In this episode, we have Tom Goom with us again to join us with our running injuries and running rehab talk this March. Today we will be talking about acknowledging types of persistent pain in our athletes or runners.

He talks about the bigger picture on persistent pain and its other connections, differentiate this persistent pain versus series of acute flare ups, where we should focus the treatment, and navigating injured athletes return to their sport and many more.


Key Takeaways

  • we mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. And actually, I think sometimes we do need to acknowledge that it is more of a persistent pain state, and not necessarily a series of flare ups of acute injury.
  • Gritting your teeth and pushing on through isn’t always the right answer… we do need to know when we need to back off a little bit.
  • Focus on getting you well and ready to race rather than rushing you to get through a particular event when you’ve got a whole life of running ahead of you.
  • Try and see if you can recognize when you are looking at a more persistent pain state and to try and really get to know that person and the bigger picture and what’s driving that

Suggested Keywords:

Pain, athletes, running, persistent, bigger picture, acute injury, symptoms.


More about Tom Goom

Tom GoomTom is physiotherapist and international speaker with a passion for running injury management. He has gained a worldwide audience with his website and has become known as The Running Physio as a result! Tom remains an active clinician committed to providing high quality, evidence-based care.

Social media handles:

Twitter: @tomgoom





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Read the Full Transcript Here: 

Speaker 1 (00:01):

Hey, Tom, welcome back to the podcast. I’m excited to have you on today.

Speaker 2 (00:06):

Thanks for having me back. I really enjoyed it. Last time we took proximal hamstring. Didn’t we last time it was a good chat

Speaker 1 (00:13):

We did. And now this time you are part of the month of March and this month we’re talking all about running injuries and running rehab. So what we’re going to talk about today is persistent pain in these athletes. And I know this is something that you’re seeing more and more of. So let’s dive in what let’s talk about as physical therapists or physiotherapists. Do you feel that we’re acknowledging these types of persistent pain in our athletes or in our runners? Or are we just thinking, Oh, well, you know, they have this tendinopathy or this strain and it’s just keeps recurring. It’s just like a, it gets better and then becomes an acute injury again or this back pain. Oh, same thing. It, it kind of goes away and comes back. So what, what is your opinion on that? Are we acknowledging persistent pain in these athletic populations?

Speaker 2 (01:20):

Yeah, that’s a good question. I think maybe we D we do look at it a bit more, like you’re saying, we just kind of see it as a sort of repeated acute injury may be large rather than seeing it as a persistent pain problem. And I think that’s because in part, when we see people with persistent pain, part of our, of our advice and our management is for them to be active. So if you’ve got someone to come see seeing you, that is actually already sporty, they’re already active that, you know, you kind of think, well, what else needs to be offered here? And I think sometimes we don’t really think about the sort of psychosocial practice in sporty or active people, because they’re not obviously fear avoidance, especially if they’re keeping their sport going. So we, we tend to go down the route. That’s perhaps a bit more biomedical isn’t now we looked at biomechanics, we look at strength and conditioning and these all can be valuable, but we mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. I don’t actually think sometimes we do need to acknowledge that it is more of a persistent pain state and a, not necessarily a series of flare ups of acute injury.

Speaker 1 (02:24):

How do we differentiate this is persistent pain versus a series of acute flare ups.

Speaker 2 (02:30):

Yeah, I think there’s going to be an overlap between those things. We know that people with persistent pain that isn’t necessarily stable with change can change quite a lot. People go through periods of quite severe flare ups as well. I think it’s about sort of looking at the bigger picture and looking at the connection between things like pain and load. So in, in an acute injury situation with something like tendinopathy, quite often, there is quite a clear load pain relationship. It hurts when I load it. It doesn’t hurt when I don’t, I’m in a more persistent pain state. We might actually see that that relationship becomes a lot more blurry that the pain may well flare up when load hasn’t changed or the pain may remain present. When there isn’t a great deal of loading going on. So we start to see a bit of a breakdown of that connection between load and pain. And perhaps you start to see other aspects influencing symptoms, you know, lack of sleep, stress, fear, et cetera. We see other sort of types of behavior creeping in there as well around maybe avoidance coming in. So now they are backing away from their sport. So I think that’s something we need to have a lookout for particularly that lack of relationship between load and pain and then exaggerated pain response as well.

Speaker 1 (03:48):

And when we’re looking at these more sporty athletic people are runners how do they differentiate from say maybe our non sporty or non-running population?

Speaker 2 (04:01):

I think that there will be some definitely some, you know, some crossover between different people in different groups. And I really would, you know, w I use the term athlete, but I, I have a really broad definition of that. Someone, someone who wants to be regularly sporty and active fits that category for me. So I’m not necessarily necessarily when I say athlete referring to an elite athlete, competing at a high level, this, this can be people that want to be running three or four times a week, that really comes in that category too. But I think they can have, you know, similar concerns to someone that’s not sporty around pain and damage, for example. So they might have similar concerns there. They might both have quite high life load which is a term I quite like this, somebody mentioned in one of my courses recently.

Speaker 2 (04:49):

So, you know, this is where you’ve got lots of stress going on with, with work and family life this kind of Highlife load that plays upon your pain. And they may also both groups have poor recovery. So, you know, athletes may not be brilliant sleepers non-athletes may not be brilliant. Sleep is too, they might not get much downtime much emotional recovery. So there can be quite a lot of of overlap. I think perhaps where they differ is they may have quite different goals. So I think it’s, I see Mike might have wanted to go back to running half marathons, marathons, ultra marathons, and beyond potentially. So that might be quite a different goal to non-athletes that want to be more functional with day to day activities or lower level activities, perhaps like walking distances and perhaps something that we do see in athletes.

Speaker 2 (05:38):

That can be different though. Again, we see this in non-athletes too, is they may be a bit more inclined to push through pain. Most of us that have done sports at any level will know that pain is quite often a normal part of sport. And to some degree we do have to work with it. If, if we stopped every time, something we we’d never really, really do sport for very long, but this isn’t necessarily always the right approach, gritting your teeth and pushing on through. Isn’t always the right answer. And it’s not always obvious that that’s the case, but sometimes actually we do need to know when we need to back off a little bit. I’m an athletes particularly really highly driven athletes may not be quite so good at recognizing when they need to back off.

Speaker 1 (06:21):

Yeah, that’s for sure. Especially if, like you said, they’ve got this goal of, I want to run a half marathon and marathon or an ultra to be able to, to have to abandon that goal due to pain, persistent pain or injury is, can be very devastating. Right. So how do you, how do you navigate that with your athletes and with your runners, especially with a more persistent pain, how do you navigate that? Very, I would say very sensitive goal or topic with these, with these runners or athletes.

Speaker 2 (06:58):

Yeah. It’s not, it’s certainly not easy. I think it’s it can be challenging. I think wherever possible, we want to try and invite them to review their expectations and goals. So that it’s not necessarily us being prescriptive and saying, this isn’t realistic, or you’re not going to achieve this, but if we can help them have slightly more fluid expectations of themselves and slightly more realistic goals, the ideal world then is that they then come around to the idea that perhaps this marathon they’ve got on the horizon, if it’s not realistic for them, that they can set a different goal with it. And th this is one of the things, again, sometimes with, with higher level athletes, certain personality types is that being, being able to persist is a good skill, a good good thing to have, you know, and you need it when you get to sort of modulating 19 in the marathon and your legs are heavy.

Speaker 2 (07:50):

And, you know, you’ve got to keep going to hit your target. Tom, you need that in the time. You’ve got to have that level of persistence. And, and for that to be at least a little bit rigid because you you’ve got to, if you’re going to achieve that goal, you’ve got to keep going, but to keep going at a certain time. So at times that rigid persistence is useful, but if you apply that all the time when circumstances are changing and your expectations are rigid, it doesn’t really work very well. So for example, with the situation’s changed, you’re now in quite a lot of pain, you’re struggling with day-to-day activity. This marathon is, is a lot closer now than, than we would, would like it to be. Ideally we have to try and encourage them to be a bit more fluid there and say, okay, well perhaps what we need to do is change that goal a little bit.

Speaker 2 (08:37):

Let’s push it a little bit further down the line, give ourselves a bit more time and helping them see the positives of that decision can help. So you all often say to them, well, you know, if we can, if we can move this, you know, a few months down the line or let’s go for a half marathon or a 10 K, it’s going to take the pressure off you. You’re not going to feel like you’re constantly chasing your tail because you’re trying to catch up with the training. You’re not able to do. You’re going to be able to focus on the rehab side of things. You’re not going to feel so much pressure, and we can really focus on getting you well and ready to race rather than rushing you to get through a particular event when you’ve got a whole life of running ahead of you.

Speaker 1 (09:15):

Fair, very fair. And, and I think that’s great for clinicians to hear, because I think that wording is very sensitive to the, to your patient and also gives them the goal gives them that aspirational goal that they can eventually get to. So I think that wording was great. Thank you for that. Now here’s a tough question. And, and I don’t know all the answers to this one, but in your opinion, and in your experience, what do you feel may be driving persistent pain in these runners or athletes?

Speaker 2 (09:53):

Well, we had us, that’s a good question. Isn’t it? A million dollar question and I would acknowledge I don’t, I certainly don’t have all the answers with this, and I don’t think the research does yet either because it’s an area, you know persistent pain in athletes isn’t brilliantly well researched. So I think there’s a lot that we can, we can learn about this, but there’s a few things that would, I think, would spring to mind here. So I think beliefs are important. So and this is, can be beliefs around what the pain means. And then they, you know, what the pain means is if it’s, if it’s a sign of damage if they think it means they need to stop their exercise altogether, how they feel their body’s gonna respond to exercise when they have pain that continuing to run, for example, will that be more harmful for them?

Speaker 2 (10:38):

It can be around beliefs around training too. A lot of people will feel that unless they’re pushing themselves a hundred percent in every session it’s not worth doing. So that can be quite difficult then for them to pace themselves and modify their training because it kind of all or nothing really. I think one of the things that I’m realizing more and more over the years working with with people and athletes is if they are quite heavily reliant on the sport for their mental wellbeing, then that can have a bigger impact too, because they might be using that, that sport to help them with their mood or anxiety or depression. So if they can’t do their sport, it increases the impact of the injury. And I think it increases the fear associated with that because they’re losing this coping strategy, they’re losing physical fitness, they start to worry about the future.

Speaker 2 (11:27):

And I think maybe that links in with pain science, because it increases the threat that this injury has, and that has the potential then to have a knock on effect in terms of the pain and increasing pain severity and things. And a lot of these things are interlinked. I think training behaviors go hand in hand with that, you know, tending to push yourself hard all the time, boom, or bust, things like that. I think there’s also a lot of stuff that we might not necessarily, we see like negative messages from others. So other other athletes, sometimes coaches, health professionals, unfortunately I’m so pumped. Sometimes we can be responsible for that life. I’ve treated lots of runners. Who’ve been told that they should never run again, for example, by various different health professionals. So we need to be aware of that. I think Google might have a lot to answer for I don’t, I’d love to know. I think you’ve been Dr. Google doc to goo exactly. I don’t, I don’t know many situations where someone’s been worried about something and put it into Google and felt better.

Speaker 2 (12:31):

What you find is the worst case scenario from it, which does amplify, you know, it does amplify people’s worries. And that’s actually something as a clinician, I would check in with your patients about what what’d you do when you worried about this? Did you go and Google it? What’d you find when you Google it? How does it make you feel? Because quite often they’ll find the worst case scenario and I feel a lot more worried. So we want to discourage them from doing that, come to us. If you’ve got questions about your care, that’s what we’re there for really. So there’s a lot of things that also impact of the injury, perhaps not being fully addressed. So you know, looking beyond the kind of physical impact of the injury, but the loss of the social side of the sport, the loss of their identity around sport the effects, as we said, it might have on mental health.

Speaker 2 (13:18):

There’s lots of other things that go alongside the injury that often don’t get talked about. And if they’re not addressed, I think they can amplify it as well. And then the final thought I would add to this is perhaps if not had really particularly appropriate rehab it may be, it’s been very focused on pain and not really focused on function in maybe that it’s not been progressive and it’s not really looked to address their rehab needs, lots of stretching and foam rolling and, you know, ice and, but no real kind of planning and progression in that.

Speaker 1 (13:50):

Okay. So that leads me to the next question as clinicians, where should we be focusing our treatments? Good segue there.

Speaker 2 (13:57):

Yeah. I like the connection. You’ve done this before, I think. Yeah. Yeah. I think, I think he’s got to start in the first session with trying to develop an understanding for that person, if we can help them to, to understand their injury. And it takes time to build on that, but really make that part of that first session and give them the opportunity to share their story in that first session and also to air their concerns. You know, I really think we want to make the focus of these treatment sessions on the patient and their needs, not necessarily a kind of a list of things we need to tick off to do in a session because there is actually research showing that quite often, people whose needs aren’t really identified we can be quite dismissive as clinicians. So we want to get in there right in the early, early stages and say, you know, what would you really like to, to from, from your treatment?

Speaker 2 (14:52):

What are your concerns? What are you particularly worried about here? What would you really like us to help with? Because we can start with that. I think that helps us form a good, strong connection. We can really help them understand the injury and build on it from there. I think that alongside shared goal setting, I think big PA plan of I’m a big fan of collaborative working you know, so you’re working towards their goals. How can we help them achieve those goals together? And again, get a good idea of those in the first sessions. And it is part of the reason I really love working with rhinos is because many of them have a goal. Even if it’s just, they want to get back to running 5k, you know, great, brilliant. It’s a measurable goal. We can start the planning towards that pretty much from, from session one.

Speaker 2 (15:37):

And then we do want to have some progressive rehab because they’re all gonna be psychosocial factors. In many cases, we’ve talked about, you know, beliefs to address perhaps poor recovery load management to talk about that quite often, there are physical needs as well. So we need to address those if there’s a lack of strength or control or range and address them in a progressive way, as opposed to just loads of stretching and rolling, and then we can start to do a graded return to sport when, when they feel like they’re physically and psychologically ready to engage in that.

Speaker 1 (16:10):

And what are some, some examples that maybe you can give of the types of diagnoses or the types of patients that you’re seeing coming to you with persistent pain, you don’t have, we don’t have to go into, you know, the specifics of how you treat XYZ, but what are some things that you might be seeing in your patients coming to you with persistent pain?

Speaker 2 (16:36):

So I, I do specialize to some degree in tendinopathy. So we will see a lot of patients with long-standing tendinopathy lots of patients with proximal hamstring tendinopathy, because that’s particularly the area I’ve researched in. But it will say Achilles tendinopathy issues as well. See people with low back pain and hip pain as well, falling into this category people with persistent patellofemoral pain syndrome persistent bone stress injuries, like medial tibial stress syndrome. So it’s do see quite a mix. And, and many of those will have been treated first and foremost in quite a kind of biomedical model. I think,

Speaker 1 (17:16):

Yeah, so I think I just wanted to ask, cause I think it’s important that clinicians out there hear like, Oh wait, you can have a persistent tendinopathy problem. You know, you can have like, Oh, I, I wasn’t aware. I thought, you know, after let’s say proximal hamstring after a year of rehabbing, if that kind of comes back, Oh, it’s probably just like a muscle strain. It’s probably not that tendinopathy again or, or not again, but it continuation of that. Absolutely. Yeah. And

Speaker 2 (17:50):

To give you a clinical example then, because we talked a little bit about how the connection between load and pain can be blurry about how that may, we may see an exaggerated response. So to give you an example of that proximal, hamstring, tendinopathy patient that I’ve been working with who will not be able to sit for more than maybe 30 seconds because that will really cause a flare up in their symptoms. Now we can see then that’s a, that’s a really exaggerated pain response. And the average person sits for somewhere around six to seven hours a day. So not to be able to tolerate even 30 seconds of sitting because there’s pressure around that that tendon is, is an exaggerated pain response. And that person’s pain will fluctuate not necessarily in line with load. So there’ll be days where her symptoms are much worse and she doesn’t really know why it’s not because she’s run a long distance or done anything different.

Speaker 2 (18:53):

The fluctuations in activity levels might be small in the range of a few minutes here and there. And yet the pain response is really exaggerated. And again, I talked about sort of beliefs and things go going into, you know, going into this area. And when we talk to this particular person about her beliefs, you can see she’s very concerned that sitting damages the tendon and therefore that adds to the threat value associated with the city. She’s very fearful of sitting when you ask her to do it, you can see she’s really reluctant, but also we need to acknowledge why it really hurts. It’s really hard for a long time. So there should be no judgment and our pie, we should be reckless. Yeah. This is really difficult. This is having a huge impact on this person’s life. Can’t if you can’t sit down and even to have a cup of tea or to watch a move at the end of a long day, what should we eat dinner? Like that’s big. So I think we have to recognize that as a persistent pain picture and with aspects of tendinopathy in there that we can manage, but just seeing it, like you say, as, Oh, it’s just another flare up of the proximal hamstring tendon. We were missing that bigger picture, I’d say.

Speaker 1 (20:01):

Yeah. And that was a great example. Thanks for that. And now, you know, when we talk about running, we talk about athletes. So one thing they all want to do is they want to return to their sport. So can you talk to us a little bit about how we navigate that, how we prepare these people to return to their sport and what that, what that sport may look like?

Speaker 2 (20:24):

Yeah. I think, I think maybe we start, if we can, by seeing if we can reduce irritability a bit where possible. So if we think back to that lady, I was talking about Verrier to boost symptoms at the moment. So if I go straight into a greater return to running, I think that’s probably going to be a little bit too much to start with. So in many situations we may we say, okay, let’s see what we can do to reduce the symptoms and irritability helping someone understand their pain and that it’s not a sign of damage can help helping them work out a list of things that may help to reduce their pain. Maybe particular exercises that help simple things like, you know, using heat or ice if necessary, but trying to give them strategies and work with them. So they’ve got a little bit of a list of things that can turn that, that pain volume down a little bit, and we’re placing them in a bit more control, reducing that threat value.

Speaker 2 (21:17):

And then we can start to work towards that graded return to sport. And again, if we want to plan together because we really want the person to be in the driving seat and us maybe just helping, you know, being a bit of a satnav along the way to keep them on track. So we’ve had this recently really lovely runner I’ve been working with who in the first session said to me you know, what she’d like to do is first of all, build some strength then increase her cardio fitness by bringing in a bit of cycling and swimming. Then she wanted to bring in some, some impact and some plyometric exercises before doing a graded return to running. And I thought immediately, brilliant, this is fantastic. This person has a great plan.

Speaker 1 (21:57):

And they find this woman,

Speaker 2 (22:00):

I met wonderful one, and this, this is someone with a lot of experience in sport. Who’s also studied a sport of science, so knows the topic really well, but that’s a fantastic plan. Let’s go with that plan and just help the person with their plan there. So, and we might follow quite a similar plan to that for, for patients. You know, we try and calm things down where we can, we build some strength to try and address some of their physical needs. We bring in some cardiovascular exercise to build some fitness up. We start to introduce impact because it can build impact tolerance, but it also is often a a way of developing some power. So perhaps some plyometric exercise to restore power, which is often neglected in rehab. And then we start to do a graded return to running and that’s then where we got to try and work with them around their goals and also work with them around pain. And that can be a bit of a barrier.

Speaker 1 (22:53):

Yeah. And so how much pain is acceptable? How much is too much? Yeah.

Speaker 2 (22:59):

Like our pain scales you know, sort of scoring pain out of 10. And I, I would say there’s actually quite a few studies that have done that quite successfully. So I think there’s some value in that. But what we’ve talked about with these pain groups is that the connection between load and pain, isn’t very clear and the pain response is exaggerated. So if we’re guided purely by pain, we are going to struggle a little bit, I would say with these patients. So I would tend to say that the patient needs to decide what they feel is acceptable, and we provide some, some guidance. And we need to try, and if we can look at longer term trends, then now patients quite understandably might get very focused on day-to-day pain fluctuations, but it’s actually more the long-term in pain over the, over the weeks and months that we’re a little bit more interested in.

Speaker 2 (23:49):

And we also perhaps need to recognize that there are almost two slightly separate goals here, improving function and improving pain. If you’re seeing improvements in function and pain, hasn’t changed, that’s still a win because you’re doing more. In fact, that’s quite good when, because you’re doing more and your pain doesn’t get worse, but patients often won’t see that as a win because understandably they may want that pain to go away, but we can often folks first will say, okay, well, let’s start with what you feel is a manageable level of exercise. Let’s work with it consistently. First of all, and then gradually build as long as you feel the pain is, is an acceptable level. And sometimes what we tend to see then is over time, they’re able to do more and more, and then gradually that pain does subside because they’re able to do more.

Speaker 2 (24:39):

They’re more confident they’re starting to get their life back. The threat value of the pain is starting to go down, but that takes quite a long time. So I think quite often, wherever possible, placed the focus a bit more in function and just save the patient a few phone that feel that it’s manageable. It’s acceptable. This is fine. If it’s too much, if it’s not manageable, we’ll dial it down a little bit, but we want, if we can to stay consistent with exercise, because otherwise we’re going to have a lot of beam, bus tear will build you up and stop they’ll drop and stop. We want to just see, can we keep you ticking along, even if it’s at quite a low level

Speaker 1 (25:13):

And do you have your patients keep a log or a journal or some way so that they can see, Oh, I was doing this. I started with Tom on March 1st and here it’s April 1st. And this is what I was able to do Marsh. Now this is what I can do in April. My pain’s around the same, but look at how much more I can do, or maybe my pains a little less. Or do you, how do you keep track of all that? Do you give that to the patient to help them with their own sort of locus of control? And are you using the pain scale? Are you saying well, what is your pain March 1st? Let’s compare that to April 1st. Let’s compare that to March 1st.

Speaker 2 (26:01):

Yeah. I would try and see if we can monitor that goal activity because it’s important to be able to see that they’re improving and they’re progressing towards their goal. If you’ve got quite a specific goal, like running a 5k in order to get that, you’ve give it a C you know, how, how far you’re able to run. And that’s the simplest question. How far can you run now? But that can be it could be steps for day. If someone’s wanting to build up their walking, it could be minutes rather than miles with any activity, really. So I think it’s a good idea to try and monitor what people are doing. I do, I do use the pain scale a little bit. It depends on, on how comfortable the person is with it, whether they like using that. I tend to perhaps make it a little bit more simple and just say, is your pain mild, moderate, or severe sort of break it down into those into those three sort of different categories, really.

Speaker 2 (26:58):

But the thing is with pain is there’s so many different aspects of it. Are we talking about average pain day to day? We talking about peak pain. What did the pain get up to is it’s at its highest, we’re talking about pain frequency. So how often you’ve had that pain during the day, are we talking about pain distress, which I think is almost a separate thing. How distressing are you finding that pain? So if you’re especially worried about it, that pain often will be more distressing, even if the severity isn’t necessarily higher. Do you see what I mean? So I think, I think where possible we focus on the golf function and we, we try and take that focus off pain a little bit because as well, you know, if patients are monitoring it every day, that drawing that focus on pain every day, and they’re asking ourselves, how much does it hurt?

Speaker 2 (27:47):

Even some patients have no one used the term morning MRI. I used to get up in the morning and do it, do a sort of stretching test on his Achilles. That was what he called his morning MRI to test the Achilles out and see how he thought it would be that day. We don’t really want to do that. To be honest, we want to focus on what your valued activities let’s really try and bring them back in, build those up and keep a kind of a little casual, casual notice of pain, let pain tell us if it’s too much, if it’s breaking through, into your attention and in telling you it’s too much, that’s probably when we need to act, if you’re looking for it, if you’re, if you’re kind of really questioning, is it worse today? I’m less concerned about it.

Speaker 1 (28:26):

Got it. Yeah. So you don’t want them to, you don’t want your patients to be waking up and be like, wait, do I feel, do I feel more pain today? Weight you’re you’re well aware that you have pain.

Speaker 2 (28:38):

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. I think that calling is focusing on the pain as well. It’s quite, it’s quite a normal thing to do. I think we’ve kind of pathologized it a little bit. But I think actually it’s understandable for people to do that. There’s another layer of context around the pain and what it might mean and what that might mean for your, for your future. So I’ll give you an example from myself. So I have I have psoriasis and I have nail bed changes with psoriasis and that increases the likelihood of you developing cirrhotic arthritis. So a couple of weeks ago and surfing on Twitter and someone posts a link to a research paper that says new studies shows link between nail bed changes and severities, psoriatic arthritis. And I start thinking, yeah, my fingers are a bit sore today, you know, and that’s one of the areas where you can get psoriasis, arthritis, changes in the joints and the fingers.

Speaker 2 (29:41):

And then I throw it comes back a little bit later that day and for a few more days afterwards, and now I’m sort of noticing like achy thumbs hands are a bit stiff in the morning. And if I allow myself to keep focusing on that and measuring that and worrying about that, it would be understandable that that could become really quite a worry for me, because then you think, well, is it cirrhotic arthritis? That’s been, that’s known to actually affect the joint and perhaps even damage the joint. And if I’ve got nail bed changes, that means it can be very severe. And what impact would that have on my life? And these are all just normal things that we have as, as people, as health professionals that know quite a bit about pain. So I think we can acknowledge for someone who’s not a health professional.

Speaker 2 (30:25):

There’s probably a lot of that going on, particularly the pain’s been there a long time and pains is a real nuisance because it can, you can kind of like stop worrying about it. And then, then you have the pain and it kind of reminds you and goes on about you and that can start worrying prices over again. So it is hard. And I think sometimes it’s health professionals, we think like, well, I talked to them about their pain and I reassured them that pain doesn’t damage tech. But that if you think that that is enough to wipe out that concern, we are. Yeah, but we may need to be consistent with that message several times. And we might need to encounter that worry coming up several times and to try and help someone contextualize their symptoms and to see that not what they’re fearing, but what really is going on.

Speaker 2 (31:18):

And to look at a bit the now of how symptoms are. So with my hands, you know, I don’t have any of the classic signs of cirrhotic arthritis. I don’t have swelling. I don’t have a loss of joint range. I’ve actually been tested for psoriatic arthritis and it was negative. So it was trying to contextualize it and see the reality is I’ve just turned 40 and I’ve got slightly stiff fingers. That’s the reality. So let’s focus on the now and what is real for you now and not what you fear might be coming up in the future.

Speaker 1 (31:47):

Yeah. And that’s something that I say to myself every time I wake up and my neck’s a little stiffer sore, you know, my upper back feels a little sore instead of my, what I used to do is, Oh, okay. I better not go to work today. I better just relax. Let me get a heating pad. Let me just, I don’t want to do anything. I should probably just lay down. And these are all the things I used to do. And so now when I wake up or if I do have a flare up of neck pain or something like that, now I’ll just say, okay, I know nothing is seriously damaged. I have the MRIs to prove it multiple. And you know, these are just things that I have to continually say to myself. And I think I’m pretty well versed in, in the science behind pain and, and even working with people with persistent pain. I mean, I do it every, but even for myself, I have to continuously sort of recite these mantras to myself in order for me to get through the day when I have a little bit more discomfort or pain. So the struggle is there, you know, and I think imparting that and telling that to your patients, especially your runners with persistent pain. I think that can be very powerful.

Speaker 2 (33:07):

Yeah, absolutely. And, and recognizing, as I said, the bigger picture of knowing the person and, and the things that make them make up them as a person. And if they are, for example, running to their mental wellbeing, what, what, what is the, the thing that, that they’re running to help? And how does that link to their pain? Are they running to help anxiety? In which case are they someone who is perhaps going to struggle with negative thoughts about chain, and they’re going to be drawn into ruminating about those negative thoughts about pain, and they’re going to be looking for reassurance that those thoughts, you know, jumping on Dr. Google, I’m finding actually it makes it worse because they see all the negative outcomes they’re afraid of laid out on a web page. So if they are someone with, with that, then they, they may need more, more help with that. They may need to, you know, you may need to work with a mental health professional to help them work with those thoughts and to find ways perhaps to not get drawn into that ruminating pattern and to look for other coping strategies, we show it to them. The long-term can be useful because they’re less reliant and upon the sport, because they actually learn perhaps a slightly different relationship with that, with their thoughts and from that, then can help that their mental wellbeing.

Speaker 1 (34:22):

Yes. I agree with that. And Nelson, before we kind of wrap things up is there anything that we missed or that maybe we flew by a little too quickly that you want to elaborate on? And if not, what would be your best advice to a clinician that is working with AF that is working with people with or athletes with persistent pain problems?

Speaker 2 (34:54):

I think in terms of things we might have missed, I just would say that there’s a, there’s a nice paper from Halon as torn in 2017 that’s well worth a look, which is, is actually looking at things a little bit more in terms of pain in athletes. And there’s, there’s quite a nice quote in that that I’ll just briefly read now if that’s the case. So they say even low level inflammation, for example, linked to sleep deprivation, ongoing stress and load exceeding the tissues capacity can reduce the athlete’s mechanical nociceptive threshold sufficiently to make normal mechanical demands of sport painful. So that sort of Lincoln into this bigger picture stuff saying here, actually, if we’re not recovering enough, or the load is excessive on the tissues, it’s actually going to have an effect potentially on sensitivity know nociceptive threshold.

Speaker 2 (35:49):

So this is where it’s quite important for us to see the bigger picture. They also say in that paper that the, the link between tissue change and pain is thought to reduce over time. So if you’ve got someone with very persistent symptoms, years’ worth of pain, you should already perhaps be suspecting that this is probably not just going to be driven by the tissues. I mean, when is there ever a situation where pain is, but, you know, it’s probably going to be a bigger picture here that we need to identify. And I think that’s probably one of the key messages to take from what we’ve talked about. Hey, really, you know, you, you start right with the first question is perhaps just to, to try and see if you can recognize when you are looking at a more persistent pain state and to try and really get to know that person and the bigger picture, and what’s driving that because then I think you’re going to get better results with them and then try and see if we can work gradually towards their goals and just keep them on track with it and give it time.

Speaker 2 (36:45):

It will take time, you know, this, the patients I’m seeing, we’re looking at at least six months, probably a year of working together because there’s so much to work through. I think we sometimes say, Oh, we reassured them about their pain. Give them some exercises away. They go, it’s not really like that. You know, it’s going to be lots of ups and downs. We’re going to have to stick with them for a while and just keep chipping away, but you can get some really good results with people and you can get them back to the sport that they, that they love. And that can be a really, really big thing for them.

Speaker 1 (37:13):

Yeah. that’s a great way to to end our conversation here. One, one question, what was the, who’s the author of the paper from 2017?

Speaker 2 (37:26):

I think it’s Hamline at all. I believe it was in the but I can find a link to it for you to put in the, in the show notes, if you would.

Speaker 1 (37:36):

Perfect. That would be great. And I will look it up as well. But thank you for that. Now before we finish our conversation, where can people find you? If they have questions?

Speaker 2 (37:48):

Yeah. Come and say hello on on Twitter, I’m at Tom goo or an Instagram ad running dot physic. Also I’ve got my website, which is So yeah, come and say hello, ask questions and things. So it’s good to chat.

Speaker 1 (38:03):

Perfect. And last question. What advice would you give to your younger self knowing where you are now? And I know we’ve, you said this before is, and I have to say something different. Now you get a chance to give yourself a second piece of advice.

Speaker 2 (38:16):

Oh, good question. Oh now that I’m thought 14 spending a bit on top, I’d, I’d say really enjoy your hair while it’s there. Yeah. now I don’t know, in all seriousness, I think I would probably sort of say you know, really make sure that you kind of value value, that things are important in life friends and the family, you know, always, always try and put those things first because ultimately they’re, they’re the things that are most important for us. And I think a lot of people already know that and I’ve learned it, especially during COVID, but I think there’s a lot to be said about, you know, focusing on family and friends and things first you can still have a very fulfilling career and things, but I think that that’s the important, the important stuff. That’s what makes, makes life great. Really

Speaker 1 (39:08):

Excellent advice. Well, Tom, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast again and sharing all this great information with us. I really appreciate your time. Thanks for having me back here. And it’s been really good pleasure, pleasure, and everyone. Thank you so much for listening. Have a great week and stay healthy, wealthy and smart.




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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.