Aged care physio Anna Struyven introduces a Yoga for Pain approach to WA aged care

Anna Struyven is a physiotherapist in aged care. She tells us how a Yoga for Pain approach helps her get older people with long term pain moving and feeling better about life.

Anna, how did Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training change your approach to physio?
Yoga for Pain training expands the mind of a physiotherapist. I use the principles every day with my elderly clients. Most are very scared of moving and reluctant to do exercises. Yoga for Pain gave me a totally different approach and opportunity on how to treat and approach them.

What was your exposure to pain care before the training?
While physiotherapy teaches us theories of pain, we don’t learn much about how we can affect it. I am familiar with the principle of Pacing introduced in Fremantle Hospital and now more widespread (like most things it works with some but not all) and have done further courses in knee osteoarthritis, the low intensity exercises from my training, and hydrotherapy.

What methods do you use from Yoga for Pain Training?
I now use more breathing techniques and different approaches to get people moving. Physiotherapists usually work with standard exercises that focus on falls prevention and stability. Yoga for Pain Training has given me more skills to work with the whole person, not just the bit that ‘isn’t working’.

One lady I saw yesterday had had a hip replacement and then a revision. She ended up with a staph infection in her whole leg. As well as walking with a frame she has huge anxiety problems. We started talking and she told me how she felt.

“You’re the first one I can talk to,” she said.

Then we did some exercises but mainly breathing, and we started with parts of the body that aren’t in pain.

Does yoga have a place in aged care?
Definitely. Yoga is getting more popular. Two challenges mean we need a different approach – people on a pension don’t have much money, and are not always mobile enough to get to a yoga place. For those with chronic pain there’s an additional challenge: even the group exercise programs in their care facility can be too much. “I can’t follow the program” they say. “I feel I’m holding the class down.”

“Even within their aged care communities older people with pain feel isolated.”

How do you think we should bring yoga to older people with persistent pain?
We need to consider the social isolation and different physical capacities people have. When older people can’t do the exercise program others their age are it is immensely isolating. Sometimes their state of mind means they just don’t want to go. I do think a group gives better energy than at home alone but we have to do it in a way that encourages people and helps them find what they can do. Some people are open to a home practice which can be good too.

Who do you think Yoga for Pain can most help?
Yoga for Pain is not for everyone. It depends on their life experience and how they relate to pain and health care. But even in older age, people can be open with extremely positive outlooks. I am still learning, for example, how to better use yoga techniques to get people more mobile but feel blessed to be part of the Yoga for Pain Practitioner community as it has opened my mind, and I believe the knowledge is good for my clients.

For more about Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training for health professionals email [email protected].



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