New Research Shows Health Coaching Can Reduce Low Back Pain and Knee Osteoarthritis
Low back pain and knee osteoarthritis are pervasive problems worldwide, with nearly 65 million people experiencing low back pain and 8.3 million suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. While many turn to medication or surgical interventions for help, a new study has found that health coaching is also effective at reducing the disability and pain associated with chronic lower back pain and reducing disability in individuals with knee osteoarthritis.
This is encouraging news, but what does effective health coaching look like? Here at Hinge Health, coaching forms the foundation of our approach to treating chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. In this blog post, we’ll explore how our coaches support members and improve their outcomes.
A Tailored and Integrated Plan: The Foundation to Achieving MSK Wellness
While exercise therapy can play an important role in MSK health, alone it’s not enough. That’s why Hinge Health assigns a health coach to every member, in addition to a physical therapist. Our health coaches create customized plans for each member based on lifestyle medicine building blocks like regular movement, good sleep hygiene, healthy eating, and stress management. Hinge Health coaches don’t follow a top-down model, however, simply handing plans down to members. The coaching experience is highly collaborative.
Since members co-create action plans with their coaches, they feel greater buy-in and accountability for results. Key aspects of the process include:
- Motivational interviewing.
Coaches create a safe and judgment-free zone where they build rapport and trust with members. By asking open-ended questions, coaches help people identify their motivations for change. When members have a greater sense of self-awareness, they are more likely to understand the “why” behind their desire for change – whether that’s resuming favorite activities, spending quality time with family, or just feeling better each day.
- A commitment to sustainable behavior change.
As a part of coaching, members articulate their values and set goals that align with those values. They work hand-in-hand with their coaches to create a wellness vision that is empowering and focuses on new possibilities. Hinge Health coaches also work with individuals to identify why in the past they have found it difficult to advance their goals. Common obstacles include lack of knowledge, as well as low levels of energy and motivation. With this information, coaches can equip members with tools to promote lasting behavior changes that promote MSK well-being.
- Ongoing encouragement and feedback.
Hinge Health coaches cheer members at every step of their journey to MSK health. They track people’s activity in the Hinge Health app and celebrate successes. At the same time, they provide positive feedback if people encounter setbacks or begin to engage in negative self-talk. Coaches motivate, guide, support, and hold members accountable as they progress towards achieving their long-term goals.
While coaching has great potential for addressing chronic MSK conditions like lower back pain and osteoarthritis in the knee, it’s also important to be aware of what coaching is not. Coaches aren’t intended to be a replacement for physical therapy or a source for medical diagnoses or prescriptions. They are however a collaboration partner and liaison between clinicians and members – they help members act on and adhere to a physical therapist’s recommendations. Coaching is a two-way, collaborative process where members take responsibility for the changes they want to make. People get out of the process what they put into it.
The members who are most successful with the Hinge Health coaching program are those who take time to clearly understand their desired outcomes, use their coach as a sounding board for ideas, and communicate openly about both their hurdles and their wins.
To learn more about Hinge Health’s Digital MSK Clinic and the coaching team behind it, feel free to contact us.
Margaret Hathaway, MPH is an executive leader in operations, strategy, and service delivery in digital healthcare. She has a masters in public health from the University of Michigan and is passionate about increasing patient involvement and advocacy in their health outcomes. At Hinge Health, she leads the member facing care teams across member success, health coaching, and community support.