Meet Christine, a Physiotherapy Pain Association patient rep since 2019
A recent PhysioUpdate article focused on a mental health professional network’s bid to find ‘experts by lived experience’ to join their committee (see link below).
In this Q&A with editor Ian A McMillan, Christine airs her thoughts on being a patient representative on the Physiotherapy Pain Association’s (PPA) committee – a postion she's held since 2019.
What spurred you to get involved with the PPA?
In the summer of 2008, I experienced a manual handling injury, which has resulted in a lifelong sciatic pain condition.
For weeks I was barely able to walk and barely able to sit down. I was in excruciating pain, in great distress and difficulty. I sought the help of many clinicians, and four years after my injury, I met a physiotherapist who helped me understand my condition and helped me better learn to manage my pain.
This treatment episode was life-changing for me. I strongly believe that physiotherapists can be instrumental in turning round the fortunes of people living with pain, hence why I am passionate about being part of the PPA, which I joined in April 2019.
Are healthcare professionals generally more willing to listen to people with lived experience of pain than in the past?
I have found healthcare professionals to be very willing to listen, and to truly value my experience and insights. I have been told by a number of physiotherapists that what I have said has quite literally changed their practice.
I think all the healthcare professionals I’ve worked with have accepted me as ‘an equal’ – especially on the PPA executive committee. The PPA executive was really welcoming and just simply treat me as a valued colleague. What more can I ask!
How has your involvement in the PPA made a difference?
As part of the PPA, I have been involved as a patient representative on the ‘TIPS’ project. This was a joint project with Health Innovation and involved the co-production of an extensive training course for healthcare professionals about psychologically-informed practice.
Throughout the project I, and another patient representative, were fully involved in all decisions, and our thoughts and views were valued as much as anyone else’s. I know that my insight from a patient perspective changed the way some elements were being considered.
As part of the PPA, I have been involved in a number of webinars for healthcare professionals. I have been able to use my insight gained from my lived experience to challenge and support physiotherapists to further improve their practice.
I have also delivered a presentation to about 100 healthcare professionals and taken part in the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s 2020 conference. I have been given very positive feedback and told that my thoughts have helped some physiotherapist to move their practice forward.
Organisations need to involve people right from the start ... it shouldn’t be that the healthcare professionals do all the work and then simply ask the ‘users’ for comments [Christine]
How can organisations make sure user involvement is not a tokenistic, ‘tick-box’ exercise?
I think organisations need to involve people right from the start, and on a genuine co-production basis. It shouldn’t be that the healthcare professionals do all the work and then simply ask the ‘users’ for comments. We should be involved in the co-design of services, research and everything else to do with healthcare.
What message would you give non-specialist physiotherapists about working with people with pain?
I think all physiotherapists must work with people with pain, at least for some point in their career. I believe it is important to take a more person-centred and holistic view to the person with pain.
It is not enough to consider only the biomedical aspects of pain, and it is not enough to consider only ‘routine’ biomedical treatment (such as medications, injections, surgery and specific, non-personalised exercises).
I personally think all physiotherapists should have a good understanding of pain, and how to work with people with pain. Listening to us, taking a genuine interest in us, developing a good therapeutic alliance, supporting us to understand our own condition and how we can improve and adapt it, are all key.
What self-help methods work for you?
The most important thing for me has been understanding my condition, including a reasonable understanding of pain. With understanding I can adapt my life, which is what I do.
To find out more about the Physiotherapy Pain Association, visit: https://ppa.csp.org.uk
To read the article on the drive by the Chartered Physiotherapists in Mental Health (CPMH) professional network to find at least two ‘experts by lived experience’ who would like to join its committee, see here.Author: Edited by Ian A McMillan