This week I was fortunate to spend a day in Limerick in the company of Peter O’Sullivan. Thanks to Kieran O’Sullivan for organising the event, I took a lot from it and I know from chatting with a number of others who attended that they did too.
For those not aware of Peter O’Sullivan’s work, he is very well known for research and treatment of patients with low back pain. And that’s a very important point to make, he doesn’t treat low back pain, he treats people with low back pain. In his work seems to strike a great balance between research and practice which I know many of us comment on with regards to sport science/strength and conditioning. My interest comes from the fact that I see many patients/athletes with LBP and am conducting a study looking at the effects of an S&C intervention.
The format of the day was basically watching Peter at work. He saw 3 patients throughout the day with opportunity for questions between. He is obviously a highly skilled and competent practitioner as he was presented with some patients with tricky histories. I was most impressed with the engagement he got from the patients, he took the time to fully understand their relationship with their back pain and delved into the emotions that were attached it. Fear, frustration, anger and sadness were all uncovered. He was asked how he deals with it when he goes home, a fair question give the path the discussions took. He said he doesn’t wear it, with the questioning, he’s looking for a way in, he treats it like an investigation and tt was very much like watching an episode of Columbo.
The biggest thing I took from it was the explanation of the stress response and it’s interaction with pain and how he got the patient to work out the relationship rather than just telling them. This brought about a change in attitude from the patient and, it seemed, a significant buy in to the ‘treatment’. It let them know that improvements in their symptoms were completely in their own hands, I think this was very empowering for them.
As a result, I’m definitely thinking more about my conversations with athletes/patients both injured and uninjured and how I lead them to discover the changes they need to make rather than dictating those changes to them. If you get the chance to attend one of Peter’s workshops I can highly recommend it.