LEXINGTON Jason Goumas, PT, CSAS, has more than 20 years of diverse experience in physical therapy, mostly in the outpatient field. In the late 90s, he started his career at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital. He has focused on spinal and sports injuries in a wide variety of facilities including inpatient care, home health, hospitals, and schools. In early 2018, he joined the talented team of healthcare providers at The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass.
Learning to Heal
Goumas believes that educating patients about their condition is the key to healing. Many of his patients manage conditions not attributable to a traumatic event, but caused by gradual degeneration due to everyday living and actions as preventable as sedentary lifestyles and poor posture. Muscles that are too weak or tense also contribute to pain.
“Once a person understands why the problem is occurring, they are in a much better position to contribute to their own healing. The vast majority of the problems we treat exist because of how people move, such as poor posture and body mechanics, and because they are not performing the necessary maintenance activities to address the effects of positioning and activity,” says Goumas. He argues that patients need to be taught which problematic signs to pinpoint, such as excess tension or lack of movement.
For example, the simple act of sitting for prolonged periods decreases the body’s ability to properly extend the spine while standing up. If not treated, this condition worsens with age and can contribute to spinal disc injury. The faster patients can learn safe, functional movements, the faster they can reverse inflammation, reroute pain pathways, and live healthier lives.
Though he treats a variety of age groups, Goumas most commonly sees patients aged 50–60 who suffer degenerative disc issues from normal wear and tear. Motor vehicle accidents and fall injuries comprise The Pain Center of the Bluegrass’ second most common demographic.
The simple act of sitting too frequently decreases the body’s ability to properly extend the spine while standing up.
Acute and Chronic Pain
Goumas says he manages chronic and acute patients differently. Chronic pain care, first and foremost, requires patients to learn how to move again, without reliance on pain medication. When patients take narcotic pain medication for an extended time, they actually become hypersensitive to pain and must work harder to regain movement. His solution for acute and chronic pain intersects in what he calls “movement treatment,” which shows the patient how to improve their condition just by moving correctly and by addressing patterns of weakness and tightness with specific exercises. Acute pain treatment more often includes ultrasound and electrical stimulation modalities.
Affordable, Accessible Care
The physicians and physical therapists at The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass practice with the patient’s lifestyle in mind, and that includes consideration of their clientele’s time and money. Since many patients can only visit a few times each year, home-based treatments fill the need for ongoing movement training.
Goumas says that the clinic empowers patients with techniques that they can continue at home, and that pragmatic approach keeps patients accountable. Goumas adds, “You can see we are minimalist in terms of equipment, and this is for a reason. For less than $30, people can purchase simple equipment that rivals what can be found at any gym and allows them to perform exercises at home. By doing so, patients tend to actually do the exercises more often than if they had to go to a gym to perform them.”
Within the clinic, transparency and communication between the physicians and the physical therapists contributes to an efficient process. Providers can review the patient’s medical records and diagnostic tests, such as CTs or MRIs, and can relay information to one another to help coordinate the patient’s treatment plan. This coordination of care between the pain specialists and physical therapy generally leads to a quicker and more successful management and alleviation of the patient’s pain.
Maintenance, Prevention, and Misunderstandings
Goumas knows from experience that the public still largely misunderstands pain management patients. Unfortunately, people diligently managing their pain are still viewed by the public as those wanting the easy way out through pain medication. “The reality is, the acute pain patient often is not provided with the tools they need in order to control their pain, and this failure is typically what leads to the development of chronic pain,” he explains.
He gives the analogy of car maintenance to further explain how people ignore their bodies until something goes wrong: “Just as there is a maintenance schedule with our cars, our bodies require routine maintenance as well. Nobody is required to change the oil in their car every 3000 miles or so, but it’s generally a good idea – as the alternative is a seized engine. So too, if we do not perform appropriate activities and exercise which keeps our spine and joints in shape, our body will similarly seize up.” But, by teaching patients the way to move properly and to perform simple exercises at home, Goumas is able to ensure that that does not happen.