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Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis


In some families, puberty is not only a time to have to deal with all the physical, hormonal, and emotional changes that are occurring, but it is a time to have to worry about and check for spinal abnormalities that can run in families. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that appears in late childhood or adolescence. The spine will rotate, and a curvature will develop in an “S” shape or “C” shape. Scoliosis is the most common spinal disorder in children and adolescents. It is present in 2 to 4 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 16 years of age. There is a genetic link to developing scoliosis and scientists are working to identify the gene that leads to adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Adolescent girls are more likely to develop more severe scoliosis. The ratio of girls to boys with small curves of 10 degrees or less is equal, however the ratio of girls to boys with a curvature of 30 degrees or greater is 10:1. Additionally, the risk of curve progression is 10 times higher in girls compared to boys. Scoliosis can cause quite a bit of pain, morbidity, and if severe enough can warrant spinal surgery.

A recent article in Pediatric Physical Therapy by Zapata et al. assessed if there were asymmetries in paraspinal muscle thickness in adolescents with and without adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. They utilized ultrasound imaging to compare muscle thickness of the deep paraspinals at T8 and the multifidus at L1 and L4. They found significant differences in muscle thickness on the concave side compared to the convex side at T8 and L1 in subjects with scoliosis. They also found significantly greater muscle thickness on the concave side at T8, L1, and L4 in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis compared to controls. This is very interesting to me, and exciting to think about the possibilities of how we therapists might can use this information! My first question is, is the difference in muscle thickness a cause or result of the curvature of the spine? My next question is if we trained the multifidus on the convex side, the side that is thinner, would it make a difference in supporting the spine and therefore help prevent some of the curvature? Would strengthening the multifidus in a very segmental manner comparing right versus left and targeting segments and sides that are weaker than others help prevent rotation and curvature in individuals who have a familial predisposition to developing idiopathic scoliosis? I hope so! I hope this group continues to study scoliosis and provides some evidence-based treatment that can help decrease the severity of curvature.

Assessing the multifidus thickness and strength, and differentiating it from the paraspinal muscles can be tricky. The best way to do this is the same way the authors of this article did, using ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound imaging gives unparalleled information on muscle shape, size, and activation of the muscle. Learning to use ultrasound imaging will change your practice! You will see dramatic differences in how you treat patients as well as the results you get when training the local core musculature. It also may open doors to treating different patient types than you are treating now, like adolescents with scoliosis. Join me in Spokane, WA on October 20-22 to further discuss how ultrasound can change your practice and perhaps help you reach out to a new population that you may not be treating now!

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The Dilemma of the Multifidus


Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC is a published researcher and practitioner who has worked in the realms of brain injury, lymphedema, and oncology. Now she's leading the charge to encourage rehabilitation practitioners to utilize ultrasound diagnostic imaging with their patients, and you can learn these techniques in her Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging - Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics course taking place May 1 - 3 in Dayton, OH. We've partnered with SonoSite to make the best ultrasound equipment available for participants in this course.

Most of us are treating patients who have back pain of some nature, and we know the importance of the local stabilizing muscles including the transverse abdominis, the lumbar multifidus, and the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles work together to provide tension and create a corset of stability throughout the trunk. A common goal is to rehabilitate these muscles in order to restore motor control and strength, but the muscle depth can make them difficult to assess and palpate.

I recently read a study that is looking at the development of a test to identify lumbar multifidus function. Herbert et al. found promising results when looking at this “multifidus lift test” for inter-rater reliability and concurrent validity to identify dysfunction in the multifidus. They compared the results of this test with real-time ultrasound imaging of the lumbar multifidus. Inter-rater reliability was excellent and free from errors of bias and prevalence. Concurrent validity was demonstrated through its relationship with the reference standard results at L4-L5, but not so much for L5-S1. This preliminary research supports the reliability and validity of the multifidus lift test to assess lumbar multifidus function at some spinal levels. If this test could be further validated for other spinal levels it would be very beneficial for therapists who are using a specific stabilization program to treat patients.

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Degree of prolapse symptoms


The following post comes to us from Herman & Wallace faculty member Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC. Allison authored "Use of transabdominal ultrasound imaging in retraining the pelvic-floor muscles of a woman postpartum" and is a leading expert in the use of ultrasound imaging for pelvic rehab. She is the author and instructor of the Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Women’s Health and Orthopedic Topics offered with Herman & Wallace.

In the pelvic floor series we learn how to perform examinations for cystoceles and rectoceles. It can be more difficult for therapists to examine and quantify the degree of uterine descent. In the last few years translabial ultrasound imaging has also been used to identify what is happening in the anterior compartment upon Valsalva and pelvic floor contraction, including the uterus. This is helpful when trying to determine the degree of uterine prolapse. Degree of pelvic organ descent visible on by ultrasound has been shown to have a near-linear relationship with measures on the POPQ.

Clinically we see that some patients with severe prolapses have few symptoms, while other patients with smaller prolapses will have more severe complaints of symptoms. This can be puzzling to the clinician who is trying to treat prolapse patients. Shek and Dietz performed a study to set cutoff measures of uterine descent that will predict symptoms of prolapse. Translabial ultrasound imaging was performed on 538 women with 263 women reporting prolapse symptoms. Seventy-five percent of the women presented with grade two or greater prolapse on the POPQ, with most of being cystoceles or rectoceles. The women with more complaints of symptoms of prolapse were more likely to have uterine prolapse. There was a strong association between degree of uterine descent and symptoms of prolapse. They determined that an optimal cutoff to predict symptoms of prolapse due to uterine descent is a cervix descending to 15 mm above the pubic symphysis.

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Cyclists and Back Pain


The following comes to us from faculty member Allison Ariail. Allison teaches several courses for the Institute, her next one being Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging in Baltimore, MD on June 12-14. There is still room, so sign up today!

Living in Colorado, I come across a lot of individuals who are avid runners, cyclists, or triathletes. Even with a higher level of fitness, these individuals will at times have back pain. What is going on in these physically fit, strong individuals? This is what Rostami et al.[1] set out to determine in their recent study. Using ultrasound imaging, they measured the thickness of the transversus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, and the cross sectional area of the multifidus while laying down as well as while mounted on a bicycle. They also measured the back strength, endurance, and flexibility of off-road cyclists with and without back pain. Fourteen professional competitive off-road cyclists with low back pain were compared to 24 control. Results showed a significantly thinner transversus abdominis, and cross sectional area of the multifidus muscle in the cyclists with back pain. There was no significant difference found in flexibility or isometric back strength between the two groups. However the cyclists with low back pain demonstrated decreased endurance in back dynamometry with 50% of their maximum isometric back strength.

The results of this study are consistent with other studies that examined less athletic individuals; thinner transverseus abdominis, and smaller multifidus muscles. This further reinforces the training of the local stabilizing muscles. What does this training method consist of? Learning to isolate each of the local stabilizing muscles; the transversus abdominis, the multifidus, and the pelvic floor muscles. Once a patient is able to isolate a contraction, challenge the muscles by holding a contraction while breathing normally, or holding the contraction while performing motor tasks such as Sahrmann’s exercises. Progress the patient so they are able to perform contractions in weight bearing positions and co-contractions of the muscles. Finally, progress the patient to maintaining co-contractions during functional activities and exercise activities. This will improve stability of the back and pelvis as well as decrease the pain experienced by the patient.

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Can Ultrasound Imaging allow you to treat more patients?

Today’s contribution to the Pelvic Rehab Report comes from Allison Ariail, the instructor for Herman & Wallace’s Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging courses. Join Allison and others this June 12-14 at Rehabilitative Ultra Sound Imaging: Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics - Baltimore, MD!

Is an Ultrasound that provides images of the pelvic floor and other deep musculature a cool gadget to have in the office or something that is truly essential? That depends on who you are asking! If you know how to use Ultrasound imaging properly and market yourself and your practice accordingly, it can become a tool that is not only fun to have and handy to use clinically, but also essential to providing your most efficient and thorough care!

Using an ultrasound (US) machine allows you to view the deeper musculature to assess how the muscles are functioning. The most common muscles assessed with US imaging are the transverse abdominis, the multifidus, and the pelvic floor. The patient then can use what is seen on the US screen as biofeedback to retrain their strategy and timing of recruitment. The therapist can also assess the patient’s ability to activate and maintain a contraction in various positions and even during motor tasks as well. This type of biofeedback is not only useful for pelvic floor patients, but is also important for patients with back and sacroiliac joint pain. Research is showing that using this type of stabilization program is making a difference in athletes. Julie Hides has published two articles recently showing that this type of stabilization program has helped with low back pain in professional cricket players, as well as to decrease the rate of lower extremity injury in Australian professional football players. (1,2) (see my post on The Local Stabilizing Muscles and Lower Extremity Injury.

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The Local Stabilizing Muscles and Lower Limb Injuries


Today's post on the Pelvic Rehab Report comes from faculty member Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC. Allison instructs the ultrasound imaging courses, the next of which will be Rehabilitative Ultra Sound Imaging: Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics in Baltimore, MD on Jun 12, 2015 - Jun 14, 2015.

In the past several decades there has been quite a bit of research regarding stabilization of the low back and pelvic ring. We as therapists have changed our focus from working more of the global stabilization muscles to the local stabilizing muscles; the transverse abdominis, the lumbar multifidus, and the pelvic floor. Both research studies and clinical experience has shown us what a positive difference working on these muscles can makes for back pain and pelvic ring pain, as well as for the risk of injury in the back and pelvic ring. However, what does it do for risk of injury for the lower limb? In 2014, Hides and Stanton published a study looking at the effects of motor control training on lower extremity injury in Australian professional football players. A pre- and post-intervention trial was used during the playing season of the Australian football league as a panel design. Assessment included magnetic resonance imaging and measurements of the cross-sectional area of the multifidus, psoas, and quadratus lumborum, as well as the change in trunk cross-sectional area due to voluntary contraction of the transverse abdominis muscle. A motor control program included training of the multifidus, transversus abdominis, and the pelvic floor muscles using ultrasound imaging for feedback that then progressed into a functional rehabilitation program was used with some of the players. Injury data was collected throughout the study. Results showed that a smaller multifidus or quadratus lumborum was predictive of lower limb injury during the playing season. Additionally, the risk of sustaining a severe injury was lower for players who received the motor control intervention.

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Have you tried Ultrasound Imaging to Evaluate Prolapse?


Today's post is written by faculty member Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC. You can join Allison in her Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics course, which takes place in Baltimore this year, June 12-14.

Since the mid 1990’s the POP-Q has been used to quantify, describe and stage pelvic organ prolapse. A series of 6 points are measured in the vagina in relation to the hymen. In a recent years, translabial ultrasound imaging has been used to look at the pelvic organs and the pelvic floor. A skilled practitioner can view pelvic floor muscle contractions, as well as Valsalva maneuvers and the effects each of these have on the pelvic organs. For example funneling of the urethral meatus, rotation of the urethra, opening of the retrovesical angle, and dropping of the bladder neck and uterus can be viewed using ultrasound imaging of the anterior compartment during Valsalva maneuvers. Pelvic organ descent seen on ultrasound imaging has been associated with symptoms of prolapse.

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Allison Ariail - Featured Herman & Wallace Instructor

Allison Ariail

In our weekly feature section, Pelvic Rehab Report is proud to present this interview with Herman & Wallace instructor Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, PRPC, BCB-PMD

How did you get started in pelvic rehab?

I got started in pelvic rehab by treating and specializing in SIJ and low back dysfunction. I used ultrasound imaging to retrain the local core muscles including the transverse abdominis, lumbar multifidus, and the pelvic floor muscles. In treating these patients, not only did they improve with respects to their back pain, but their incontinence improved as well! I then started getting referrals from doctors for incontinence patients. So I took PF1 and as they say, the rest is history! I know that pelvic rehab is my calling. I am impassioned about this subject and love treating these patients. I also thoroughly enjoy teaching about the pelvic floor and the pelvic ring. I truly feel I am one of the lucky ones to actually love what I do!

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Dysmenorrhea

Blog by  Allison Ariail

This post was written by Allison Ariail, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, PRPC, BCB-PMD. You can catch Allison teaching the Pelvic Floor Level 1 course in May in Los Angeles.

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term used for painful menstruation. Symptoms usually begin 1 or 2 days before or the first day of menstruation and include headache, low back and thigh pain, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive fatigue. Sixty percent of women suffer from dysmenorrhea, with many of these women being incapacitated for up to 3 days each month due to symptoms. There are two types of dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that is not caused from another disorder or disease. Secondary dysmenorrhea is menstrual pain that is due to a disorder in the pelvic organs including endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical stenosis, or infection. In the past, treatment approaches for primary dysmenorrhea have included the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, hormonal contraceptives, vitamins, and acupuncture. There have not been many studies that look at how physical activity influences the degree of pain for women with primary Dysmenorrhea. However, clinical experience has shown me that some women who begin exercising regularly decrease their dysmenorrhea symptoms compared to what they previously experienced. So I have done a search to find some studies that address this matter.

A Cochrane review found only one study that used a control group. In this study, the experimental group participated in a 12-week walking or jogging program at 70-80% of heart rate range, 3 days a week for 30 minutes. Moos’ Menstrual Distress Inventory was used to measure outcomes. This was given pre-training, post-training, and during the premenstrual and inter-menstrual phases for the three hormonal cycles measured. There were significant lower scores on the Moos’ Menstrual Distress Inventory during the menstrual phase in the group that participated in exercise compared to the control group. Additionally, there was a negative linear trend in scores over the three observed cycles for the training group with no linear trend seen in the control group.1 So the exercise group lessoned the degree of their symptoms over the three months by participating in the walking program!

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Hyaluronic Acid for Vaginal Dryness

Allison Ariail

This post was written by H&W instructor Allison Ariail PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC, who will be presenting Pelvic Floor Level 2B in Houston at the end of February.

Dyspareunia, or pain during or after intercourse, can be very upsetting and frustrating to a woman. One cause of dyspareunia is vaginal dryness. As estrogen levels decrease, the vaginal tissues can have less moisture, elasticity, and become thinner. This not only can affect postmenopausal women, but also post-partum women, and women who are on estrogen-blocking medication due to cancer or for treatment of fibroids. One of the common and effective treatments for this vaginal dryness includes estrogen creams, or hormone replacement. However, what does a woman do if she is not able to use an estrogen cream, due to an estrogen receptor positive cancer? One possibility is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a substance naturally found throughout connective, epithelial, and neural tissue. You may be more familiar with hyaluronic acid as the substance injected into joints for osteoarthritis. However, there have been some recent published studies comparing the use of hyaluronic acid to estrogen replacement.

In 2011, Ekin et al. published a study comparing the use of hyaluronic acid vaginal tablets with estradiol vaginal tablets. Two groups of postmenopausal women with atrophic vaginitis were studied. One group used estradiol vaginal tablets (n=21) for 8 weeks, while the other group used hyaluronic acid tablets (n=21) for 8 weeks. Outcomes consisted of the degree of vaginal atrophy, vaginal pH, vaginal maturation index, and a self-assessed 4-point scale. Both groups had relief of vaginal symptoms, improved epithelial atrophy, decreased vaginal pH, and increased maturation of the vaginal epithelium. The group on estradiol did have greater improvements, however, it was determined that the hyaluronic acid vaginal tablets was effective enough to be considered an alternative treatment for those who wanted to avoid the use of a local estrogen treatment.

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