The most frustrating and elusive thing that a physical therapist can deal with is chronic pain. It seems we have so many ideas in our "bag of tricks" for treatment, but chronic pain can still present time after time even for the most experienced therapist. Primary research done by Peter A. Levine, PhD and Robert C. Scaer, MD describes reactions that occur in the brain and nervous system with traumatizing events such as an accident or any stress inducing or life-threatening experience. Many of you may have heard of these responses: fight, flight or freeze. These are all normal, but the problem lies in getting stuck in any of these responses. When we are stuck, just about any trigger or similar traumatic event can be perceived as the original event that is now ingrained in our memory with all kinds of associated emotions, negativity, fear, anxiety, anger and pain.
To get someone unstuck requires treatment of mind and body, and as most people I have worked with believe, the spirit. Solid approaches with psychotherapy and counseling have addressed these areas for a long time, but approaches with body incorporation have been somewhat separated or for the most part, left out.
The ideal is incorporating treatment for mind, body, spirit and even beyond that, treatment for three areas of the brain and nervous system. These areas have been described as first, second and third brain.
First brain = brain stem(autonomic nervous system) and spinal cord
Second brain = limbic system(emotions)
Third brain = cortex(stored memories)
Physical therapy and a new treatment called Associative Awareness Technique can help with this. This technique was designed by Ernie Quinlisk, PT and Scott Musgrave, MSPT (Wellness & Performance) It is designed to help facilitate discharge or release of our stuck responses to trauma. This facilitation incorporated with exercises given by a physical therapist or psychotherapist can also re-train the brain to decrease associated memories to trauma.
All of these working together can help decrease body symptoms/reactions such as chronic pain and reduce the chance of recurring comorbidities or diseases that often plague many after trauma.
Associative Awareness Technique primarily utilizes an all hands-on approach to help the body release trauma and freeing it from getting stuck. This release can be the key to freedom for someone suffering from chronic pain or chronic conditions.