDs, the subjects with more severe degeneration had five percent higher levels of diffusion—probably due to fluids collecting in the fissures in the nucleus, created by the disc degeneration. Thus, spinal thrust significantly increased ADC values for those with mild or no degeneration but was less effective in those with more degeneration.

KEYWORDS: Spinal Mobilization Credited to Increased Apparent Diffusion, in vivo water proton measurement, shortly after spinal manipulation, short-term increase in apparent diffusion could be responsible for the immediate improvements in pain and mobility after a spinal manipulation, mobilization during the acute phases of LBP can temporarily provide increased flow to the IVD

cervical hydraulic recovery with recumbancy

A retrospective study 1. [Clinical Relationship of Degenerative Changes between the Cervical and Lumbar Spine] reviewing MRIs of 152 back patients showed a positive correlation between cervical and lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) in patients presenting with lumbar spondylosis. The results suggest the necessity of screening LBP patients for evidence of cervical IDD.

Introduction

The diagnosis of IDD may be complicated by the patient’s pain patterns and the tendency of practitioners to focus only on the area of discomfort. Studies have demonstrated the interrelatedness of spinal kinematics, reflexes, and complex neurogenic responses in IVD degeneration, but few studies have examined the connection between degenerative changes in the lumbar and cervical spine, as it relates to diagnosis. This study’s aim was to quantify the possible correlation, which could lead to better diagnostic and treatment outcomes for future IDD patients.

 

Method

Positional MRIs of 152 patients presenting with cervical or lumbar spondylosis were reviewed and assessed and graded on a scale of 1 to 5 for every spinal segment. A degenerative disc score (DDS) was achieved by summing the grades across all segments, after which, the subjects were divided into two groups based upon their IDD for each spinal segment. The “normal” group received a grade of 1 to 2; the “degenerative” group had grades of between 3 and 5. The groups were then compared for evidence of a positive correlation.

Results

A review of the two groups showed a positive correlation between DDS of the cervical and lumbar spine, with higher cervical DDSs at the upper lumber segments than at the lower degenerative segments. This indicates that patients demonstrating degenerations in the upper lumbar spinal segments are likely to suffer from some cervical spondylosis on further examination, regardless of whether they are currently symptomatic.

Conclusion

Patients with lumbar degeneration should also be screened for cervical spondylosis, particularly if their lumbar degeneration is present in the L1 to L3, to reduce the likelihood of a missed cervical degeneration diagnosis. Click To Tweet

KEYWORDS: positive correlation between cervical and lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration, better diagnostic and treatment outcomes for future IDD patients, the interrelatedness of spinal kinematics, reflexes, and complex neurogenic responses, patients demonstrating degenerations in the upper lumbar spinal segments are likely to suffer from some cervical spondylosis

somatosensory changes, LBP

A four-month study 1 of acute lower back pain (LBP) patients and a pain-free control group found a correlation between persistent LBP and somatosensory changes over time that appeared to increase pain and other types of neurological sensitivity in chronic LBP patients. Because even baseline pain awareness was elevated in the subjects that later developed chronic LBP, the authors of the study suggest further studies that would examine the evident link between heightened pain sensitivity and its possible role in the development of chronic LBP.

initial LBP diagnosis also be evaluated for potential psychological issues. Click To Tweet

They also suggest patients undergoing initial LBP diagnosis also be evaluated for potential psychological issues that might be contributing factors to their pain.

The Study

Quantitative sensory responses (QSR) were collected and analyzed at less than three weeks prior to the onset of an acute LBP episode (baseline), a two-month follow-up, and at four months for 25 LBP patients and a pain-free control group of 48 subjects.  LBP patients were recruited from a variety of treatment facilities, physicians, and practitioners. Excluding criteria included any history of serious spinal injury or back surgery, pregnancy, or any painful condition requiring at least a month of treatment in the past year or one that affected the subject’s ability to function in any way on a regular basis or required the use of long-term pain medications. Demographics including sex, age, race, work status, and body mass index (BMI) were collected from the LBP and pain-free control participants at the beginning of the study.

Collecting Initial and Follow-Up Data

Patients with LBP answered questions about their pain’s onset, duration, intensity, and how well they were able to function while in pain. The participants then answered questions about their levels of depression, anxiety, and scale of stress. Back pain patients also answered questions that would indicate how much they catastrophized their pain and how self-sufficient they were at dealing with their pain, as well as questions designed to measure the sensory and emotional or affective connection to their pain. They were screened by questionnaires to determine possible neuropathic features of their LBP. All participants involved in the study were given the questionnaires to complete at each of their three assessments, and they were then classified into blind groups according to their answers.

Sensory Testing

All patients were tested for their cold-pain threshold (CPT), followed by a test for their heat-pain threshold (HPT), mechanical wind-up ratio (WUR), pressure-pain threshold (PPT), two-point discrimination (TPD), and conditioned pain modulation (CPM). The testing was conducted at the same three body sites on the backs and hands of all patients. The LBP patients’ back testing was conducted at the location of their greatest pain. Thermal pain thresholds were measured using three consecutive measurements. Pain from the stimulus of a single pin-prick, followed by that of a 10-pin prick, was used to measure the WUR of all subjects and then compared using analysis of a numerical calculation. Three measurements of pressure-pain were used to calculate the PPT. A ruler was used to calculate the TPD of all subjects.

A series of 30-second contacts with a thermally-heated device was used to measure heat pain, and a cold foot bath was used to determine the subjects’ sensitivity to cold, as they were asked to withdraw their foot when they were no longer capable of tolerating the cold water. They were then asked to rate their discomfort at 30, 60, and 90 seconds on a pain scale, and their score was given a negative or positive inhibitory response value. Data and statistics were computed and analyzed by the researchers using statistical software.

Results

The data collected in this study showed that the chronic LBP group had a significantly increased pain sensitivity during early and later pressure and mechanical tests and were more cognizant of pain responses at baseline than their pain-free and recovered acute LPB study counterparts. The psychological effects of their pain were also measured higher at the two and four-month follow-up than their recovered LBP counterparts. This could mean that those patients were neurologically and/or psychologically more prone to pain, even prior to the development of their LBP symptoms. The study authors suggest better standardization of a CPM protocol in future studies to take psychological factors of the patients into account and improve the reliability of future test results.

 

KEYWORDS: correlation between persistent LBP and somatosensory changes, link between heightened pain sensitivity and its possible role in the development of chronic LBP. patients undergoing initial LBP diagnosis also be evaluated for potential psychological issues, cold-pain threshold, heat-pain threshold, conditioned pain modulation

Physician-Patient Communication

A qualitative phenomenological study of 15 musculoskeletal patients and their physiotherapists found that patients were better able to express their concerns and outcome expectations when their practitioners utilized a patient-centric, communicative approach during their initial healthcare consultation. When practitioners were well-versed in contemporary pain and pathology theories, they were better able to anticipate and elicit feedback about their patients’ concerns, leading to a more positive dialogue and better patient satisfaction. Practitioners who have developed systems and approaches to encourage proactive communication from their patients about their health concerns were more likely to have positive patient outcomes than those who relied only upon their prior medical expertise in diagnosing and treating their patients.

Purpose of the Study

Recent healthcare approaches have trended away from the strictly traditional biomedical paradigm to include the biopsychosocial approach to patient consultation and treatment. The newer model recognizes the importance of communication in empowering patients to take an active role in their own treatment and encourages them to consider and express their own health agendas, allowing their clinicians to more fully understand and attend to their specific healthcare needs. To develop a true partnership with their patients, healthcare practitioners must be willing to abandon the “doctor knows best” attitude and develop better communication skills that will allow for a patient-clinician treatment collaboration. This study proposed to investigate the relationship between a clinician’s communication technique and skills and how well the patient was able to express healthcare concerns during an initial consultation.

Methods

15 musculoskeletal patients and their physiotherapists were interviewed after an initial consultation encounter of between 15 and 20 minutes, which was recorded and later analyzed, utilizing predetermined topic guides, including: presenting problems and symptoms; understanding diagnosis theories, how the patients reacted to referrals, the behavior of the clinician during the consultation, desirable and undesirable treatment activities, fears, concerns, and emotional or social issues related to the patient’s treatment or diagnosis.

Findings

Each of the patients involved in the study presented with a range of two to five topics they wanted to discuss with their clinician. The data determined three main themes when it came to important topics of patient-clinician communication during consultations:

Clarity of the patient’s agenda

The first theme identified was how clear or unstructured a patient’s agenda was during their consultation. Some patients had very clear health agendas and were able to communicate their expectations and needs effectively to their clinician. Others were more passive and had more difficulty in communicating their expectations. These patients would have likely benefitted from a practitioner who was better able to create an atmosphere of trust and confidence, which would encourage the patient to discuss their needs.

The need for information and understanding

Patients who had more information about and better understood their health concerns were better at identifying and expressing their expectations and needs during their consultation. The subjects reported being more satisfied with and reassured by their consultation when their clinician took the time to explain and discuss the healthcare issue with them, rather than simply offering a diagnosis and treatment plan. When the clinicians offered evidence-based information regarding their diagnosis and reassurance that their health problem was not due to a serious underlying condition or likely to create too much disruption in their lives, they felt more satisfied with their experience. They were also happier about their consultation when their clinician was able to illicit further information regarding their symptoms and concerns, especially when the patients had neglected to mention these concerns, either through forgetfulness or reluctance to communicate their fears.

Developing Collaboration

Patients in the study reported feeling more supported and engaged when their healthcare provider used a person-centered approach during the interview at their initial consultation. They were better able to trust and have confidence in providers that projected a sense of partnership and were concerned with the social, emotional and physical condition of their patients, rather than treating their dysfunction as a stand-alone concern.

The results of this study emphasize the need for clinicians to create an atmosphere of trust, collaboration, and communication in their patient consultations, rather than relying exclusively on their medical expertise during diagnosis and treatment. By encouraging their patients to more effectively communicate their healthcare concerns, and by creating an atmosphere of collaboration between themselves and their patients, healthcare providers can empower and reassure their patients, which may improve diagnosis, treatment, and healthcare outcomes.

 

KEYWORDS: Importance of Physician-to-Patient Communication, patient-centric, communicative approach, clinician’s communication technique and skills, desirable and undesirable treatment activities, fears, concerns, emotional or social issues related to the patient’s treatment or diagnosis