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Albert van de Maat: We need to talk more about pain

40 min. reading time

Why do professionals use Reducept? Does it help them achieve their goals? What does the future of the healthcare industry look like? We are launching a new series of articles where practitioners who use Reducept will dive into the answers to the above, and many other, questions. They pioneer innovation and successfully integrate digital therapy into their practice. 

We will ask professionals to share their best practice advice, as well as valuable insights and opinions about chronic pain treatment. Our goal is to explore how different healthcare specialists work with chronic pain patients and make their programs successful. Stay tuned if you want to get their first-hand experience. 

Our first guest is Albert van de Maat, a physiotherapist at FysioNU. FysioNU has multiple training locations and facilities throughout Apeldoorn. Their physiotherapists boast a wide variety of specialisations, qualities and competencies to help patients with acute complaints and chronic conditions. 

Albert has a diverse background in biomedical science, physical therapy and ecology. His genuine passion for helping people with chronic pain makes him stand out among other professionals. “I like to put the best available knowledge into the treatment to improve the best outcome. Evidence-based work is my main thing. I hate to do stuff without knowing what I’m doing. And in physical therapy, there’s a lot of that.”

albert van de maat

PHOTO Speechless Photography - Albert van de Maat MSc

You have a diverse blend of disciplines in your background. Does this mix help you in your physiotherapy career? 

I have three studies. I have a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science, a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, and a master’s degree in ecology. I have worked as an art director, photographer and graphic designer, and as a physiotherapist. I always want to move forward. That’s why I was interested in trying out Reducept. Its scientific knowledge helps me stay ahead of the crowd.

How did you come across Reducept? 

Someone reached out to our practice. I’m known for doing new things within our practice, so I was brought in to explore it. 

What was your first expectation, the first reaction to it? 

As always, I was scientifically critical in the beginning. Now that I’ve treated 12 patients with a complete 3-month program, I’m impressed.

What’s so impressive there?

Well, it works. From a theoretical perspective,  I can easily explain how the pain system, brain and neurology work. But it’s really good to see that it works in real life. The practice and the theory work together very well in Reducept.

What improvements do you see with your patients - is it a reduction in pain level or anxiety, or something else?

Most people I’ve seen and treated with Reducept have had pain for a long time, and they saw everything. They say, well, I’ve seen five, six, seven therapists, went to the hospital, went to the pain specialist, and did the rehab program for six months; it’s a long list. Most of them tried many things, and nothing worked. That is the moment when I bring Reducept into the talk. Sometimes patients already heard of Reducept from their physician or saw it on the FysioNU website. And sometimes they get to know it for the first time from me. They are usually open to give it a chance as nothing else had helped before. After the treatment period, I see the most effects in pain reduction and stress relief.

I wonder what makes it work so well? I mean, it’s an openly available theory, right? You can read it in any book, any article, even watch it on Youtube - that’s how pain works; that’s how the brain processes it. 

That’s the thing, the knowledge on how the brain works is on the streets, but someone should be the first to put it into a product, and that’s what Reducept did. 

I'm not from a medical background; I’m a marketer. When I joined Reducept, it was striking that medical professionals don’t really share this theory with patients.

Yes, that’s really bad. 

Is there any insider knowledge of why it is so?

People hardly change. I see a lot of people in my practice, 16-18 patients a day. If you look back at how Dutch people are educated, most think that pain equals damage. So if you grow up and eventually become a doctor, you might just stick to this idea. 

But doesn’t higher school education upgrade knowledge? 

No, if I look back at my education, there was some pain education. But in my opinion, far too little. Unfortunately, some specialists might unintentionally intensify the fear of pain in their patients. They are good specialists, but I think it would be great if they got advanced education on the topic of pain.

Are you saying that we should reintroduce pain education to practitioners all around the country?

Yeah. A few weeks ago, I wrote a small book, “What is pain and what does it mean?”, simply to give it to general practitioners and patients. When I speak about it, and I do it quite often, most people are like, “Really? Oh, I didn’t know!”. We need to talk about pain more often. 

That’s very unfortunate to hear. This sort of treatment costs lots of money. And besides, when it is about health, you would expect that medical professionals genuinely try to help. 

Yes, sure. Most healthcare professionals are there to help their patients. But in my honest opinion, they can improve outcomes and expectations when they spend some more time on pain education and using the latest knowledge on pain to reduce fear of pain.

There’s an element of hardcore theory and a VR element in Reducept. Do you think this VR element factors into how people perceive the treatment? In your experience, are they more curious about it because it’s innovative? Or perhaps they are more scared of it? 

I think the VR part makes them curious; it’s new. It’s different, and it’s easy to access. You don’t need pills, and you don’t have to inject something. Most people I speak to about it, say “Oh, that’s interesting, I want to test it”. That’s a significant advantage. 

Do you have any other experience with VR therapy? Is it something your practice is now looking to try more, or Reducept is in a unique position there? 

We have a second concept now, which is from InMotion from CorpusVR. It’s about the motion treatment. It’s a different approach. I’m starting it now, and it looks fun. 

Do you think there is a future for this type of VR therapy in the practices? 

Yes, definitely. Especially for long-term patients, for instance, people in their twenties who have had pain for 9-10 years. I think VR therapy will be a part of what we do in the future. 

We are now partnering with XRHealth in the USA. We see how big the market is and how many VR therapies are available for all possible conditions. I wonder what is the attitude now in the medical environment in the Netherlands towards digital treatments. Is the market ready for this?

I think it depends on the therapist. I think that the number of interested therapists is not very high at the moment. Education and exposure to these new ways of treatment will help get more therapists involved.

Why?

New concepts like Reducept take time to get implemented in the treatment process. Personally, I have a strong urge to implement new things continuously. This is not the same for everyone.

What is your motivation when you do your job? What is the expected result you want to get? 

I like to put the best available knowledge into the treatment to improve the best outcome. Evidence-based work is my main thing. I hate to do stuff without knowing what I’m doing.

Coming back to the Reducept game, how do you organise your sessions around it? 

I use the sessions to talk to a patient. In the first session, I explain how it works. Then they go home and play it every day, three times the amount of time needed. After one week, they come back to talk about how it went, what they think about it and whether there was any impact on their pain. I follow the protocol and see at which phase the patient is and what they need. If a patient needs behavioural therapy, then I pick it up and speak about it. Recently I received a lady. She was no-nonsense; she had pain for a long time, coping well with it. On the psychological part, there was nothing to talk about. We kept it quite simple, she started playing, and the pain was gone within two months. She had had pain for 20 years. 

What did help? How did these two months work differently from 20 years?

What patients hear a lot in hospitals is, “We can’t find anything that’s wrong, so it’s in your head. You just have to live with it”. They put the responsibility on a patient to solve it. What I say is that all pain you have is real. Maybe you cannot find something, but if it hurts, if you feel pain, it’s real. If you feel it is 8 out of 10, then that’s it. So I listen to my patients, and they have the space to speak about it openly. I simply explain how pain works; I’m really clear about it. Being honest and open and simply playing Reducept leads, in many cases, to reducing pain or even feeling no more pain. Understanding pain and its mechanism help people quit movement avoiding habits and eventually, start feeling better about their body.

It sounds like patients feel understood by you, which helps them to accept an aid that does not directly change anything in their bodies. Is that right?

Exactly, and another crucial part is that someone needs to be honest and open about it with patients. There are many things they haven’t ever spoken about to anyone. If you can create such a setting, it can do a lot. 

So would you say the right environment, the introduction by the practitioner is still a mandatory part of the therapy? 

Yeah, practitioners play a major role in the outcome. Together with a good practitioner, a patient can do a lot.

Working with patients can be psychologically demanding. How do you take care of your own emotional and physical well-being? 

Seeing around 16-18 patients a day in 25-minute sessions is intense. Depending on the type of patient (personality, mood, way of coping, etc.), it takes more or less energy. For me, it is crucial to have time to do sports and be outside in nature. I run 2-3 times a week to keep my condition; it also helps me clear up my mind. Besides that, I enjoy bird watching, herping (looking for reptiles) and taking photos of these little critters. So that's a way to relax and clear my mind too. Summarised: sports and time for relaxation is my way to keep healthy and fit. Sometimes I add a little mindfulness if my mind gets too busy.

FysioNU website

Albert van de Maat LinkedIn

Albert van de Maat: We need to talk more about pain