A Thorough Pelvic Exam Leads to Appropriate Treatment

An article promoting the beneficial role of a thorough clinical assessment was published last year in the Scandinavian Journal of Urology, and although the article is directed to medical providers, serves as an excellent summary for pelvic rehabilitation providers. Doctors Quaghebeur and Wyndaele describe a “four-step plan” that can help direct treatment efficiently, and that emphasizes the muscular and neurologic systems as potential referral sources. While you may not be surprised about several of the steps, you may find this article to be a useful tool, particularly for the terrific chart about neuralgia-type pain that you can find in the linked article.

Step 1 should include history taking with attention to information about the following:

- urinary frequency, urgency, and nocturia
- bowel habits
- sexual complaints and quality-of-life impact
- pain description with significant detail
- use of questionnaires

Step 2 emphasizes review of prior assessments and reports, including:

- imaging (x-rays, MRI, CT)
- lab work

Step 3 involves a thorough clinical assessment. This includes a neurologic assessment of the lumbosacral plexus, with evaluation of motor and sensory functions as well as reflexes. The nerves suggested for testing are the sciatic, iliohypogastric, ilioinguinal, genitofemoral, obturator, lateral cutaneous femoral, perineal and dorsal, and the medial, lateral, and inferior cluneal nerves. (An excellent chart listing each of these nerves and their dynamic tests is included in the article.) Of note in the chart is the lack of neurodynamic tests for the deep peroneal nerve, pudendal, perineal, dorsal nerve of the clitoris or penis, and the interior cluneal- these can be tested for symptom reproduction with direct palpation according to the authors. Other Step 3 tests are listed below.

- neurodynamics tension testing and nerve palpation
- EMG testing if needed
- evaluation for hernia (abdominal, inguinal, or femoral)
- exam of external genitalia (rash, secretion, abscess, fistula, atrophic disorders, signs of trauma, palpation)
- rectal and/or vaginal exam

Step 4 involves an extensive musculoskeletal system examination. This includes the spine, pelvic girdle, muscles, tendons, and pain points.

- spinal mobility (palpation, AROM, PROM)
- joint play of SI joints, pubis and sacrococcygeal joints
- muscular pain or other soft tissue pain reproduction

The physicians recommend a multidisciplinary team of providers including physical therapy. The true value of this article, from a rehabilitation standpoint, may be the emphasis on a thorough musculoskeletal examination as well as attention to recognizing neuralgias. We might utilize an article such as this to dialog with medical providers, or to assess our own “thorough” list of examination techniques. Herman & Wallace offers several courses which can benefit the practitioner seeking to gain new evaluation techniques. "Manual Therapy for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex" is a great option which will be available this October 17-18 in beautiful Napa, CA.

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