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Pain Science and Sensibility

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Join co-hosts Sandy Hilton and Cory Blickenstaff, physical therapists who are "in the trenches" practicing in unique settings on opposite sides of United States, as they discuss current research and topics of pain science. Listen in on occasional interviews of the prominent figures of pain science. Focus will be on making the information meaningful to practice in the clinic.

Join co-hosts Sandy Hilton and Cory Blickenstaff, physical therapists who are "in the trenches" practicing in unique settings on opposite sides of United States, as they discuss current research and topics of pain science. Listen in on occasional interviews of the prominent figures of pain science. Focus will be on making the information meaningful to practice in the clinic.
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Join co-hosts Sandy Hilton and Cory Blickenstaff, physical therapists who are "in the trenches" practicing in unique settings on opposite sides of United States, as they discuss current research and topics of pain science. Listen in on occasional interviews of the prominent figures of pain science. Focus will be on making the information meaningful to practice in the clinic.




043 An Interview with Dr Henrik Vaegter

In the last episode (42) a systematic review was discussed regarding the value of pre-operative measures in predicting pain post-operatively. In this episode, Dr. Henrik Vaegter, an author of that review joins us to discuss that research as well as several other fascinating topics regarding exercise and pain. In this interview we discuss topics of Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia, Conditioned Pain Modulation, and Temporal Summation of Pain, all of which are among the focus of Dr. Vaegter's...


042 Does Preop Pain Predict Postop Pain?

In this episode Sandy and Cory discuss a systematic review which investigated what pre operative pain tells us about a person’s propensity for post operative pain. Is it predictive? If so, would changing it matter? The discussion gets into these topics and more. Are preoperative experimental pain assessments correlated with clinical pain outcomes after surgery? A systematic review. Sangesland A, Støren C, Vaegter HB. Scand J Pain. 2017 Apr;15:44-52. doi: 10.1016/j.sjpain.2016.12.002....


041 Bedtimes and Pain: Can You Sleep It Off?

This study looked at pain score associations between people with "typical" and "atypical" bedtimes. Sandy and Cory discuss the topic of sleep and pain broadly as well. So, perk up and see if you can make through this episode without dozing off. Does bedtime matter among patients with chronic pain? A longitudinal comparison study. McHugh RK, Edwards R, Ross E, Jamison R. PAIN Reports. May/June 2019 - Volume 4 - Issue 3 - p e747. doi: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000747. We also discussed...


040 Does Activity Counteract Sitting?

In this month's episode we are examining more of a general health question. But it is one that is very relevant to people in pain. Much has been made of "Sitting is the new smoking" with some indications that the negative effects of sitting may not be able to be undone with exercise and activity. This study looked at that concept in particular. Join us for Episode 40. Sitting Time, Physical Activity, and Risk of Mortality in Adults. Stamatakis E, Gale J, Bauman A, Ekelund U, Hamer M,...


039 Pain Education in Low Back Pain

This paper, with results that many find very surprising, has started a bit of a buzz in the PT world. What do we make of the results? Can we trust the results? What does this mean in clinical practice? We were able to discuss these topics and more with the researchers themselves as Adrian Traeger and James McAuley were kind enough to share their time and help us navigate these new findings. Don't miss this episode! Effect of Intensive Patient Education vs Placebo Patient Education on...


038 Living Well with Chronic Pain

Research on chronic pain tends to aim at identifying factors that are in deficit, or are the so called "risk factors" for those who develops chronic pain. In this episode, we discuss a paper that takes a different angle in looking at what factors do those people who are successfully living well with chronic pain share. The primary author is friend of the show, Bronnie Thompson, who has made guest appearances in previous episodes. Living well with chronic pain: a classical grounded...


2018 PT Podcast Network Holiday Extravaganza

That's right everyone! It's that time of year again! All the PT Podcast Network voices (except for Adam) have gathered together to bring you some podcast holiday cheer! This very special episode is brought to you by My PT Insurance. Head on over to their website at to be entered into a drawing for a $250 Amazon gift card (contest ends February 28, 2019). While you are there listeners can get a $20 discount off their already low price for a professional liability policy...


037 Brain Representations of Expectancy Violation

This episode covers a recent meta analysis looking at differences in brain patterns when an expectancy violation, thought to be important in effectiveness of exposure based therapies (see episodes 12, 15, and 31), occurs passively versus actively. Active expectancy violation is thought to be more likely to bring about a change in behavior. This research looked to see if there was a difference that could be identified in activated brain areas between the 2 conditions. Learning about...


036 Mechanism Based Pain Care

In this episode, Sandy and Cory discuss a recent paper proposing a "Mechanism Based approach to physical therapy management of pain." This paper proposes 5 mechanisms to consider when managing people in pain and how some common PT interventions may impact these mechanisms. The discussion goes into some of the details of these proposals as well as some of the criticisms that have been generated with regards to the paper. A Mechanism-Based Approach to Physical Therapist Management of...


035 The Smallest Worthwhile Effect of Physiotherapy

How much of an improvement would you need to see in order to feel that physiotherapy was going to be worthwhile for your low back, neck, or shoulder pain? This is the question that this study examines and that is discussed in this episode. Also Sandy considers opening a steak restaurant. The smallest worthwhile effect of primary care physiotherapy did not differ across musculoskeletal pain sites. Christiansen DH, de Vos Andersen NB, Poulsen PH, Ostelo RW. J Clin Epidemiol. 2018 May 28....


034 How Well Do We Remember Past Pains?

In this episode the topic of pain memory recall is explored. How well do we remember our past pains? Are there differences in recall between populations? What might account for the differences when they occur? All of these topics covered in episode in which Sandy and Cory discuss a recent research article on the topic. Hippocampal morphology mediates biased memories of chronic pain. Berger SE, Vachon-Presseau É, Abdullah TB, Baria AT, Schnitzer TJ, Apkarian AV. Neuroimage. 2018 Feb...


033 Reconsidering the IASP Definition of Pain

In episode 33, Sandy and Cory are joined once again by Pain Specialist Physician, Milton Cohen. Dr. Cohen and his group have submitted a new clinical definition of pain. In the discussion, we unpack the new definition term by term and discuss issues that Dr. Cohen and his group have spelled out regarding the current and famous IASP definition. Does the current definition have important shortcomings? Do you feel that patients would agree that the current definition fits with the experience of...


032 Are There Ethical Concerns With Mindfulness Approaches?

A recent paper looks at the philosophical underpinnings of the practice of mindfulness and raises some concerns regarding the ethics of its use. In this episode, these concerns are discussed as well as the larger implications of informed consent and respect for patient values. Forgetting ourselves: epistemic costs and ethical concerns in mindfulness exercises. Ratnayake S, Merry D. J Med Ethics. 2018 Mar 9. pii: medethics-2017-104201. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2017-104201. [Epub ahead of...


031 Expectancy Violation Update

We return to exposure based therapy and an update of the topic covered in the popular episodes 12 and 15, expectancy violation. This time we discuss a clinical commentary paper reviewing the state of the evidence related to the claims of Craske et al. How have the claims held up? What is the state of the science on the topic? This and more in episode 31. Exposure therapy augmentation: A review and extension of techniques informed by an inhibitory learning approach. Weisman JS, Rodebaugh...


Episode 30: I am a Placebo: An Interview With Dr. Nortin Hadler, MD

Our guest in this episode is Dr. Nortin Hadler, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who has spent decades right in the middle of several health care debates. Dr. Hadler, or as Sandy likes to call him "Quote Machine," spent an hour with us reflecting on a range of topics. What is medicalization and why is so important? What predicts poor health outcomes related to regional pain disorders most robustly? What is the difference between a...


029 Discussion of the book Meanings of Pain

This episode has Sandy and Cory discussing a recently released book, tilted Meanings of Pain. Can we measure pain? What is the impact when we try? How do the roles we assume impact the care we provide and how it is received? Listen in as our hosts consider these and other topics that have been raised by this very interesting and comprehensive book. Due to copyright laws, unless the article is open source we cannot legally post the PDF on the website for the world to download at will. That...


028 Does Manual Therapy Suck?

In this episode of Pain Science and Sensibility, it’s another British Invasion! So, I guess that would make us the Ed Sullivan show? Special guest Adam Meakins, host of the NAF physio podcast, joins us for a discussion regarding his proclamation that “Manual Therapy Sucks.” His provocative stance has stirred a lot of attention and discussion. So, stepping away from our normal format of discussing a specific paper, in this episode we’re discussing the merit, or lack thereof, for manual...


027 Transverse Abdominals in Low Back Pain

Sandy and Cory discuss a popular topic in the treatment of low back pain; the role of the transverse abdominus. This paper examines the role in pregnancy related low back pain but the episode goes on to discuss the topic more broadly. Now suck in that naval and listen along! The transverse abdominal muscle is excessively active during active straight leg raising in pregnancy-related posterior pelvic girdle pain: an observational study. Mens JMA, Pool-Goudzwaard A. BMC Musculoskelet...


026 Can We Predict Who's at Risk for Persistent Pain

What is stratified care? Can we get the right patients to the right care at the right time? In this episode we look at a study examining some of the background required to answer these questions. Can we predict who is at risk for developing persistent pain? If we can then we might be better able to direct them to the right care. The findings may surprise you. The Value of Prognostic Screening for Patients With Low Back Pain in Secondary Care. Karran EL, Traeger AC, McAuley JH, Hillier SL,...


025 Comparing and Using Low Back Pain Clinical Guidelines

Episode 25 has our hosts, and special guest Kelly Newman SPT discussing a recent review article comparing 3 of the major clinical guidelines for the treatment of low back pain. What is a clinical guideline? How are their recommendations established and why are there differences between them? What is "the burden of proof" and why is it relevant to this discussion? Clinical guidelines for low back pain: A critical review of consensus and inconsistencies across three major...