For the second year in a row, Lebanon hosted the Oregon Pain Summit, drawing doctors and other specialists the field to the Boulder Falls center for two days of presentations.
Veronica Moresi, a physical therapist at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, was one of the lead organizers for the event, along with fellow physical therapist Sharna Prasad.
Moresi said there are few topics that are more important to patients than pain, but it is not a subject which always receives the necessary attention.
"I think a lot of us, when we were in school, didn't get the kind of training that's applicable for this. I've been out of school for six or seven years and this was new to me coming out of school. People come to me, most of the time, because they have pain. They come to physical therapists because they have pain," Moresi said.
There are many contributing factors to pain and research continues into the best way to address pain. It is now understand that thoughts, emotions and sensations all play a role in the complex experience of pain.
That means two individuals can have vastly different experiences of a similar sensation and will require different treatment.
Dr. Ed Junkins, an associate dean at the Western University of Health Sciences, COMP-Northwest in Lebanon, gave the keynote address on Friday. His topic was the impact of childhood trauma on chronic pain management.
Studies have shown that children who experience trauma experience changes in their brain's response to stimuli. These individuals see threats earlier than others and their systems respond more aggressively to these threats and sensations.
Because of their past experiences, their bodies will release more cortisol and endorphins, which serves to heighten their response.
"The brain sees threat earlier and reacts more aggressively," Junkins said. "It's an aggressive threat appraisal, very aggressive, very advanced, very sophisticated threat appraisal, driven by uncertainty and anxiety."
Treating pain in these individuals is not as simple as writing a prescription. These patients need help understanding how their past experiences have shaped their current response.
Perhaps of even greater importance is providing help to young people who have experienced trauma while they are still maturing. Schools, clubs, churches and other organizations can all play a role in identifying those who have experienced trauma and assisting them in getting the help they need before they grow into adults who live with chronic pain.
"If there can be one person in that child's life, that angel in the nursery, that can make a difference, one person, just one safe, caring individual," Junkins said.
Moresi said Lebanon is the right setting for the conference and not just because of the convenience of having Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, the COMP-Northwest campus and Boulder Falls in such close proximity.
"There's been a lot of progress specifically in Lebanon with chronic pain treatment and things like that," Moresi said.
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