Getting Care From a Biopsychosocial Standpoint

Why I leverage this modality in my private practice.

Posted Jun 30, 2020

I am always striving to treat my patients with the most comprehensive approach for acute and chronic pain.  I realize that all patient’s pain is not the same.  Pain is complex and multiple factors can cause or exacerbate a patient’s pain condition.

When I founded my practice in 2009 I made sure that our treatment model was in line with my own views on the importance of treating each of these factors. Our treatment is based on the biopsychosocial model.  The biopsychosocial model is an interdisciplinary model that looks at the interconnection between biology, psychology, and socio-environmental factors.  We realize each of these factors may or may not contribute to each individual’s pain experience.  We do our best to identify which factors are contributing to each patient’s condition and then we can provide the necessary services to help each individual specifically.

We provide our patients with medical care, interventional pain treatments, massage therapy, physical therapy, and behavioral health services.  Below is what you can expect from each treatment modality if it is determined that you may benefit from that service with a biopsychosocial provider. 

Medical Treatment

Your medical care will be provided by a team of providers: Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants.  Your team of providers will listen to your pain complaints, thoroughly examine you, and utilize imaging studies to confirm what the source of your pain is.  Based on your specific diagnosis, your providers will offer you comprehensive care that may utilize modalities (ice, heat, TENs unit, etc.), medications, therapies (massage, physical therapy, behavioral health, etc.), and interventional pain treatments.  Treatment plans are designed to help your specific condition.  The goal of each medical treatment is meant to reduce your pain, increase your function, and improve your quality of life.

Massage Therapy

More than just a relaxing therapeutic technique, massage therapy has several proven benefits for those affected by chronic pain. The biological effect that massage therapy has is astounding. Massage may ease physical pains by using several mechanisms including relaxing painful muscles, tendons and joints, and stimulating competing nerve fibers impeding pain messages to and from the brain.

But beyond the physical body, the experience can relieve stress and anxiety helping to close the pain gate according to the biopsychosocial perspective. When you experience stress and anxiety, as previously explained, it leaves you with a higher perceived level of pain. The ability for a massage therapist to unwind some of that tension can relieve some of the physical and mental affects leaving you with less pain, improved function, and a better quality of life.

Physical Therapy

When patients suffer an injury that leads to pain, there is often a “source” that can be addressed. Physical Therapy can address many different diagnoses and ailments to improve overall function, balance, pain, flexibility, strength and tolerance to activity.  An evaluation with the Physical Therapy team at Nevada Advanced Pain Specialists consists of a thorough evaluation of each patient's dysfunction and pain issues.   This evaluation with look into your structural system (bones), muscular system (muscles) and nervous system (nerves).  Our physical therapists use manual techniques to address these dysfunctional areas to aid the body to alleviate pain, increase your function, and allow you to move easier. Once your pain is reduced with the manual techniques, our physical therapists will then utilize stretches and exercises to stretch and strengthen the body to maintain this ideally improved alignment and function.  When Physical Therapy is used in combination with other medical treatments for pain control (trigger point injections, nerve ablations, etc.) it allows the body to move and function with less pain to address these deeper sources of pain and improve overall function.

Behavioral Health

With mental health counseling, we explore the psychological component on how thoughts and emotions impact your pain. Negative thought patterns, fear, anxiety, depression, stress, and anger all negatively impact pain levels and create an ineffective pain cycle. Engagement in mental health counseling allows you to change your thinking patterns, change the way you relate to your emotions, and learn stress management skills to break this ineffective pain cycle. There are many ways to do this, one of which is with mindfulness and meditation. There is increasing amounts of research supporting the effectiveness of using mindfulness and meditation to treat chronic pain. It is important to note that some individuals have experienced emotional pain associated with trauma or other psychosocial stressors, prior to the onset of chronic physical pain. Emotions and thinking patterns developed as a result of traumatic experiences can also influence and trigger an ineffective pain cycle.

As most of you have probably experienced, chronic pain can significantly impact the social aspects of your life, interfering and disrupting: intimate relationships, family roles, friendships, hobbies, leisure activities, and all the intricacies in between. Mental health counseling can examine the impact chronic pain has had on these social aspects of life and allow for the processing of the grief and loss associated with the social aspects. With mental health counseling you can also improve communication skills, learn and accept limits, problem solve, find new value consistent activities, and explore alternative social connections or mend previous relationships. As Dr. Patterson says, "a distracted person is a person with less pain, and having a healthy social circle allows for more distraction.”

As you can see, mental health counseling is not solely designated to people who are "crazy" or suicidal. It is an effective tool for individuals who may have a difficult time adjusting to the curve balls life has thrown at them and for those who desire to improve their quality and functioning in life.