Dr. Jason Levine on Pain & Parenting
How to prepare for & manage the physical growing pains that come with raising a child
Jason Levine is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and the creator of the Newish Parent Guide to Avoiding Unnecessary Pain and The Powerful Parent Club. His practice, Focused Physio, takes a proactive approach to physical wellbeing and he is committed to providing high-quality education and self-empowerment to his patients and community. He tackles his patient’s chronic pain problems with a holistic approach to focus on each individual patient’s whole story and not just a single injury or body part. He is a firm believer that each individual has the power to improve their own health and wellbeing when they are ready to commit to making positive changes.
Q: How did you first get interested in studying chronic pain?
A: Throughout my Doctorate program I got to work in a large variety of Physical Therapy settings and saw firsthand how different patients had dramatically different responses to similarly diagnosed injuries and pathologies. It became quickly evident that pain couldn’t simply be analyzed on a 1-10 scale. As I started working with more chronic pain patients it became clear that the standard approaches to treating many of the common orthopedic issues were not sufficient to make significant progress with many of these chronic pain patients. I found Dr. Lorimer Moseley and Dr. David Butler’s work and the book “Explain Pain” and started to go deeper into the rabbit hole of better understanding pain and even taught an in-service to the rest of the clinical staff about this. The more I learned, the more I realized I needed to change my approach to care to truly address each patient from a more holistic perspective. Once I saw how powerful developing awareness and mindset changes can be in helping to adapt the nervous system and pain response, it became a top priority in my approach to treatment.
Q: As you have spent more time in the field, are there any challenges in treating chronic pain patients that stand out to you?
A: The current models of care are unfortunately not built for patients with chronic pain. Many patients access physical therapy in large corporate practices which have high productivity and documentation demands which can limit one-on-one time with patients. While that may work for some patients, it makes it extremely hard for therapists to dedicate the amount of time and focus to helping educate patients and build confidence in the activities they are completing. It also takes a lot of time to get to know a person and understand not only how their body moves, but what do they do regularly that may impact their symptoms in positive and negative ways, what thoughts and beliefs they might have that may be limiting their progress, and how they can get creative to start finding positive ways to find helpful activities in their day.
Currently, the healthcare system in our country is more reactive in nature and, ideally, we’ll be able to help more people connect with preventative health for the whole body more regularly through the lifespan so problems can be addressed earlier before many of these chronic conditions ever arise. Taking this approach I aim to reduce the overall need for orthopedic and other chronic conditions.
Q: A specialty of yours is pain in parenting. What exactly does this involve and what challenges are unique to it?
A: I started to notice a pattern earlier in my career. I would find out when a patient’s pain initially started, and then I’d find out when their first child was born, and the numbers kept lining up over and over again. Fast forward a few years and I now have two daughters and know firsthand how challenging kids can be on the body. I often give the comparison of walking around with a 20-30lbs squirmy kettlebell all day. In practice, I find that more and more new parents (and grandparents) don’t have the proper education to plan for and prepare their bodies for the physical demands of taking care of little kids.
At the same time that kids can be tough on the body, with a little bit of awareness and creativity they also can help benefit how we feel and move. Not only do they provide endless amounts of inspiration for movement and play, but they also allow for some fantastic progressive resistance training. As they get heavier slowly over time, it allows our bodies to adapt and get stronger just by carrying them around. Also, while new parents don’t have much time or extra energy for traditional exercise classes, there are so many ways to get creative with finding movement with our kids. Exercise and bonding time with little ones can be an amazing combination.
Q: What solutions have you been working on for pain in parenting? Have any new ones come up during the pandemic?
A: I launched a course called The Newish Parent Guide to Avoiding Unnecessary Pain shortly after my second child was born that covers some of the biggest learnings I’ve had as a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Dad.
Also, to address the challenges of having limited time for exercise as a parent made even harder during the pandemic, I started a group called The Powerful Parent Club. My 3-year-old and I got creative and have been sharing some inspiration for movement and exercise while we were confined to a small space and her preschool was closed. It’s evolved over time and we have been able to bring on a bunch of exciting guests from Broadway dancers, yoga instructors, mindfulness and meditation practitioners, tai chi instructors, circus performers, and more in an effort to connect other parents with a variety of different options and solutions that might fit their unique interests and motivations. It’s been a really fun outlet to spread some positivity during this difficult time, and also has kept me accountable to stay active and find creative movement with my kids at the same time.
Q: Are you exploring anything right now that excites you but people might not know about yet?
A: I’ve been diving more into movement culture and finding how beneficial mindful movement can be to generating awareness of the areas we will benefit from spending more of our waking hours working on. This directly relates to my work in helping my patients get creative with building movement into their day when they originally thought they had no time or ability to do so. Obviously, this includes getting creative with working at a desk, but also, I’m finding more and more instances where people are restricting their movement when it doesn’t need to be. For instance, adults all too often socialize seated at a table for long periods, so considering changing scenery and positions more frequently or going for a walk when it’s safe and appropriate, or when parents are watching a kids soccer game and just sitting on the sideline, that can be a perfect time to be moving around and getting your heart rate up with some exercise or really energetic cheering. The possibilities are endless, so helping people connect to what motivates and interests them to get more active in a safe and positive way will really make a big difference in their long-term health. The little things add up.
Q: When you aren’t trying to tackle pain in parenting, what do you do for fun?
A: I love having fun and getting creative with my own movement and exercise. It’s especially fun when accompanied by the many giggles and smiles that my kids can bring to a silly workout. I also love soccer and most other sports and games. When possible I’m always looking to learn new things and challenge myself with different activities. I picked up longboarding during the pandemic and love being outdoors and adventuring whether out on a stand-up paddleboard, bicycle or even just for a nice walk or hike. Variety truly is the spice of life and as adults, it becomes even more important to be intentional about how we build new and different activities into our day.
Q: What three things (books, articles, Twitter posts, YouTube channel, song, etc.), would you recommend chronic pain patients and clinicians check out?
A: I always recommend cranking up your favorite music and having a dance party whenever possible. I can’t choose a specific song since it’s so unique to each individual and the current mood you’re in. That’s almost always a good idea in our house for a quick movement break and mood booster.
For clinicians: I’ve really been enjoying following Adam Meakins (The Sports Physio - @adammeakins) for challenging assumptions we may have, and forcing us as a profession to question some of what we originally believed to be true.
The language we use makes a difference in how our patients will respond to our treatments, and Nick Hannah (@hannahmoves) has been sharing a lot of great content for clinicians to sharpen their communication skills to get better results for our patients.
For patients: I often recommend they check out some of Lorimer Moseley’s work as a good starting point.
Q: Thanks so much for your time and insight. Where can people find you?
My pleasure. It was great chatting with you! You can learn more about me or get in touch at www.focused-physio.com and you can join The Powerful Parent Club on Facebook or follow along on Instagram @thepowerfulparentclub.