Biopsychosocial Approach to Treatment

By Athlete's Care on May 22, 2020

As we continue to live in these unprecedented times, we have in a short period of time, learned how to adjust to these new and often, challenging circumstances. Whether we are the parent who is working from home on your couch, while your children complete their assignment, a Retail Salesmen who is currently laid off, or a Nurse who has just gotten off 3 night time shifts and is living in their camper, to protect their family from contracting the virus. We all are experiencing physical, social, and emotional changes. Even as a clinic, we have had to adapt to new models of care. As Therapists, we strive to provide the best for our patients. We have now used social media platforms to reach out to our communities to help provide support and education. In saying this, one change specifically that has truly been for the better, is that we have all adopted more of a biopsychosocial approach in our practice and everyday life.

As customers in the past, and by past, I mean two months ago, you trusted us with your care, and graced us with your presence on a regular basis in our clinics. You were provided not only hands – on treatment, whether is was from clinicians such as a Massage Therapists, Physiotherapist or Chiropractor, but you also had the opportunity to work through your exercise regime around a community of clients, who were also working toward their recovery and fitness goals. I am sure like us, you did not expect this shift towards an online platform of care, where the hands-on component of your treatment, has beenplaced at the side (for now). The interesting thing is, that when we look at the biopsychosocial approach; which is not new to the medical world, as it was conceptualised in 1977 by George Engel, that is suggests that “in order to understand a person’s medical condition, it is not simply the biological factors to consider, but also the psychological and social factors” (Gatchel et al, 2007).

This model has been used for patients with chronic pain to explain the predominant drivers of their pain, whether that is because of social/environmental factors (eg. Work, relationships with family, social environment, living situation), behavioral factors (eg. Physical inactivity, fear of activity due to pain), emotional factors (eg. Trauma, anxiety, stress, avoidance behaviors), cognitive factors (eg. Catastrophizing thoughts, your expectations for treatment or your recovery) or biological/mechanical factors (eg. Physical symptoms (muscular, neural, respiratory, etc)) (Gatchel et al, 2007).

To put this into perspective, when you watch a scary movie, you may begin to breathe a little faster, tighten you muscles or even brace yourselves, your palms may become sweaty, or you may even recall a previous movie or experience that made you feel a similar way. This interconnection of body systems is an unconscious response, which is called the fight or flight response. Our bodies are innately protecting us from fearful or painful experiences. Now take this example and apply it to someone who has experienced multiple ankle sprains in the past. This constant stress on the body; physically, emotionally, socially, and behaviorally, can lead to a major tole on the body. Their perceptions of pain or their recovery may have changed, their ability to cope or communicate their feelings and/or needs mayaffected relationships or even their ability to complete their work or household duties. Their pain experience is unique to them, and through using a biopsychosocial approach, we can use tools to address the primary drivers of their pain.

The use tools such as mindfulness, qi qong, expressive writing, self-affirmations, motivational interviewing, yoga, and pain education can, if warranted, have a drastic effect on your overall quality of life. As I said previously, each of us are unique, in that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to recovery, so connecting with your health care professional, who can help you understand what may be contributing factors to your injury/pain, is the first step! The amazing thing about our clinic, and these unprecedented times, is that more than ever, we are supporting each other.

At Athlete’s Care we pride ourselves on our holistic approach to care, and our wide multidisciplinary team. Therefore, even duringthese socially distanced times, we can help you reach your same recovery and fitness goals; together. We are available even while you are watching your children at home, or in between your shifts. Virtual care is very muscle an accessible option for you to address your needs. We are a widespread, compassionate, and experienced team who is adopting a new approach to your care, and is ready to help you, whenever you are ready!

Written by: Olivia Drodge, Reg. PT.
Registered Pelvic Health Physiotherapist

(1) Gatchel, Robert J., Peng, Yuan Bo, Peters, Madelon, L.; Fuchs, Perry, N.; Turk, Dennis C. 2007 The
biopsychosocial approach to chronic pain: Scientific advances and future directionsfckLR Psychological
Bulletin, Vol 133(4), 581-624