A Primer on Pain Neuroscience Education and Chronic Pain

Pain science is becoming an increasingly prominent and sometimes controversial topic in PT. This is a presentation I gave for clinicians on models of pain and how to integrate pain neuroscience education into clinical practice.

Some say that pain science is just the latest fad in PT. However, pain science is not a “new treatment method”. Rather it is an extension of a holistic view of pain that acknowledges that the experience of pain is related to much more than just tissue damage.

Monday Morning Lunch vs Wedding Cake Moments

Most people fall into two extremes of eating: paying no attention to their diet, consuming every bite of junk food that comes their way OR obsessing about diet as if they were training for the Olympics. The problem is that neither way of eating is productive for most people.

From my personal life and observations as a trainer, I believe it is helpful to separate your diet into: what you eat for Monday morning lunch and “wedding cake moments”.

Monday morning lunch is a meal that repeats over and over. It’s not very memorable. These are routine meals and as such should be as healthy as possible. Habitually rewarding yourself with treats at such routine meals gradually adds unnecessary calories and fat to the body. Also, this creates the unhelpful habit of expecting treats regularly. I am not saying never have a cookie or chips, but such treats are actually more enjoyable when they are infrequent and should be reserved for…

“Wedding cake moments” How often do you go to a wedding? Once or twice a year. How often is it your mother’s birthday? There are some special events that come up very infrequently but are important for another part of one’s health, which is relationships. Don’t be the guy/gal at a wedding so obsessive about their diet that they refuse to eat a slice of wedding cake. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder, a piece of cake a few times per year won’t make much of a difference in your body. Now this doesn’t mean that every single office party or Friday night with friends warrants pizza and another round of drinks! And of course sometimes we slip up and may eat a bit of junk food. However, the stress and anxiety from expecting dietary perfection is just not worth it. Just get back on track towards your standard fuel, because really in the big picture it doesn’t matter that much.

So stick with the Monday Morning Lunch routine most of the time, but allow yourself those “Wedding cake moments”. You can have your cake (being healthy and lean), and eat it too (infrequently, at truly special events).

The Day You Wrote Your Best PT School Essay

The number of physical therapy school applicants has grown massively over the last few years. Now you need more than just “a passion” for PT and a high GPA. The essay is one the last places you can make changes since GPA, work experience, and most other application materials are set in place by the time of the application.

So how should you start writing the essay?

1.Answer the essay prompt: This might seem obvious, but the first time I wrote my essay I was very self-centered and shared the story I wanted to tell. A mentor read my essay and bluntly said “You didn’t answer the prompt”.

The admissions committees are looking over hundreds of applications and will have no time to dissect your essay for hidden meaning. As William Howard Taft said “Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.”

2.”Be Unique”: that may sound like obvious, cliche advice, but many people don’t write unique stories. After a first draft review, a mentor said that my story of “I was injured and found PT” and “I like helping people” was the same as hundreds of other applicants. After hearing this I revised my essay to discuss how my senior college engineering project taught me skills that would help in PT.

Also,  I shared stories from my observation hours and lessons learned from observation. All applicants have observation hours but showing that you’ve learned from them differentiates you.

3.Have a variety of critics read your essay for grammar and flow: Admissions officers are reading hundreds of applications, so your essay needs to be easy to read. I had family, friends, several PT’s, and writing tutors read my essays.

The essay is one of the last things you can control in your PT school application, so make it count.