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Jan 14, 2015

Female Superior Obturator

As a physical therapist I am continually amazed at the myriad of ways the parts of our bodies are connected (and even more so by our brain/body connections, but that is another blog post.) Take one of my favorite muscles for example, the obturator internus. This amazing muscle is known for its relationship to the hip as one of the external rotators, and it’s anatomy is impressive! What other muscle sharply turns ninety degrees from its attachment to its origin? The obturator internus traverses the inside of the pelvis and attaches mid-belly to an important tendon, the Arcuate Tendon Levator Ani (ATLA) , which becomes the means by which the obturator connects to the pelvic floor. (I love to show patients how their hip literally connects to their pelvis!) The ATLA connects with the Arcuate Tendon Fascia Pelvis which connects to the fascia supporting the bladder and urethra.

We know that in our patient who have pelvic pain too much tension or trigger points in the obturator internus can create symptoms of urinary urgency or frequency, pain in the bladder, vagina, rectum, abdomen, pelvic floor and hip. But what happens when the obturator internus is uptrained to treat women with stress urinary incontinence (SUI)? An article in the May/August 2014 Journal of Women’s Health looked at the role of strengthening the obturator internus and the adductors and compared the effects to working the pelvic floor for the treatment of women with SUI. The results were quite interesting.

 

This research was a pilot study comparing two randomly assigned groups of community dwelling women with SUI. A group of 12 completed resisted hip rotation (RHR) and a group of 15 completed pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT). Each group exercised at home for six weeks with a weekly recheck. Outcome measures included subjective reports of improvement, leak frequency, and scores from the Incontinence Impact Questionnaire (IIQ) and the Urogenital Distress Inventory (UDI). The exercise routines were supposed to take about 5 minutes and be performed twice a day. Subjects were instructed to sit with good posture and with their feet on the floor. The pelvic floor muscle group performed 5-second holds for 20 reps followed by 20 quick contractions. The RHR group exercised by 1) rotating internally and externally with diaphragmatic breathing for 10 breaths , 2) 10 repetitions of resisted hip external rotation with a green band and 5 second work/rest cycle and 3) 10 repetitions of hip internal rotation/adduction against a 9 inch ball with the same 5 second squeeze and rest cycles.

 

The results of the study showed that BOTH groups had significant and equal improvement in outcome measures by the end of the six weeks, but that the RHR group showed improvements sooner than the PFMT group. The authors discuss the limitations of their study: small sample size, large ranges of participant ages, patients were not medically examined, outcome measures were subjective, and the pelvic floor group only received verbal instruction. This study was thought provoking to me for several reasons. First, it gives me a great platform to talk with my non-pelvic health colleagues about treating pelvic floor weakness dysfunctions with indirect pelvic floor treatment. Virtually any patient could sit and roll their legs in and out against resistance! This exercise could be easily incorporated into a routine for people with bladder leakage or at risk for bladder leakage. Secondly, we often see patients with non-functioning pelvic floor muscles. My typical protocol before discussing the treatment option of electrical stimulation is to uptrain (increase muscle activity) with hip rotation, adduction and transverse abdominus muscle exercises. I have often found that I don’t need to address the pelvic floor directly when the accessory muscles are appropriately engaged. This study points out the importance of muscles outside of the pelvic floor in providing support for continence.


Sep 18, 2014

A recent on-line survey queried fourty-four Obstetrician-Gynecologists (OB-GYNs) in British Columbia to learn more about the needs of physicians who treat women who have endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain (CPP). Physicians reported that women who present with endometroisis or chronic pelvic pain usually require more visits than other patients, for reasons including medical and pain management, lack of a clear diagnosis, and lack of improvement in condition. Evaluation techniques utilized by the physicians often included laparoscopy and ultrasound, and despite these practices, the OB-GYNS reported challenges in making a diagnosis or successfully treating their patients with CPP. In fact, survey results indicated that 5% of the respondents were able to diagnose a patient for a cause of pelvic pain in > 70% of patients. Most of the physicians reported that less than half of the women treated had a good response to interventions. Although the highest rate of referral for these providers was to another OB-GYN specializing in pelvic pain, nearly 60% of the time a referral to physical therapy was reported. 

 

 

Although some of the narrative comments encountered in this survey were positive, including one physician's report of having "…good success with physiotherapy…", more often the providers expressed frustration and annoyance when faced with not only the challenges of diagnosis and treatment, but also the poor compensation and the longer visits required for counseling and teaching of patients. In addition to wanting more clear guidelines on diagnosis and management of female CPP, physicians expressed interest in having group educational sessions for patients, and more resources such as educational brochures on self-management for patients.

 

 

How can pelvic rehabilitation providers fill in this knowledge gap? I recall asking a referring provider if he was pleased with his patients' rehabilitation outcomes, and he expressed such a relief that I was taking the "dregs of the practice." He meant nothing disparaging about the patients themselves, he explained, just that when these patients walked in the door he felt a sinking feeling because he did not know what to do for them. Now, he reported, these same patients were returning from a pelvic rehabilitation referral and excitedly reporting on progress they had made. So many physicians and other referring providers still do not understand the scope of the patient populations that we can treat in pelvic rehabilitation. We can provide a necessary bridge between the challenge of diagnosing and medically treating chronic pelvic pain and the rehabilitation approach that addresses the chronic pain issues. Differential diagnosis of chronic pelvic pain from a rehabilitation standpoint is a skill set  that every therapist must continually improve upon. If you are interested in learning more about these skills, sign up for faculty member Peter Philip's continuing education course Differential Diagnostics of Chronic Pelvic Pain next month in Connecticut. 


Sep 15, 2014

This is a guest blog-post by Herman & Wallace faculty member Jennafer Vande Vegte, MSPT, BCIA-PMB, PRPC

Erica Vitek MOT, OTR, BCB-PMD, PRPC

Stress. We all have it. We all deal with it in one way or another. Sometimes stress comes and goes quickly while at other times it lasts and lasts. Research shows that at times, short bouts of stress can be good, even helpful. The surge of adrenalin and cortisol we get staying up past midnight to finish that assignment before it is due the next morning can power our brains to accomplish a task about which we procrastinated because it seemed burdensome or boring. We are very grateful for the extra burst of speed we feel in our legs as we run to catch our naughty three year old as they run off into a busy street. After these stressful events are over, our bodies recover but chronic stress can affect our bodies in negative ways and our bodies may need help finding a way to cope.

Research shows one main pathway that stress takes in the body is the Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal Axis or HPA axis for short. In the HPA axis there is a systematic release of chemical messengers that create a cascade of effects in our bodies. The HPA axis governs our response to stress and also affects our energy levels, digestion, sexual functioning, immune system and other body processes. We don't even need the research to tell us this because we have all experienced it firsthand.

Unfortunately when stress in any form does not go away, our bodies may not find the way back to homeostasis and chronic issues can develop. Research also points out that the function of our HPA axis could have been impaired during our development. Maternal stress can affect a developing baby in utero, and trauma or stress in infancy or early childhood can influence the function of our stress response into adulthood.

Interestingly, there are also gender differences in how stress influences behavior. In their article on the female response to stress, authors Taylor et al. describe the effects of oxytocin on the HPA axis. Oxytocin is released during nurturing behaviors and helps to decrease the activity in the HPA axis. The authors postulate that estrogen may be one reason women cope and respond to stress differently than men. Mothers comfort their babies when they cry and help sooth them. This action is beneficial to both mom and baby. Friends offer comfort with a listening ear, a hug, and emotional support. John Gray in his book Venus on Fire Mars on Ice also notes that oxytocin is released when we feel loved, appreciated and heard. As physical therapists working one-on-one with our patients we are also in a position to listen to and validate our patients which may aid in combating their stress response. Joining a support group may also be of benefit.

How do you respond to stress in your life? Dartmouth researchers found their students drink more caffeine, sleep less, and consume more alcohol. Exactly the WRONG responses when you look at the physiological effects on the HPA axis.. According to the article, "Leproult et al. found that plasma cortisol levels were elevated by up to 45 percent after sleep deprivation, an increase that has implications including immune compromise, cognitive impairment, and metabolic disruption." Caffeine and alcohol also increase cortisol release.


Aug 28, 2014

One of the questions we frequently receive at the Institute is "Do you have any research about ___________?" At times, therapists are looking for information that can help with patient care, or they might be looking for support in a claims denial letter, or foundational material for a presentation. If you have been taught how to find articles, this may seem like a simple task. Many of us therapists went to school when the only use of a computer was for word processing, if we were lucky enough to have progressed from the typewriter or even the electronic typewriter. (Imagine no Google, no Wikipedia, and no Amazon to purchase textbooks!) There are basic search skills that can be shared so that every person interested in a particular topic can find recent articles in free search engines. While the full article may not be available, many times you will have access to full articles that synthesize recent works. (One website that you can use that offers full text article access is PubMed Central.) If you are not interested in reading articles, but prefer to read a scholarly summary of a health topic, check out www.uptodate.com, where you can subscribe to have full access to excellent evidence-based summaries. You can read through the reference lists on the site as well to see if there is a resource that you want to track down.

 

One method of finding articles is to go to www.googlescholar.com. In the search bar, type in the topic you are interested in, such as "urinary incontinence." You will then be provided with a list of all articles that have urinary and/or incontinence in the title or in the key words of the research. An even more refined way to conduct your search is by using Boolean terms, in which you connect your search words by "AND" or other key terms. To see this in action, let's say you want to know if there is any research about urinary incontinence and prostatectomy surgery. Try completing a google scholar search by typing in the following: "urinary incontinence" AND "prostatectomy". (Be sure to use the quotation marks and type the word "AND" in capital letters.) You will see that you come up with some very nice articles about the specific topic you searched. To make sure you are looking at recent articles, go to the left side of the search page and under the words "Any time" choose an option such as "Since 2010" so that you are seeing articles from within the last 5 years. Next, maybe you want to know if there is evidence for rehabilitation. Add the word rehabilitation, like this: "urinary incontinence" AND "prostatectomy" AND "rehabilitation". You will see that you now have even more results specific to rehabilitation of the condition. On the right side of the page you might see a link that starts with [PDF] where, if you click on it, you will usually be brought to the full article rather than just the abstract. If you see an article that you think fits your search, you can also click on "Related articles" located under the brief description of the article.

 

Being able to look up articles serves many purposes, including staying updated on patient care, and discussing evidence with peers, providers, and patients. Another valuable reason to find your own research is when studying for certification exams such as the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC). On the PRPC certification page on our website, you can find a list of some articles for which we have added links. (Remember that there is no need to print out articles anymore! Save a tree and simply save the articles as a PDF file. You can name the article by the author's last name, year and main topic, and store in a folder on your computer so it is easy to access- no file drawer required!) If you are thinking about taking the PRPC exam, there is no time like the present to get your application put together! The deadline for applying is October 1 of this year, with the test taking place in the first couple weeks of November. Personally, I have enjoyed reading the blog posts introducing therapists who have earned their PRPC title- the reasons for seeking the distinction are very interesting and meaningful. We would love to see your name on the list of certified therapists, so check out the details on the website and contact us if you have any questions about the PRPC application process!


Aug 07, 2014

Hip

In pelvic rehab, if you ask therapists from around the country, you will most often hear that patients with pelvic dysfunction are seen once per week. This is in contrast to many other physical therapy plans of care, so what gives? Perhaps one of the things to consider is that most patients of pelvic rehab are not seen in the acute stages of their condition, whether the condition is perineal pain, constipation, tailbone pain, or incontinence, for example. 

The literature is rich with evidence supporting the facts that physicians are unaware of, unprepared for, or uncomfortable with conversations about treatment planning for patients who have continence issues or pelvic pain. The research also tells us that patients don't bring up pelvic dysfunctions, due to lack of awareness for available treatment, or due to embarrassment, or due to being told that their dysfunction is "normal" after having a baby or as a result of aging. So between the providers not talking about, and patients not bringing up pelvic dysfunctions, we have a huge population of patients who are not accessing timely care. 

 

 

What else is it about pelvic rehab that therapists are scheduling patients once a week? Is it that the patient is driving a great distance for care because there are not enough of us to go around? Do the pelvic floor muscles have differing principles for recovery in relation to basic strengthening concepts? Or is the reduced frequency per week influenced by the fact that many patients are instructed in behavioral strategies that may take a bit of time to re-train? 

 


Jun 18, 2014

Fascia is finally getting proper respect, rather than being that "white stuff" that was cut away during anatomy labs. Researchers continue to explore the cellular mechanisms and the total body functions that require healthy fascial layers. Fascial planes and connections are increasingly considered in strengthening programs as well, rather than only being considered in the design of stretching or flexibility programs. Tom Myers author of Anatomy Trains, and student of Rolfing founder Ida Rolf, contributes not only to the anatomical knowledge of therapists, but also to the functional applications of fascia in daily life and in exercise regimens.

 

Within the world of exercise training and physical fitness, muscles have often been considered in isolation, as is pointed out in this article written by Tom Myers in IDEA Fitness Journal. Yet muscles rarely work functionally as an isolated structure. Consider this fact when teaching pelvic floor muscle training. How many times have you instructed a patient to utilize thigh adductor muscles, exhale (respiratory diaphragm), or activate transversus abdominis to augment or facilitate the pelvic floor? While there is value in requesting that a patient focus on or emphasize a pelvic muscle contraction, or in teaching a patient to quiet dominant abdominals or gluteals, rarely do we find it effective to teach total isolation of a muscle in functional re-training.

 

Mr. Meyers uses anatomical information to drive the emphasis on fascial training, pointing out that there are ten times more sensory nerve endings in fascia than in muscles, and describes fascia as requiring our knowledge of accurate anatomy to engage the fascial planes as an "organ system of stability." Myers makes the case that fascia responds better to variation than to a repeated program when aiming to build fascial resilience. Varied tempo, varied loads, and varied movements are key to improving fascial health and efficiency. Integration of kinesthetic awareness via the fascial tissues rather than the muscles is also an important concept that is discussed- bringing awareness to movement through skin and superficial tissue movement rather than directing attention only to joint motion is another concept proposed for advancing movement training programs.

 

Considering these concepts may or may not change how you are currently designing your patients' fitness and rehabilitation programs, depending upon how you were trained and upon how you have continued to access continuing education and research. Breaking old habits and re-learning how to train movement does take effort on the part of the rehabilitation therapist, and fortunately, many instructors are integrating concepts of fascial planes into coursework. One such course that focuses clearly on integrating fascial training into sports-specific rehabilitation is Biomechanical Assessment of the Hip and Pelvis taking place this August in Arlington, Virginia. Instructor Steve Dischiavi, physical therapist and athletic trainer to the Florida Panthers, offers an excellent course that includes exercise concepts specific to the idea of fascial "slings" and that is sure to add some new exercises to your tool bag.


Jun 03, 2014

Abnormal hip joint development causes 25-50% of all hip disease, according to an article by Goldstein and colleagues on hip dysplasia in the skeletally mature patient. An acetabulum that is dysplastic tends to be shallow and anteverted while the dysplastic femur tends to have a small femoral head and an increased neck shaft angle. These abnormalities cause increased joint contact pressures and lead to joint breakdown in the hip, and are associated with issues such as altered hip and knee biomechanics, hip instability, hip impingement, and labral or chondral dysfunction.

 

 

Developmentally, the altered joint surface contact also affects acetabular development: the well-formed contact pressure in healthy hip development helps to deepen the acetabulum. The shape and position of the acetabulum and femoral head will also influence the relative angle of the femoral neck, represented as retroversion or anteversion. Soft tissue changes occur in response to the altered bony mechanics that affect length-tension curves in the muscles and therefore affect muscle performance. Because of the primary and secondary dysfunctions that can occur with hip dysplasia, early recognition of hip dysfunction is important. 

 

 

Measurements for hip position are easy to implement in the clinic and can include Craig's Test for femoral anteversion/retroversion. Treatment approaches focusing on hip abduction strengthening have been demonstrated to improve hip stability in patients with dysplastic hip. With shared structures including muscles between the hip and pelvis, pelvic rehabilitation providers must be able to assess the hip's influence on conditions of pelvic pain or other dysfunctions. To learn about detailed examination and treatment of the hip, there is still time to register for the Institute's upcoming continuing education course instructed by Ginger Garner.


May 22, 2014

This post was written by H&W instructor Lila Abbate PT, DPT, MS, OCS. Lila will be instructing the course that she wrote on "Coccyx Pain" in New Hampshire in September.

 

Allison Ariail

“Sit up tall, stand up straight” were comments we heard from our teachers and our caregivers.  Do you find that you are saying that now to your patients?  Postural correction can go beyond just preventing neck and low back pain.  For a women’s health therapist, improved posture may help our patients prevent uterine prolapse or reduce coccyx pain.

 

Lind, Lucente and Kohn published a study back in 1996 titled Thoracic Kyphosis and the Prevalence of Advanced Uterine Prolapse. They determined that, in patients with uterine prolapse, the degree of thoracic kyphosis was about 13 degrees higher than in the 48 matched controls.1 Hodges, in the chapter titled “Chronic Low Back and Coccygeal Pain” in Clinical Reasoning for Manual Therapists, presents a case of a 39 year old woman with poor posture who has reproducible coccygeal pain, despite a coccygectomy, with palpation of her L4 segment.  This poor posture perpetuates nerve and muscle dysfunction along with decreased and inappropriate muscle firing patterns that have created this long-term condition. 

 


May 15, 2014

Allison Ariail

 

This post was written by H&W instructor Lila Abbate PT, DPT, MS, OCS. Lila will be instructing Pelvic Floor Level 3 with Institute founder Holly Herman in San Diego at the end of this month! Sign up for the few remaining seats left in this popular course!

 

When treating your patient who has undergone a pelvic reconstruction in the not-so-distant past, does the mesh controversy come to your mind?  Is the effect of the mesh causing your patient this dysfunction and is she complaining of urinary urgency, urinary frequency, or pelvic pain? Understanding pelvic muscle dysfunction, as pelvic rehabilitation providers do, can put us in a good position to help our patients, as well as to help our physicians with this oftentimes litigious issue. 

 

Urogynecologists, gynecologists, urologists, or any surgeon who deals in the business of female sexual medicine and pelvic reconstruction seems to have been put in a position to defend their stance on the use of mesh when working with patients who present with any degree of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), be it complicated or simple.  The decision to utilize mesh is now made with greater emphasis on education for the patient who is undergoing the procedure. 


Apr 10, 2014

 

back

 

Research completed by medical faculty of Heidelberg University in Germany aimed to better understand the characteristics of pain that can be caused by different structures or tissues within the low back. Is the information gained applicable to all layers of tissues in the body? If so, how does that assist with our structural evaluation and interventions? If not, how do various body regions reflect the findings of this study?

 

 

Researchers injected saline into tissues of the back of 12 healthy subjects at differing layers of depth and tissue; the injections were guided by ultrasound. (This method of inducing muscle pain has been utilized and refined since the 1930's.) The authors describe prior studies indicating that thoracolumbar fascia is innervated by free nerve endings, and that lumbar dorsal horn neurons receive nociceptive input from fascia; these connections are theorized to relate to fascia as a potential cause of low back pain. 


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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

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