Last week, I attended the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CSM). CSM is the largest national conference which the APTA hosts. This year, the conference was in Anaheim, CA, and over 11,000 people were in attendance! This post will be a brief summary of my conference take-aways.
Two of the sessions I attended were clinical in nature. One involved how to incorporate pain science education into clinical care, and the other was about exercise prescription for neuromuscular re-education. The pain science session was incredible! Physical therapists are experts in helping manage musculoskeletal pain, and that includes chronic pain. There can be changes in the nervous system itself, causing the system which is responsible for helping us feel pain to become extra-sensitive. When this happens, you have to treat the alarm system (i.e., the nervous system) too. This won’t work though if the patient doesn’t understand what is contributing to their pain. Their pain is real, but it may not be just from the tissues. This session gave me some strategies to help teach my patients about pain in a way that is effective.
The other clinical session which I attended was about exercise prescription. My biggest take away from this is that many PTs are not prescribing exercise in a way that will result in the desired tissue changes (whether you’re shooting for endurance, power, coordination, etc). So often, the classic “3 sets of 10 reps” is prescribed. There is a time and place for that, but we must be clinically reasoning for each and every exercise dose we prescribe. The speaker also gave us a few clinical pearls from select research papers that can bust some myths about common PT exercises. It’s always great to learn how research is either supporting or negating what we are doing so our practice can continue to improve.
I went to a few business sessions, and lastly, I went to some soft-skills sessions. I attended one patient panel and one lecture on relationship-centered care. The big take-away here is that we need to remember that we are treating people, not just “the total knee” or the “neck pain” guy. Every person has a different story, and we have to understand that story to best connect with them. We have to ask the right questions AND listen. By first developing the relationship, we will have the best chance at the helping the person achieve their goals and enjoy the therapy process.
I will begin to implement the things that I learned immediately and I will share what I learned with my colleagues. If you have any questions about what I learned or what else was happening at the conference, feel free to ask in the comment section!