Sam appreciates and engages all biopsychosocial factors with his patients in order to maximise their health and wellbeing. Emotions and beliefs play a huge role in a patient’s recovery and neglecting the importance of these can cause a persistent barrier to recovery.
Sam’s dissertation was on the association between posture and low back pain and even though it has provided extensive knowledge about the structures of the lower back, it also highlighted the importance of how having incorrect knowledge of pain was just as important in the persistence of low back pain. The concept of pain has changed a lot over the past decade. Traditionally, pain has always been associated with a structure in the body gone wrong. Now, this can certainly be the case with, for example, a sprained ankle. You roll over your ankle which causes the ligaments and tendons to get overly stretched, which then causes swelling and pain. However, if that patient becomes too afraid to move due to beliefs like, “moving it will only make it worse”, the pain can actually persist longer than necessary.
This common misconception is more of an issue with the lower back. Patients who suffer with persistent lower back pain is more than likely to have false beliefs such as, “my back has always been very weak” and “movement makes my back worse, therefore I won’t move”.
These beliefs are false and are all huge barriers to recovery. Your lower back is a very strong structure and it is more resilient than you think. A similar example of this phenomenon is amputees who suffer from phantom limb pain. Despite having no limb, some amputees still suffer pain or sensations as if the limb is still attached. It is the nervous system that has hardwired itself into thinking there is still sensation. Sam understands that this is very similar with chronic lower back pain, where the pain has been hardwired into the nervous system where the level of pain does not reflect the amount (if any!) of structural damage. Emotional stress is also a huge factor in the persistence of lower back pain whereby it exacerbates the level of pain experienced. Therefore, it is paramount to address patients’ beliefs and emotional stress in both acute and chronic presentations. Sam has experience in OsteoMAP, a program run by the University College of Osteopathy that fuses mindfulness with Osteopathic techniques, which is a useful tool in tackling chronic pain.
Sam is also enthusiastic at pushing the Osteopathy profession forward and is currently part of a research team under Imperial College London investigating placebo methods in physical, psychological, and self-management interventions for pain. Any research that studies how non-drug and non-surgery treatments of pain (such as Osteopathy) normally has a placebo group where participants will typically guess correctly which group they’re in. This will affect the results as these people who guessed correctly will expect the sham therapy won’t help due to the relationship between the pain and the mind. The aim of the research is to improve the design for such trials.
On top of all this, Sam has attended courses involving spinal manipulation and kinesiology taping techniques which has diversified and improved his treatment approach. Coupled with his deep tissue and sports massage therapy techniques provides Sam with confidence and capability of addressing everyone from all walks of life.
In his free time, Sam stills play rugby at an amateur level for his local team and has a particular interest in the biomechanics of weightlifting. How the body moves highly dictates the performance of a lift and Olympic weightlifting requires the body to have a balance of mobility, stability, and strength. Achieving optimal mobility, stability, and strength requires knowledge of biomechanics and body awareness which also plays a vital role in everyday life. Sam believes that body awareness and the ability to control the body is not only crucial in achieving heavy lifts, but also in injury prevention.