207: Biopsychosocial Model & Yoga with Carolyn Vandyken
Many people come to yoga to seek relief for a specific pain or to regain strength and mobility after recovering from an injury. The biopsychosocial model of care is a great way to look at how we’re using yoga to help our students. By adopting a whole-person approach to health and wellness, the biopsychosocial framework gives us a more holistic approach in regard to pain, function and movement. Carolyn Vandyken, expert in the biopsychosocial model, shares more about what the model is and how it applies to yoga.
Carolyn Vandyken is one of the Co-Founders of Reframe Rehab. She has practiced in orthopaedics and pelvic health for the past 33 years and has been heavily involved in post-graduate pelvic health education, and research in lumbopelvic pain. She speaks at numerous international conferences and has written extensively on the topics of pelvic health, orthopaedics and pain science for the past twelve years. Carolyn’s mission in her practice is to break down the silos in clinical practice between musculoskeletal pain, pelvic pain, pain neuroscience education, and psychology by providing learning opportunities from the world’s leading clinical educators on these topics.
Why do we need to understand the science of pain, and how can we use this understanding to better help our yoga students? Carolyn breaks down some of the elements of the science of pain, and the best steps for yoga teachers to take when a student approaches with specific pain. Shannon and Carolyn also discuss the language we use related to pain, and how to look for other specialized healthcare professionals who can help support students who are coming to us with pain and injuries.
[16:26] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode Carolyn Vandyken.
[17:52] What is the biopsychosocial framework?
“Pain is an output of the brain, so if it’s an output of the brain we have to consider all the potential inputs if we’re going to help our clients change that experience.” ~ Carolyn Vandyken
[19:41] We don’t often consider the social aspect of things. Carolyn and Shannon discuss how COVID-19 has made more people consider the importance of social factors in wellbeing.
“The social isolation of COVID for a lot of people has been a real challenge.” ~ Carolyn Vandyken
[20:18] What is the work that Carolyn does and how did she get started in this area?
[26:31] Pain is all in the brain, but how can we communicate that without coming across as saying “it’s all in your head”? Carolyn explains more about the science of pain.
“Pain is a brain thing. The brain creates pain to protect us.” ~ Carolyn Vandyken
[34:31] What are some things that yoga teachers can do to help a student who approaches them with pain?
[38:45] Shannon often refers people to PTs or physiotherapists for persistent pain. How does she manage that?
[42:15] Asking questions is a powerful tool to help people look inward and reflect on what can help their pain.
“We can’t just look at tissue health when we consider pain, we have to look much broader at everything that is going on in that person’s life.”~ Carolyn Vandyken
[46:05] Why does Carolyn recommend yoga and taichi for people with persistent pain?
[53:55] How can language and messaging influence the pain experience?
[1:00:02] Carolyn shares some additional perspectives for yoga teachers around the biopsychosocial framework and pain.
“1 in 4 people, after they have an acute injury, even though the tissues have healed, go on to have persistent pain.” ~ Carolyn Vandyken
[1:05:29] If you have been dealing with persistent pain, Carolyn has some tips for you.
[1:09:24] Find out more about Carolyn’s work and how to work with her via her website, where you can also sign up for courses.
[1:14:09] Shannon shares her key takeaways from this interview.
- Carolyn Vandyken, Reframe Rehab
- Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain, by Carolyn Vandyken is available as an e-book download on the Reframe Rehab website
- Yoga for Pelvic Health Training
- Email – email@example.com
- Pelvic Health Professionals Resource Page
- Debbie Patterson, Pain Solutions
- Pelvic Health Solutions
- Peter O’Sullivan
Related Podcast Episodes:
- 116: Pain Language with Shelly Prosko (Part 1)
- 117: Pain Language with Shelly Prosko (Part 2)
- 017: Yoga for Chronic Pain with Julia Khafizov
- 012: Sciatic Pain and Yoga with Joanne Pineau
- 075: Yoga for Pelvic Girdle Pain with Dr. Sinead Dufour
- 133: Yoga for Painful Sex with Casie Danenhauer
- 077: Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome) with Helena Spears
Gratitude to our Sponsor Schedulicity and Pelvic Health Professionals.
Thank you, Shannon, for taking a biopsychosocial approach to your podcast and interviewing experts in so many different fields. The information has greatly enhanced my personal and professional practice.
I experienced an awakening while listening to Carolyn Vandyken talk about remapping and how some yoga teachers encourage students to push their bodies into an “ideal” posture. After practicing hatha and restorative yoga for over 10 years and completing 200YTT, I experienced a shoulder/neck injury during a weekend Ashtanga yoga workshop where a visiting teacher instructed us all to do plank and chaturanga in a very different way and was praising me on my form, in front of the whole class, without knowing how uncomfortable it felt in my body. Later, she came over to me while I was in marichyasana c, which I had not been practicing because, as I had informed the instructor at the beginning of the series, I was new to Ashtanga, and my teacher had instructed me to stop at janu sirsasana c. This instructor, however, told me to keep going through the entire primary series. My arms were in a position behind my back that felt appropriate for me at the time, and before I knew it, the teacher approached me from behind, saying, “Oh, you’re young. You can do this!” and proceeded to move my arms toward one another, placing one of my hands on the opposite wrist, drawing my shoulders much closer together.
The pain was not immediate, but it came on, as I recall, within 12-24 hours, and has been persistent for the greater part of 5-6 years, sometimes severe, other times a lingering nuisance. For many years, I thought something must be wrong with my practice and mind-body connection because I was unable to heal myself. I tried combinations of restorative, yin and hatha yoga as well as massage, and the condition generally worsened. I was frustrated for many years because the pain and rigidity caused so many problems in my sleep and daily activities. This frustration, of course, led to more pain, inflammation and restriction of movement. The intimidation I felt in that Ashtanga workshop and pressure to perform well for the teacher was in stark contrast with what I’d learned about honoring my body and the experience of students. This led to cycles of shame and deep regret. The injury took on a life of it’s own and seemed to feed upon the self-criticism, frustration, grief and fear.
When Carolyn introduced the concept of “smudging” and normalized the phenomenon of not being able to heal with yoga if you’ve been practicing yoga for a long time, my experience started to make more sense. I have felt relief from activities including paddle boarding, Qigong shaking technique, dancing and cupping. Finally, with the support of an acupuncturist, I am reaching a new level of my body’s ability to heal this deep physical and emotional wound. With acupuncture, reiki and yoga nidra, I am desensitizing my nervous system and slowly building strength with gentle weight bearing and strength training exercises, never pushing past my edge. I have also been practicing self-forgiveness and forgiving the instructor for any part she may have played in my injury with lovingkindness meditation and the ho’oponopono prayer.
Please thank Carolyn for reframing this experience for me. I finally understand why I wasn’t able to heal with yoga and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. In combination with energy work and cupping, I will continue to focus on more novel sensorimotor exercises that are not threatening and can activate the remapping process in my brain. After listening to this episode, I feel more knowledgeable and empowered to heal and guide others in the process. I am definitely inspired to learn more about the science of pain. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope it may be of benefit to someone in a similar situation.
Thank you so much for sharing your story Jessica. I think it will be helpful for us as yoga teachers and practitioners.
I am so glad to hear that this podcast was helpful.
Hello, I really enjoyed this podcast and was looking for Carolyn’s book: Change your Brain, Change your pain- or maybe it was a .pdf? I can’t find it online and was wondering if you would be able to link to it? I have suffered from post-concussion syndrome for the last 6 years. I have greatly improved with physio, meditation and yoga but I wanted to read more about Carolyn’s work.
Thank you so much
Hello Jenni – you can download a copy of Carolyn’s e-book on the Reframe Rehab website – you should get a pop up offering the download – https://reframerehab.com/
Thank you for listening to the podcast, we are so glad you enjoyed it!
What an eye opening episode! This one will require at least one more listen on my part to fully grasp all the information Carolyn shared. Thank you, Shannon! I always learn so much from you and your guests.