Using a Health Inventory to Address Non-mechanical Contributors of Chronic Pain

Stephanie Halloran, DC, MS, and Kaelyn Mead, DC, both work in the Veterans Administration (VA) health system. Dr. Halloran is based at the VA healthcare system in Boston and Dr. Mead practices at the VA in Washington, D.C. Through their respective experiences, each has gained an appreciation for the whole-health approach to patient care and the importance of addressing external factors that can affect patients’ pain and overall health.

Dr. Halloran

Dr. Halloran has a master’s degree in human nutrition and functional medicine, giving her the background to understand how external factors affect overall health. When the VA went to all-virtual care, she began integrating more of her research on diet and inflammation and its impact on musculoskeletal pain. She focused on lifestyle changes over exercises, and individuals that changed their lifestyles improved 70% without any manual therapy. Since in-person visits resumed, she has observed that patients, the majority of whom still work from home, have not returned to pre-pandemic activities involving the same movement. In addition, her work with chronic pain patients with several comorbidities and psychosocial factors demonstrates that external factors must be addressed in the most complex cases to aide in pain management.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mead first became interested in whole health after attending a presentation at ACC-RAC in 2019 by Michael Ingui, DC, in which he discussed how different health disparities impact healthcare access, quality, and outcomes. She now works in a largely diverse, fast-paced VA region, where the multifaceted approach to whole health demonstrates the importance of addressing other dimensions of wellness and their effects on pain, especially when patient outcomes plateau or fail to respond as expected.

At Engage 2023, the pair will explore the whole health approach in “Using a Health Inventory to Address Non-mechanical Contributors of Chronic Pain.” Below, the ACA Blog learns more about what doctors can expect from their Engage 2023 program.

Dr. Mead

How is the topic you are presenting at Engage 2023 relevant to today’s chiropractor?

There are many external factors that affect pain. We as chiropractors can do more to address other aspects and contributing factors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pivot from face-to-face contact to virtual care (in various capacities), and it demonstrated the need to focus on other non-manual therapies and to practice to the full scope of our license. The results were clear: Virtual care is effective in addressing other biopsychosocial aspects of pain that improve outcomes in pain management, with or without manual interventions.

What practical knowledge or skills can attendees take away from your presentation?

We hope to demonstrate that providers can and should take the inventory for dimensions of wellness, even if they don’t plan to address/treat them. Psychologists, functional medicine practitioners, and other professional referral options should be in your contact list. This way more of our providers can practice to the full scope of their license and have a more whole-health approach. Additionally, we hope to share a few pointers when it comes to coding for these items that you might not know about or use (this may vary from state to state).

How will what attendees take away make them better doctors?

Many chiropractors believe in whole-person care. When we address it with individuals, it elevates outcomes and builds more rapport with patients. When patients know you care about other aspects of their life – and not just treating them and sending them on their way – it demonstrates you are an ally in their health journey.

What benefits do you gain from attending ACA Engage?

Both of us have been regular attendees of ACA Engage since we were students and always look forward to networking with our colleagues. A large majority of our friends live around the country, so being in one place at the same time annually is something we look forward to. (Additionally, Dr. Mead met her now-husband, Ryan Burdick, DC, at DC17, got engaged at Engage 2019, and both have developed close relationships with others through networking at this event that have changed their career trajectories!)

Want to learn more? Plan to attend Dr. Halloran and Dr. Mead’s presentation at Engage 2023. Click here to view the ACA Engage schedule and all that the program has to offer. Click here for conference details and to register!