Course Notes: PRI Postural Visual Integration: The 2nd Viewing

Would You Look at That

It was a little over a year ago that I took PRI vision and was blown away. A little bit after that, I went through the PRIME program to become an alternating and reciprocal warrior.

I had learned so much about what they do in PRI vision that I was feeling somewhat okay with implementation.

Then my friends told me about the updates they made in this course.

I seriously just took it
I seriously just took it

 

I signed up as quickly as possibly, and am glad I did. This course has reached a near-perfect flow and the challenging material is much more digestible.

Don’t expect to know the what’s and how’s of Ron and Heidi’s operation. And realistically, you probably don’t need to.

Your job as a clinician is to take advantage of what the visual system can do, implement that into a movement program, and refer out as needed. This blog will try to explain the connection between these two systems.

If you want more of the nitty-gritty programming, I strongly recommend reading my first round with this course. Otherwise, you might be a little lost.

Let’s do it. Continue reading “Course Notes: PRI Postural Visual Integration: The 2nd Viewing”

Course Notes: Cantrell’s Impingement and Instability, 2015 Edition

Third Time’s a Charm

 A trip home and hearing Mike Cantrell preach the good PRI word? I was sold.

The power of the ultimate orthotic compels you
The power of the ultimate orthotic compels you

Impingement and Instability is one of those courses that I could take yearly and still get so many gems. In fact, I probably will end up taking it yearly—it’s that good.

I took I&I last year with Cantrell (and the year before that with James), and the IFAST rendition was a completely different course.

Cantrell provided the most PRI clinical applications I have seen at any course, which is why he continues to be one of my favorite people to learn from.

Basically, if you haven’t learned from Mike yet, I pity you. Get to it!

And especially missing it with this group. Come on people!
And especially missing it with this group. Come on people!

I have way too many gems in my notes to discuss, so here are a few big takeaways. Continue reading “Course Notes: Cantrell’s Impingement and Instability, 2015 Edition”

Manual Therapy Musings

When I think About You…

Prompted by some mentee questions and blog comments, I wondered where manual therapy fits in the rehab process.

To satisfy my curiosity, I calculated how much time I spend performing manual interventions. Looking at last month’s patient numbers to acquire data, I found these numbers based on billing one patient every 45 minutes (subtracting out evals and reassessments):

  • Nonmanual (including exercise and education) = 80%
  • Manual = 20%
  • Modalities = 0%!!!!!!!!!!!!
Especially happy with the last number...and that I forgot how to work these useless things.
Especially happy with the last number…and that I forgot how to work these useless things.

Delving a bit further, here’s my time spent using PRI manual techniques versus my other manual therapy skill-set:

  • PRI manual = 14%
  • Other manual = 6%

As you can see, I use manual therapy a ridiculously low amount; skills that I used to employ liberally with decent success.

Skills-that-I-learned-in-the-mountains
Greatest skits on the internet per Cochrane review.

 

There’s a reason for the shift

I want my patients to independently improve at all cost and as quickly as possible. The learning process is the critical piece needed to create necessary neuroplastic change; and consequently a successful rehab program.

Rarely is learning involved in manual therapy. Continue reading “Manual Therapy Musings”

Course Notes: Spinal Manipulation Institute’s Dry Needling 1

You Mean Zac Didn’t go to a PRI Course?

Yes. From time to time I occasionally take a gander at what else is out there in PT land. It was probably about time I check out this whole dry needling thing and see what the fuss is about.

I took the Spinal Manipulation Institute’s version based on some recommendations from a few colleagues I trust. Ray Butts was MC’ing for the weekend.

He was a straight-up needling gangsta
He was a straight-up needling gangsta

I know needling is quite the controversial topic, but I was amazed at the sheer quantity of evidence supporting this modality. Like, an insane amount. I am not sure what the “haterz” found their criticisms on, so please comment if you have some ammo (I am a noob to this after all).

And Ray’s lecture on dry needling mechanisms? Oooohhh lawwwwd. Easily one of the best foundational science lectures I have ever heard. Period. The passion this group has not only for science but the physical therapy profession is inspiring. They made me excited to be a PT. Perhaps even inspired me to contemplate the PhD route.

Then I looked at my student loan bill again.
Then I looked at my student loan bill again…

All that said, I am unsure as to where needling will fit into my practice. The assessment that would point you toward needling someone was sorely lacking. I’ve noticed this problem to be quite common in manual therapy courses. It’s pretty much you hurt here/have this diagnosis, then use this protocol. Continue reading “Course Notes: Spinal Manipulation Institute’s Dry Needling 1”

Smooth Talker: Nonthreatening PRI Patient Education

I recently had the pleasure and honor of speaking at the annual PRC conference at this past weekend’s Interdisciplinary Integration. I happened to have my younger older brother Connor Ryan record the event.

Didn't even have to photoshop this
Didn’t even have to photoshop this

We unfortunately had some technical difficulties, so a few bits are missing. But you’ll get the gist from the videos below.

Enjoy!

 

Smooth Talker handout

The Road to an Alternating and Reciprocal Warrior: You down with ENT?

This spans an entire treatment over a year’s time.

Here’s part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

 

Yeah you know me.” ~ Naughty By Nature 

You know how sometimes when you are treating someone that individual eventually reveals fairly important information that he or she forgot about.

Yeah that was totally me.

Oops
Good thing there wasn’t a bear rug near by.

I’ve always had a stuffy nose as far back as I can remember; especially in the winter. The only time breathing felt incredibly easy was when I was eating paleo in college. I have progressively been losing my sense of smell as well.

Must be old age right?

Now Zac, your right nostril is not older than your left.
I can hear Butler now: “Now Zac, your right nostril is not older than your left.”

When I spoke with Lori Thomsen about my recent experience, she mentioned at Pelvis that attaining neutrality in certain areas but not others could lead to a “pressure cooker” phenomenon. For example, if I have someone with a neutral neck and thorax, lower extremity symptoms may possibly be more common.

In my case, I had a neutral pelvis at the time my wisdom teeth were pulled. Pull out wisdom teeth and my nasal airway goes crazy. Guess where the pressure went?

Who knew I was so constipated? #ohsorrywrongcourse
Who knew I was so constipated? #ohsorrywrongcourse

It was time to see an ENT.

ENT Begins

After viewing my CT scan and airway, my ENT concluded I have patho-scoliosis.

That...ain't...right
That…ain’t…right

More specifically, airway scoliosis. He found a deviated septum and some enlarged turbinates. These two factors could have a large impact on my breathing capabilities.

To me this made a lot of sense. If you read this article, a nostril will drive air to the ipsilateral lung. So depending on what nasal airway is blocked may dictate whether I am a Right BC or a superior T4.

Moreover, sensory information through the nose travels to the contralateral hemisphere. In my case, my left airway is a bit more open than my right, which would increase sensory input to my right hemisphere.

Per the RTMCC pattern, I actually should have a more open right airway. So this finding would be considered patho per PRI standards. Hence the pathoscoliosis.

Could this abnormality be a contributing factor as to why I am solid on my left side but struggle when I go back to my right? Or even why I’m left-handed? Purely theoretical of course, but something I play around with in my head. I think weird shit like that.

I'm not normal
I’m not normal

Surgery is not the first line of defense, so we started with conservative measures. I was given a nasal saline rinse and couple nasal sprays to reduce inflammation and symptoms.

Let me tell you, I could notice a difference with the first rinse.

 Standing Supported Alternating Reciprocal Nasal Saline Rinse

The very first nasal rinse treatment opened up a whole new world for me. I cleaned out the sinuses and immediately measured my horizontal abduction:

20 degrees to 45.

I think I found a new repositioning technique.

The coolest thing? I could smell again. It’s amazing the scents in my apartment and the clinic that I could now pickup that I never noticed before. It was an incredibly rich sensory experience. Sleep quality drastically improved within the first couple nights as well.

Note to self: clean apartment
Note to self: now need to sterilize entire apartment

The only downside was the effects were not long lasting. It was time for phase two.

Read on to find out
Read on to find out

Nasal Adductor Pullback

About a month later I went back to the ENT and had an allergy test.

The good news is that I am not allergic to any foods. I can eat anything I want (yay). And actually I didn’t have many allergies at all.

Doesn't mean my manners will improve though.
Doesn’t mean my eating skills will improve

The bad news is that I have a large allergy to perennial rye grass, which is extremely common in AZ. I also have a couple allergies to a few other weeds or molds, but nothing major.

The next step is to try immunotherapy to see if I can reduce my sensitivity to these allergens. This basically amounts to me taking oral drops for the next three years. The hope would be that the threat these allergens are to my system would become nonexistent.

The new HEP
The new HEP

I ought to notice some changes over the next 6 months. If not much symptom-wise is changing, surgery to reduce the turbinates and align the septum will be the likely next step.

If only I could tell the ENT that my symptom was limited cervical axial rotation.

The experiment continues…

Just like the new Star Wars, we won't know the result until it happens.
Episode VII: A New Nose

Course Notes: Pelvis Restoration Reflections

Pelvises Were Restored

It was another great PRI weekend and I was fortunate enough to host the hilarious Lori Thomsen to teach her baby, Pelvis Restoration.

Lori is a very good friend of mine, and we happened to have two of our mentees at the course as well. Needless to say it was a fun family get-together.

Lori was absolutely on fire this weekend clearing up concepts for me and she aptly applied the PRI principles on multiple levels. She has a very systematic approach to the course, and is a great person to learn from, especially if you are a PRI noob.

Here were some of the big concepts I shall reflect on. If you want the entire course lowdown, read the first time I took the course here.

 Extension = Closing Multiple Systems

 This right here is for you nerve heads.

There's a few things going on here.
There’s a few things going on here.

It turns out the pelvis is an incredibly neurologically rich area.

What happens if a drive my pelvis into a position of extension for a prolonged period of time?

I’ve written a lot about how Shacklock teaches closing and opening dysfunctions with the nervous system. An extended position here over time would increase tension brought along the pelvic nerves. Increased tension = decreased bloodflow = sensitivity.

We can’t just limit it to nerves however, the same would occur in the vasculature and lymphatic system. We get stagnation of many vessels.

Perhaps we need to think of extension as system closure; a system closing problem. Flexion will be the solution to open the system.

Not when you can utilize system flexion
Not when you can utilize system flexion

Synchronized Diaphragms

Pausing after an exhalation gives diaphragms time to ascend. Diaphragmatic ascension maximizes the zone of apposition (ZOA). The better ZOA we have, the less accessory musculature needed to take an adequate breath.

The two important ZOAs needed in this course are at the thoracic and pelvic diaphragms. We want to build synchronicity between these two diaphragms.

The way we do that is through the pelvic inlet.

Dat inlet yo
Dat inlet yo

The inlet links and adequately positions these two diaphragms via internal obliques and transversus abdominis (IO/TA).

To determine how this occurs, we must look at how breathing affects musculature.

This part here was a huge lightbulb moment for me. Muscle lengthening correlates with inhalation, and muscle shortening correlates with exhalation. So to create a stretch in areas you wish to lengthen, you may want to inhale, and to increase muscle contractility, you may with to exhale.

[Note: This is one reason in lifting exhalation is during the concentric phase and inhalation is during the eccentric phase?]

Now lets apply this concept to the pelvic inlet in an extended system. Let’s say the left innominate is forward (a LAIC pattern). My left IO/TA on would be eccentrically lengthened and in a state of inhalation. The left thoracic and pelvic diaphragms would be tonically active and form a v-shape.

I call this superior gluteal migration
I call this superior gluteal migration

This dyssynchrony explains why certain pelvic and thoracic tests correlate. The LAIC pattern suggests that I would not be able to adduct my left hip.

At the pelvis, this would occur because I have a “long” left anterior outlet and “short” posterior outlet.

The outlet and the thorax reflect one another. In this case, my anterior outlet is equivalent to the ipsilateral anterior chest wall and my posterior outlet is equivalent to the posterior mediastinum.

Guess what the tests will look like? I will have good left apical expansion and limited left posterior mediastinum expansion. I can’t adduct my left thorax or abduct my right thorax, much like I can’t adduct my left hip or abduct my right hip. These tests look at the same thing the pelvic tests do.

Only the tests have changed.
Only the tests have changed.

The Definitive Word on PRI Squatting

 We can look at one’s ability to actively synchronize the thoracic and pelvic diaphragms by one’s ability to squat.

The functional squat test is an excellent way to show if one is capable of maximal pelvic diaphragm ascension and can shut off extensor tone. It also is a test to see if one has a patho-compensatory pelvic floor; for if you can squat but can’t adduct your hips, you gotz problems.

Here is what the functional squat test is not: a position to go under load in the weight room.

The above was straight out of Lori’s mouth. So to all the people who talk smack about the PRI squat, your answer is above. It’s not looking at the same thing as a max effort back squat.

Done.

It's not that you don't know how to squat. It's that you don't know how to poop.
It’s not that you don’t know how to squat. It’s that you don’t know how to poop.

Here’s how to test it.

 

Sitting is Hahhhd

In PRI land, sitting is the most challenging position to be in.

Yeah uh no.
Yeah uh no.

Why? Because there are less points which one can reference. Sitting unsupported requires proprioception exclusively on your ischial tuberosities. Success here relies on alternating and reciprocal muscle recruitment. If I don’t have this, I will extend.

Some Quick Postural Eyes

Lori is a great at predicting how dynamic movements will look on the table. Here were a couple things that stood out to me in this regard, as well as a couple other random things.

  • Leg whipping means an individual likely has a femur stuck in adduction.
  • Patho-compensatory people usually have more narrow hips. Could possibly be more common in males for this reason.
  • People who lean to one side in gait need a glute med.
  • If one cramps during an exercise, think inhibition. We’d rather shaking.
  • Glute med is the needed ligamentous muscle if a hip subluxes laterally.
  • Furniture is made to fit people who are 5’8.
  • Hard orthotics = overrated. We want a soft heel cup and arch to be used proprioceptively.

Lori-isms 

  • “I like to refer to myself as your coach.”
  • “You can’t work the same muscle in a different position and expect the same outcome.”
  • “You know I’m going to have to spend some time on this little booger.”
  • “If you want to give more pelvic instability stretch hamstrings.”
  • “She trusts me and I make her shake which is all good.”
  • “PECs cannot breathe to the high moon.”
  • “Getting neutral is not treatment.”
  • “Her back needs to go on a holiday.”
  • “Run with ribs.”
  • “When you go run, run.”
  • “We like extension, just not 24 hours a day 7 days a week.”
  • “If your patients cannot breathe correctly, don’t do a PRI activity. They will fail.”
  • “Not everyone needs a pair of glasses. Some people need a diaphragm.”
  • “I’m not a comedian. I’m here to teach you.”
  • “We’re [the clinician] not in control. We’re just invited to the party.”
  • “I get excited when I feel my right glute max burn.”
  • “You normal human being you.”
What if the hurricane was named Lori?
What if the hurricane was named Lori?

Recognizing and Changing Nonverbal Communication Disorders: An Interaction Approach

I was at my local coffee shop the other day chatting with my barista as she prepared my drink.

Once it was all said and done and I paid, she wished that I had a glorious day.

What a glorious day for Canada and therefore the world
What a glorious day for Canada and therefore the world

Glorious is not a word you hear often and definitely caught me ear.

You might even say it was salient!

I have this thing when someone uses an uncommon descriptor. When this occurs, I typically try to use an even more ridiculous descriptor.

I especially like to apply this method to wish someone a better day than I. For example:

Joe Blow: “You have a good day.”

Me: “You have an even better day.”

Glorious is a bit more difficult to top, but in the blink of an eye I was able to respond:

“You have a splendiferous day.”

Stupid? Yes. Did I get a laugh and a smile? Absolutely.

Me doing this silly little thing with people is irrelevant. What is relevant is the speed that I was able to apply this quip.

Just like this guy
Soon I may match his quick wit. Soon.

I spouted this word quickly because it fit a common pattern. Pattern recognition is huge in athleticism, medicine, and a multitude of other life facets.

But how often do we think of pattern recognition when we interact with individuals? Being able to differentiate what both verbal and nonverbal communication one uses is critical in ensuring a favorable interaction with someone.

And if your patient or client doesn’t like you? Fugetaboutit.

But then, if you disagree, like "A DNS course is better than a PRI course? Fugetaboutit!"
But then, if you disagree, like “A DNS course is better than a PRI course? Fugetaboutit!”

Let’s look at a very common pattern that if you allow one to persist in will sabotage any connection you are trying to make.

The Double Cross

When you are chatting with someone you ever see this?

She's probably not cold.
She’s probably not cold.

In body language realms, crossing of the arms and/or legs generally signifies one is closed off from further discussion. This position subconsciously protects several vital organs and defend from threats.

This means a threat has been perceived, whether it was you, something you said, or something else.

Good luck implementing therapeutic neuroscience education with someone in this posture. They will not be open to anything you say. In fact, forget making any suggestions.

Whatever you are sellin’, they ain’t buyin’.

When you see someone pulling off that ill crossover, you have to do whatever is possible to get them out of it if you hope to further the interaction.

And they say posture doesn't matter in people with pain.
And they say posture doesn’t matter in people with pain.

An Ounce of Prevention

If you watch me interact with someone I will almost always sit to his or her left. Wonder why?

If you read this book by Daniel Goleman (one of my favorite authors), he states that many of our brain’s emotional control centers are located in the right hemisphere.

Since most sensory information travels to the contralateral hemisphere, the sensory inputs given by my left sided placement theoretically could send more information to these areas.

Being to someone’s left could build a better emotional connection. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why most mothers will hold their babies on their left side.

Not sure, never been a mother.
Not sure though, I’ve never been a mother.

Moreover, if we look at things from a PRI lens, people generally have an easier time rotating their neck and thorax to the left. This positioning is less effort for an individual to be in.

Sit close in this case as well, as most individuals are better at focal vision with their left eye. Again, you are keeping the individual in his or her comfort zone.

Consequently, people will be less comfortable crossing the right leg over the left, reducing your odds of closed off body language. Unless you get something like this:

Shoe flipping is an added bonus
Shoe flipping is an added bonus

Then you are likely winning.

I switched to people’s left side during my initial evaluations about a year ago and it was amazing to me how less frequent I saw any form of arm crossing.

When in doubt, think left.

The Pound of Cure

Let’s say you have set up a great environment but unfortunately your client is still closed. What can be done?

You have to get them out of protect mode with none other then a favorably salient input. Attention must be redirected to a more pleasant mind state.

You have to get them into the prefrontal cortex.

Here are some suggestions that you may try

  • Change your body position – I will often go and sit right next to them. This posture conveys I am aligned with them. Friends sit side-by-side after all.
That's why this show lasted as long as it did.
That’s why this show lasted as long as it did…and because of Jennifer Aniston.
  • Touch – I will touch their arm.
  • Ask – Ask if they have a question, or what their thoughts are.
  • Joke – say a funny quip that you have in your repertoire. [Note: If you don’t have a joke set, get one]
  • Ask if they are cold – Sometimes people cross their arms because they are cold. Regardless of if they are cold, you will redirect attention to their body language. If they are not cold (like living in AZ), they will often change their arm posture. If they are cold, you can change the temp in your office.
Groovy baby.
Groovy baby.
  • Reach – Have them reach for something or give them something to hold onto (a glass of water works great. If I am TNE’ing, I’ll hand them one of my markers).
  • Open up – make sure when you talk to them you are conveying an open posture as much as possible. Palms facing them and help reel them in.
It's not just good rhetoric that makes him liked by people.
It’s not just good rhetoric that got him votes.
  • Change the subject – If you see someone cross their arms when you mention a subject, it becomes clear very quickly that they don’t feel comfortable talking about it yet. Redirect.

To Sum Up

Nonverbal communication is something we all must think about during all of our interactions, and likely plays a huge role in building rapport and buy-in.

Next time someone closes you off, try one of my above strategies and let me know what you think.

Any thoughts or strategies you use to get people to open up? Comment below.

The Road to an Alternating and Reciprocal Warrior: Wisdom Teeth Extraction

This spans an entire treatment over a year’s time.

Here’s part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The Saga Continues

I’ve been through vision, I’ve had dental integration, I’ve put in the PRI activity homework, maximized my PRI testing, and feel a new man.

I know frontal plane
I know AF IR

Yet neutrality eludes me. It is a state of mind I could once feel by the power of glasses and splints, but the nervous system learns and accommodates. I topped out.

But of course, I knew that would be the case from my very first session with Ron.

“You gotta get those wisdom teeth pulled.” ~Ron Hruska

By virtue of the dentist I integrate with, the time came. And here are the results.

Extract time.
Extract time.

Zac B.E. (Before Extraction)

So at this point in my life the large HRV gains I initially had were dropping and I was still having some neck tension. Training was feeling so-so.

Test-wise, the videos below show what I look like.

Here’s my squat

And my toe touch.

Upper quadrant tests

And lower quadrant tests

Mandibular movements

And some cervical movements

My pelvis is consistently neutral and I can shift and squat with the best of ‘em. But I still present with restrictions in my thorax, neck, and mandible (BBC/RTMCC).

These limitations are likely present because of a  bony block called wisdom teeth.

The enemy reveals himself
The enemy reveals himself

As you can see, the maxillary (top side) wisdom teeth limit the excurision of my lateral pterygoids for lateral trusive movements. My hope is by removing these guys I will get access to more frontal plane, which should clean, up my remaining tests.

Operation Extraction: 1/30/15

By the way, 3D CT machines are the coolest thing out there. Definitely putting on my amazon wishlist.
By the way, 3D CT machines are the coolest thing out there. Definitely putting on my amazon wishlist.

I enter the room to get prepped for surgery, and the worst possible thing occurs.

Country music is playing.

7529bed6557dc022221851f82c0a8a52
Immediate amygdala hijack

And I can’t have that!

So I politely ask one of the workers there if we can play something a bit more soothing prior to my surgery.

2pac “I ain’t Mad at Cha” begins playing.

That’s more like it.

Could not think of a better way to reduce threat.
Could not think of a better way to reduce threat.

I get the IV put in, hear some Juicy by Biggy, and pass out from the Mind Eraser anesthesia. Yes, it was actually called “Mind Eraser”, and yes, I remember nothing.

Like this happening

Evidently I really wanted this picture taken
Evidently I really wanted this picture taken

And definitely not this

But I do remember looking like Marlon Brando for a period of time

What was really cool about the whole experience is how little pain I felt. I probably took 2-3 pain pills at most. I think this is because I was actually excited about having this surgery done, and the reward I was hoping to get far exceeded the nociceptive information I would inevitably receive.

Just goes to show it’s all about threat perception.

#explaindentistry Should I pitch this to Adriaan?
#explaindentistry
Should I pitch this to Adriaan?

Zac A.E. (After Extraction)

I waited to re-measure and assess until 6 weeks later. This way I had to some time to heal and adjust to this new sensory experience. My exercise program basically consisted of squatting, alteranting activity, and mandibular lateral trusion to feel my pterygoids.

The cons are I no longer looking like Marlon Brando, but the pro’s are the mobility gains. Check it out in the vids below.

Here are the standing tests

My upper quadrant tests

Lower quadrant tests

Here are my mandibular movements

And lastly, cervical

Since surgery I’ve been hovering between a right BC and superior T4. I consider myself no longer a TMCC patient because mandibular movement is now fully restored. The thorax position can limit cervical axial rotation.

In terms of how I feel, neck tension has been significantly reduced, especially with jaw movement. The only time I get the tension is when I am training hard or if I am reading/sitting for a real long time.

I also produce a crap-ton more saliva, which comes back to the very first question Ron asked me when I started this process. You don’t know what this stuff will affect.

Me like all the time now
Me like all the time now

Consequently, I have noticeably much more phlegm in my saliva and feel way more congested than ever. Sleep quality does not seem as good, as I have generally felt a bit more tired throughout the day.

So what gives? My thought was the wisdom teeth would be the final piece of my PRI quest, but I did not get all the changes I was hoping to get. Was Ron wrong? Did I get less wise for nothing?

I did not lose my wit and charm though. Sorry Ron, better luck next time.
I did not lose my wit though. Sorry Ron, better luck next time.

The one consistent thing that I am still limited in is the cervical rotation and shoulder horizontal abduction. I am hesitant to perform any pec inhibitory activities because I have been neutral in the past. I don’t want to “stretch” something that doesn’t need stretching.

I look over my 3D CT scan that I got at the dentist office, and one thing stands out. I find my limiting factor:

Not your run-of-the-mill tissue extensibility dysfunction
Not your average tissue extensibility dysfunction

The journey continues.

 

 

 

9 weeks with Bane, I mean Zac…Oops Sorry Wrong CI

Only one wears glasses but both are alternating and reciprocal warriors.
Only one wears glasses but both are alternating and reciprocal warriors.

Note from Zac: This is my first guest post, and to start things up is the one and only Trevor Rappa. Trevor was my intern for the past 9 weeks and he absolutely killed it. Here is his story.

It’s very exciting for me to get to write a guest post for Zac’s blog that I have read so many times and learned so much from. The experience I have had with him over these past 9 weeks has been incredible and I hope to share some of it with all of you that read this.

He challenged me to think critically in every aspect of patient interaction: how I first greet them, which side of them I sit on, the words I use, and how I explain to the patient why I chose the exercises they’ll go home with. All of this was to create a non-threatening environment to help to patient achieve the best results they can.

He also taught me how to educate patients with a TNE approach, incorporate other interventions such as mirror therapy into a PRI based treatment model, and deepened my understanding of the neurologic concepts behind performance.

Therapeutic Neuroscience Education

Perception of threat can lead to a painful experience which will cause a change in behavior. It’s the PT’s role to introduce a salient stimulus to attenuate the perception of threat in order to cause a positive change in experience and behavior (Zac and I came up with that, I really like it).

Pain is not the enemy. Teaching patients that their pain is normal and it doesn’t always mean that they are damaging themselves can be challenging as pain is often the reason patients seek out or are referred to PT. Some of the points we tried to teach patients were

  • Pain is there to keep you safe, which is good
  • Pain does not equal tissue injury
  • No pain, no gain is not what we’re looking for
  • Discomfort is okay
  • Knock on the door of pain, don’t try to kick it down

A large part of educating patients is helping them re-conceptualize why they are having pain. Most patients think of pain in terms of a pathoanatomical model (ie tissue abnormality=pain) and this is perpetuated by a lot of members in the medical community. The pathoanatomical language often causes a higher perception of threat and induces greater feelings of being broken, hopeless, and unfixable.

Re-educating the patients that what they are experiencing is normal and teaching them why it is normal helps decrease their perception of threat. We do not want to use language that will make patients more threatened, like telling a 20 year old that they have the spine of an 80 year old (numerous times our patients have been told that by other medical professionals). Getting them out of a mindset that if they move a “faulty tissue” they will make their situation worse is one step in this process.

Regardless of whether the patient is dealing with a more acute injury or one that has become chronic, there are three things we taught each patient that we would do in PT to help decrease some of the sensitivity they may be dealing with. Those three things are movement, space, and blood flow. These three things require the patient to be active in their therapy which gives them control.

Many of the patients with chronic conditions had stopped doing the things they enjoyed. Giving them activities which they can do without perceiving pain, or that can help decrease their pain, shows patients that they do not need to rely on external passive interventions to feel better. Getting patients to believe/understand that they have the control and power to make themselves feel better is one of the most important things a PT can do.

Mirror therapy, sensory discrimination, and PRI

Learning how to use different interventions to help decrease sensitivity and pain was huge for me. We used mirror therapy with different types of patients whether they had chronic pain or were post-surgical. The mirror activities usually started with the patient moving their unaffected limb while watching their affected limb move in the mirror. For example, if you right arm hurts you’d move your left arm while looking at the mirror because it would appear that your right arm is moving. We would progress patients to where they were moving their affected limb behind the mirror while still watching the reflection of their unaffected limb moving in front of the mirror. With the example above, you would still be watching the reflection of your left arm in the mirror making it look like your right arm is moving but would also be moving your right arm behind the mirror. This helped introduce patients to moving a sensitive area without experiencing pain, thus decreasing the threat of movement.

Numerous RCTs have shown this to be true.
Numerous RCTs have shown this to be true.

Another intervention I had not used before was sensory discrimination. We used this mostly in our post-surgical or more acute population to help decrease the local sensitivity after an injury and to try de-smudgify (that may or may not be an actual word) their homunculus [note from Zac: Totally is].

Sharp-dull discrimination was used first, then we progressed to two-point discrimination and usually ended with graphesthesia. The progress for patients from not being able to discriminate between sharp-dull to having graphesthesia showed me how powerful the role of the somatosensory homunculus is in the pain experience.

And of course, I learned more PRI from Zac. He challenged me to use more integrated non-manual techniques with patients while also limiting the number of cues I used. This was great because it is very easy for me to over coach these techniques. He also gave me a better understanding of some of the big concepts in PRI, such as neutrality.

Neutrality vs Hypofrontality

Neutral is a huge word in PRI that is often thought of as the end game when in reality it is just the beginning of a PRI treatment. The end goal is to get someone alternating and reciprocal. The idea of neutral always made sense to me as a good goal for performance as “neutral” joint positions is where the greatest force would be able to be produced. Talking to Zac about this he brought up what Bill Hartman Grandpa 🙂 has said: Neutral is a neurologically prefrontal state in which learning can occur, as the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is active during tasks that require attention. However, this is not a state you want an athlete performing in.

An active PFC is good when athletes or patients are in rehab because their cerebellum and basal ganglia are learning new movements that can then be used with less activity from higher cortical areas during performance. The movements used during these activities can become reactive after enough learning, practice, and repetition (those 3 things go hand in hand).

During performance or training we would not want an athlete using the higher cortical areas that elicit attention as this would make them slow and inefficient. Instead, we would want them fast and efficient (ie reactive and reflexive). A transient state of hypofrontality allows an athlete to reach a state of “flow”, which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes in his book Flow, which is where the highest levels of performance occurs. This would allow the lower reactive (cerebellum and basal ganglia) and reflexive (brain stem) centers of the brain to essentially take over making them fast and efficient.

So from a theoretical neurologic stand point you do not want an athlete in a prefrontal state during performance. Good rehab and programming can help them become alternating and reciprocal through graded exposure and relearning of certain movement patterns in a neutral (prefrontal) neurologic state. Once this foundation is there, power and capacity can be added through training (which Zac talks more about here ). This may allow an athlete to stay alternating and reciprocal during transient states of hypofrontality when performing, not “neutral”.

Another concept that stood out to me from talking with Zac is the difference between extensor tone and extension. Extensor tone is necessary for power production during performance but it does not necessarily mean that the athlete is going into a position of extension. When someone is in extension they limit their degrees of freedom for movement and thus their movement variability. Using extensor tone from a neutral position, for lack of a better term, would allow them to display power while maintaining their potential movement variability (be alternating and reciprocal). This idea was something that made things click for me.

In summary…

I learned a lot from Zac and want to thank him for all his help and time he spent teaching me. Needless to say, this was an amazing clinical internship for me and I cannot recommend enough that other students should try to get Zac as their CI or for patients to get treated by Zac. He is the real.

Zac Cupples and Iron Sheik same thing
Zac Cupples and Iron Sheik same thing

And now what everyone has been waiting for… Zac quotes

Help for cueing exercises

  • “Shakin’ like a polaroid picture”
  • “We don’t want Fat Joe and the lean back”
  • “Do you remember the three little pigs? I want you to be the big bad wolf and blow their house down”
  • “Do you have the big 3? Jordan (L abs), Pippen (L adductor), and Rodman (L glute med)?”
  • “We like a tight right butt and we cannot lie, the other therapists can’t deny”
  • “I’ll start calling him Buffalo Bill, cause he’s abducting like crazy”
  • “We don’t want you to have hamstrings like Goldmember”
Hamstrings like Goldmember = POTS
Hamstrings like Goldmember = POTS

Zac after getting his wisdom teeth out, he doesn’t remember saying these things

  • “I have lateral trusion!”
  • “Check out this IR” and then he self-tested his own HG IR
  • “I ain’t got time to bleed”
  • “Nobody makes me bleed my own blood”

Other favorites

  • “If you ain’t assesin’ you guessin’”
  • “There’s 45 miles of nerves in the human body if you put them all in a straight line, but don’t try it at home cause you’ll die.”
  • “…hmm..interesting” in Bill Hartman Grandpa’s voice
  • “…sure about that?” in grandpa’s voice
  • “Her teeth told me she had bunions”
  • “I don’t know why he told us the same diagnosis five times.”
  • “Breathing is really important. The research has shown if you don’t do it you will die”
  • “How about this word, variability. How about this word, salience. How about this word, anti-fragile. How about this word, POTS.”

Trevor Rappa is a student at Columbia University and will graduate this May with his DPT. He has clinical experience with Lori Thomsen at the Hruska Clinic and with Zac Cupples at East Valley Spine and Sports. Upon graduation, he will be working at Peak Performance in NYC. You can get in touch with Trevor by email at trevor.rappa@gmail.com or on twitter @TrevorRappa.