The eve of my daughter’s 5th birthday has me reminiscing about my first pregnancy. I had recently surrendered my ACL on a ski slope and was contemplating surgery when I got confirmation I was pregnant. A seasoned surgeon had told me if I just wanted to return to running and not ski or do cutting sports (without a brace, anyway), I would probably be fine; so, I chose to forego the surgery and was running again 7 weeks later. Being my first pregnancy, I was not sure how hormones would affect my knee stability without an ACL or if the impact was safe for me and the baby or if my doctor would approve of my exercise choice of running. After all, pending ligamentous laxity from hormonal changes made running without an ACL seem risky while pregnant; but, runners tend to be, well, stubborn, when it comes to being able to run.
Deghan et al (2014) discuss the hormone relaxin and its effect on bone, muscle, tendon, ligaments, and cartilage. Interestingly, relaxin actually plays a role in the healing and remodeling of certain tissues in the body such as muscle and bone. However, the article also emphasizes how relaxin has been shown to reduce the integrity of the ACL and put female athletes at risk for injury. Lucky for me, that hormone couldn’t have its way with my knee since the ACL was already gone!
A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine just published online October 4, 2015, encourages running and other high-impact sports before pregnancy to decrease the risk of pelvic girdle pain. The patients engaging in such exercises prior to being pregnant showed a 14% lower risk of having pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. Out of 4069 women, 12.5% of the 10.4% of women who experienced pelvic pain were non-exercisers pre-pregnancy. The women who exercised 3-5 days per week and participated in high-impact aerobic exercise prior to being pregnant had less pelvic pain while pregnant.
Tenforde et al (2015) investigated the habits of competitive runners during pregnancy as well as breastfeeding. Out of 110 female runners, 70% continued to run during their pregnancy; however, only 31% continued into their 3rd trimester. Only 3.9% of the women got injured while running pregnant. In general, the competitive runners reduced their intensity and volume and ran primarily for fitness and health. The 84.1% of the women who ran during breastfeeding reported less postpartum depression and no negative impact on breastfeeding.
Looking back at my running log, I ran 3 miles under 10-minute pace two days before going into labor, and my daughter was even 9 days late. I continued to run because I love it and, quite simply, because I could. Personally, my blood pressure, weight, and glucose levels stayed healthy throughout the pregnancy. Even without an important stabilizing ligament in my knee and some extra pounds, I never experienced joint pain while running. On the trail where I ran, I got mixed responses from people coming the other way - mostly encouragement, but also some looks of disappointment or disgust (I didn’t say it was pretty) and an occasional know-it-all “warning.” Ultimately, any woman who has been running prior to pregnancy should be able to continue some level of running through the trimesters until her own body, the obstetrician, or a hard-kicking baby gives a reason to stop.
Dehghan, F., Haerian, B. S., Muniandy, S., Yusof, A., Dragoo, J. L., & Salleh, N. (2014). The effect of relaxin on the musculoskeletal system. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(4), e220–e229. http://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12149
Owe KM, Bjelland EK, Stuge B, Orsini N, Eberhard-Gran M, Vangen S. (4 October 2015). Exercise level before pregnancy and engaging in high-impact sports reduce the risk of pelvic girdle pain: a population-based cohort study of 39,184 women. British Journal of Sports Medicine. pii: bjsports-2015-094921. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094921. [Epub ahead of print]
Tenforde AS, Toth KE, Langen E, Fredericson M, Sainani KL. (2015 Mar). Running habits of competitive runners during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Sports Health.;7(2):172-6. doi: 10.1177/1941738114549542.
After pushing a double stroller for a 3 mile run to the park yesterday, I had a flare up of hip pain that made me doubt my ability to get my kids back home. While they were playing, a hanging ladder caught my eye and sent my manual therapy wheels spinning. I carefully slipped my leg over one of the rungs, angled my body just right, and leaned away to distract my hip. I noticed a toddler staring at me, so I politely told her, “I’m just mobilizing my hip joint, sweetie, but you can go ahead and climb now!” My relief was almost immediate, and I realized my patients need to know how to help themselves, too! We all know how to prescribe home exercises for patients regarding stretching and strengthening, but once a therapist is competent performing joint mobilizations, the need for this arthokinematic movement is often found to be essential prior to the osteokinematic movement of stretching. The hip joint in particular is affected by pathologies of the lumbar spine, the sacroiliac joint, and the pelvic floor. When the hip joint is not moving around the proper physiological axis, then the knee can be negatively impacted as well as the areas just mentioned.
Therapists need to discern whether a patient is appropriate for self-hip mobilization instruction, as a “motor moron” probably would not be a good candidate to whom you would explain how to perform mobilizations at home. When you realize a patient “gets it,” then you can suggest the techniques to that patient. Reiman and Matheson (2013) presented a paper regarding suggestions for self-mobilization of the hip joint. They demonstrate an inferior-posterior hip glide with a towel, weight, and a step with or without muscle reeducation in hip flexion; an inferior and lateral glide with hip flexion movement; a hip posterior glide with or without movement; a hip lateral glide with or without muscle reeducation; a hip anterior glide with or without muscle reeducation; and, a long axis distraction mobilization. The authors conclude the efficacy of their protocol and techniques are not completely backed up by evidence yet and recommend they be implemented as an adjunct to evidence based practice, not a primary treatment approach.
Regarding the efficacy of hip mobilization in the clinic by a skilled clinician, a study by Makofsky et al, (2007) discusses the effect of inferior hip joint mobilization on hip abductor force. This study leaves little doubt that mobilizing the hip can facilitate contraction of the gluteus medius. A 17.35% increase in hip abduction torque was noted immediately after the inferior Grade IV hip mobilization; whereas, the control group without mobilization experienced a 3.68% decrease in hip abduction torque. We generally see patients much less often than our services are needed, so being able to teach patients how to mobilize on their own to supplement our work could be extremely effective in the long run.
I have the extreme fortune of being married to a manual therapist, so I do not always have to find crafty ways to mobilize my own joints, but my recent experience was encouraging to know it is more than possible to help myself. My hip pain had caused some patellofemoral symptoms because my gluteal muscles were inhibited. Performing a self-distraction close to my hip joint helped kick in the muscles required for greater stability of my knee. I cruised home with the kids without a hitch. We should all be ready to educate our patients to take potentially embarrassing measures to help themselves as well.
Reiman, M. P., & Matheson, J. W. (2013). RESTRICTED HIP MOBILITY: CLINICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR SELF‐MOBILIZATION AND MUSCLE RE‐EDUCATION. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 8(5), 729–740.
Makofsky, H., Panicker, S., Abbruzzese, J., Aridas, C., Camp, M., Drakes, J., … Sileo, R. (2007). Immediate Effect of Grade IV Inferior Hip Joint Mobilization on Hip Abductor Torque: A Pilot Study. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 15(2), 103–110.
How many of us have heard a subjective report from a patient that clearly implicates the coccyx as the problem but quickly think, “I’m sure as heck not going there!”? We cross our fingers, hoping the patient will get better anyway by treating around the issue. That is like trying to get a splinter out of a finger by massaging the hand. As nice as the treatment may feel, the tip of the finger still has a sharp, throbbing pain at the end of the day, because the splinter, the source of the pain, has not been touched directly. For most therapists, the coccyx is an overlooked (and even ignored) splinter in the buttocks.
A colleague of mine had a patient with relentless coccyx pain for 7 years and was about to lose a relationship, as well as his mind, if someone did not help him. He had therapy for his lumbar spine with “core stabilization,” and he had pain medicine, anti-inflammatory drugs, and inflatable donuts to sit upon to relieve pressure, but his underlying pain remained unchanged. Luckily for this man, his “last resort” was trained in manual therapy and assessed the need for internal coccyx mobilization to resolve his symptoms. The patient’s desperation for relief overrode any embarrassment or hesitation to receive the treatment. After a few treatments, the man’s life was changed because someone literally dug into the source of pain and skillfully remedied the dysfunction.
Marinko and Pecci (2014) presented 2 case reports of patients with coccydynia and discussed clinical decision making for the evaluation and management of the patients. The patient with a traumatic onset of pain had almost complete relief of pain and symptoms after 3 treatment sessions of manual therapy to the sacrococcygeal joint. The patient who experienced pain from too much sitting did not respond with any long term relief from the manual therapy and had to undergo surgical excision. The first patient was treated in the acute stage of injury, but the second patient had a cortisone injection initially and then the manual treatment in this study 1 year after onset of pain. Both patients experienced positive outcomes in the end, but at least 1 patient was spared the removal of her coccyx secondary to manual work performed in what some therapists consider “uncharted territory.”
A systematic literature review was published in 2013 by Howard et al. on the efficacy of conservative treatment on coccydinia. The search spanned 10 years and produced 7 articles, which clearly makes this a not-so-popular area of research. No conclusions could be made on how effective the various treatments of manual therapy, injections, or radiofrequency interventions were because of the insufficient amount of research performed on the topic.
In an evidence-based era for physical therapy intervention, sometimes we limit ourselves in our treatment approaches. What if the best interventions just have yet to be oozing with clinical trials and published outcomes? The first person to pull a splinter out of a finger did not have a peer-reviewed guide instructing one to use 2 fingers to wrap around the splinter and pull it out of the skin. Coccyx mobilization internally and externally is a legitimate treatment without a lot of notoriety. The Coccyx Pain, Evaluation, and Treatment course uses the most current evidence to expand your knowledge of anatomy and pathology and hone your palpation skills to evaluate and treat an area where you never thought you’d go.
References: Howard, P. D., Dolan, A. N., Falco, A. N., Holland, B. M., Wilkinson, C. F., & Zink, A. M. (2013). A comparison of conservative interventions and their effectiveness for coccydynia: a systematic review. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 21(4), 213–219. http://doi.org/10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000040
Marinko LN, Pecci M. (2014). Clinical decision making for the evaluation and management of coccydynia: 2 case reports. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 44(8):615-21. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.4850
Have you ever tried to make a fitted sheet reach all corners of a mattress when there is a small, defective seam stitched into the middle of the fabric? No matter how much you pull or tug, the sheet won’t hug the last corner just right. If you get it to stay, the opposite corner flips off from the extra tension. Unless you release the snag the stitching created, you won’t ever get the sheet to fit smoothly. This is like the myofascial system in the body, where a snag in one area can affect another proximally or distally when normal movement tries to occur.
Even the pelvic floor can get myofascial restrictions and trigger points; however, this area is often ignored and seemingly insignificant when not fully understood. Pelvic floor fascial restrictions and trigger points can have paramount implications for the pelvic, abdominal, hip, and lumbar regions. This why pelvic rehabilitation practitioners should be equipped to evaluate and treat myofascial snags.
Pastore and Katzman (2012) published an article stating that 14%-23% of women with chronic pelvic pain have myofascial pelvic pain, and up to 78% of women with interstitial cystitis have myofascial trigger points. Once a trigger point in pelvic floor musculature is identified through palpation, it can refer pain to the perineum, vagina, urethra, and rectum, which seems obvious; however, pain may also refer to the abdomen, back, trunk, hip, buttocks, and lower leg. If palpation can provoke a referral pattern of pain, stretching and/or contraction of the musculature with that myofascial restriction will surely provoke a cascade of symptoms. How can we as clinicians just let statistics like this slide and figure “someone else should do that examination and fix it?” To demonstrate the efficacy in treating myofascial trigger points in pelvic musculature, consider the following study. Anderson et al (2015) had 374 patients follow a protocol of pelvic floor myofascial release of trigger points with an internal trigger point wand along with paradoxical relaxation therapy for 6 months. The goal was to see if patients with chronic pelvic pain syndrome could reduce their medication after following the protocol. At 6 months, a 36.9% reduction in medication use was noted in a complete case analysis, and a 22.7% reduction was revealed in the modified intention to treat (mITT) analysis. Patients no longer needing to take medication significantly correlated with the reduction of overall symptoms from following the protocol.
Knowing how to find and treat pelvic floor myofascial trigger points can lead to reduction of pain in women (and men) and even help reduce the need for medication for their chronic pelvic pain symptoms. Stop trying to make a bed without discerning if the base layer is free of snags. Learning how to go deeper to feel what’s under the covers can help unveil a source of potentially chronic, disabling pain. You can learn how to skillfully treat the “hidden” dysfunction by attending a Myofascial Release for Pelvic Dysfunction course with Ramona Horton.
Pastore, E. A., & Katzman, W. B. (2012). Recognizing Myofascial Pelvic Pain in the Female Patient with Chronic Pelvic Pain. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing : JOGNN / NAACOG, 41(5), 680–691. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1552-6909.2012.01404.x
Anderson , R., Harvey, R., Wise, D., Smith, J., Nathanson, B., Sawyer, T. (2015 March). Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome: Reduction of Medication Use After Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy with an Internal Myofascial Trigger Point Wand. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 45-52
Within 1 week, I examined 2 women with the diagnosis of lumbar pain who each happened to mention having a hip labral tear. Of course, neither woman volunteered information about the pelvic floor dysfunction she has lived with since having children. When I took the extra step and openly asked if they had any “issues” in the pelvic floor region, both women initially looked surprised and then relieved as they shared (perhaps for the first time) the problems they’ve had. I started to wonder about the contribution of pelvic floor dysfunction to acetabular labral tears, or vice versa, and I knew each problem had to be addressed for the referring diagnoses to be treated completely and effectively.
Considering the anatomy of the acetabular labrum in relation to the pelvic floor structures, there is undeniably a connection. A thorough review of pelvic anatomy is given in the Functional Applications in Pelvic Rehabilitation course by Kathe Wallace. Just briefly, the acetabulum is the depression in the pelvis (os coxae) where the femoral head articulates. The labrum sits in the acetabulum, which faces anteriorly along with the femoral head, requiring the anterior aspect of the labrum to stabilize this portion of the hip that lacks bony contact. The obturator internus muscle, which is a deep hip external rotator and abductor, attaches to the posterior aspect of the obturator foramen and inserts on the medial surface of the greater trochanter. When this muscle is in spasm or inhibited, the pelvic floor and the hip can suffer.
In 2009, Groh and Herrera published a review of hip labral tears, and the general consensus was that labral tears “occur more frequently in women than in men.” The fact that women have more hip dysplasia than men has been suggested as a cause for this finding; however, many of the women with labral tears do not have concomitant hip dysplasia. Alas, Hunt et al (2007) pointed out that women have a generally higher incidence of pelvic-floor pain, which could contribute to the higher incidence of labral tears.
Interestingly, in a study by Brooks and Domb (2012), 10 women over 2 years presented post-partum with anterior hip pain and required labral surgery. The excessive hip external rotation needed for natural delivery was implicated in the pathology, and the authors encouraged obstetricians to have women evaluated prior to delivery and mobilized properly so they could prevent the tears. Hormonal changes in the ligaments as well as the posture assumed by pregnant women with increased lordosis placing more shearing on the anterior aspect of the hip are also factors to consider. Not to mention, the pelvic floor connection to the acetabular labrum certainly seems a reasonable culprit for making the labrum more susceptible to injury during pregnancy and/or delivery.
With the improved technology to diagnose acetabular labral tears, more are being found and treated surgically. The higher incidence of labral pathology in women makes the contribution of pelvic floor dysfunction a serious possibility to consider. If the labrum gets fixed but the pelvic floor is still an issue, becoming completely asymptomatic is less likely. Seeing 2 patients in 1 week who each presented with low back pain, labral tear, and pelvic floor dysfunction when I only work part time makes me think we cannot deny the importance of our subjective examination in uncovering all the possible causes of any suspected tissue in lesion.
Herman & Wallace faculty member Ginger Garner teaches an excellent course called "Extra-Articular Pelvic and Hip Labrum Injury: Differential Diagnosis and Integrative Management" which explores acetabular labral tears in depth. Join Ginger next May in Rochester, NY to learn some great evaluation and treatment techniques!
Groh, M. M., & Herrera, J. (2009). A comprehensive review of hip labral tears.Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 2(2), 105–117. doi:10.1007/s12178-009-9052-9.
Hunt D, Clohisy J, Prather H. (2007). Acetabular tears of the hip in women. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am.,18(3):497–520.
Brooks AG, Domb BG. (2012). Acetabular labral tear and postpartum hip pain. Obstet Gynecol. 120(5):1093-8.
You’ve done a thorough evaluation of the lumbar spine. You’ve done all the special tests for hip pathology, but something is missing. Of course it could be a pelvic floor issue, but what else? Think about the middle child who gets ignored even if making a commotion or goes unnoticed unless being tripped over when standing still. Perhaps the missing link to your patient’s dysfunction is the sacroiliac joint, that “in between” area. If you are unsure how to assess and deal with the “middle child,” learning more about Sacroiliac Joint and Evaluation is something to add to your professional bucket list.
According to the special tests book by Chad Cook, a pain mapping test suggests a referral pattern of SI dysfunction as pain in the buttock unilaterally, below the level of L5, without symptoms in the midline. Often we are on a mission to make the lumbar spine the source of symptoms, but this provides some guideline as to where the pain would be located if the SI joint were the guilty party. If pain is found above L5, the SI joint is likely not the primary tissue in lesion. If the pain is bilateral, the issue is more than just SI joint.(Cook, 2013)
The special tests to diagnose SI joint dysfunction have been considered in a cluster. According to Laslett, distraction, compression, thigh thrust, Gaenslens, and Patricks are the primary tests used to assess SI dysfunction. Three or more of these tests being positive can help a clinician rule in SI joint as a diagnosis, with SI joint blocks being just as predictive. When pain cannot be centralized, and three of the tests are positive, there is a 77% probability the SI joint is the source of pain; and, in the pregnant population, there is an 89% chance the SI joint is the culprit of pain.(Laslett, 2008)
While parents keep up with the oldest and youngest, the middle child can be hard at work causing dysfunction that disrupts the whole family. Likewise, the sacroiliac joint can be hypermobile, hypomobile or have ligamentous strain, yet we therapists may ignore any signs until the lumbar spine or hip or pelvic floor are suddenly provocative. The longer an SI joint dysfunction goes undiagnosed and untreated, the greater the likelihood of pelvic floor dysfunction, secondary to its intimate relationship to the area. A catawampus ilium position on the sacrum can cause hip pain, and the ilium’s relationship to the sacrum can aggravate the lumbar spine. We just need to use all our diagnostic tools to discern what is making our patients symptomatic and then prioritize the treatment.
Taking the upcoming sacroiliac course through Herman Wallace (Sep. 12-13 in New Orleans) will make the “middle child” become respected, understood, and never left wanting again. Review the anatomy, explore and proficiently perform the special tests, and effectively implement treatment and stabilization of the SI joint during this course. You owe your patients the ability to understand the lumbar region and pelvic ring in their entirety and leave no source of pain a mystery.
Cook, C., & Hegedus, E. (2013). Orthopedic physical examination tests: An evidence-based approach. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: PearsonPrentice Hall.
Laslett, M. (2008). Evidence-Based Diagnosis and Treatment of the Painful Sacroiliac Joint. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 16(3), 142–152.
Over the past 28 years, my pelvic floor has endured at least 20,000 miles of running, including racing on the collegiate level and then completing 10 marathons. Add to the high-impact sport two 8.1 pound natural childbirth deliveries 26 months apart, and you can imagine why I accepted the invitation to blog for this well-respected institute. One of my elderly patients once told me my uterus was going to drop out from so much running (which, thankfully, has NOT happened); however, I have to admit, urinary stress incontinence and frequent urination were unwelcome enough consequences! On the positive side, it all initiated my journey to understanding the pelvic floor.
In 2014, Poswiata et al used the Urogenital Distress Inventory (UDI-6) to assess how prevalent stress urinary incontinence may be among elite female skiers and runners. Of the 112 female athletes in the study, 50% reported leaking a small amount of urine. Coughing and sneezing provoked leakage for 45.54% of those women, indicating stress incontinence, and 58.04% of the women in the study reported frequent urination. Are those acceptable statistics? I would have to say no.
Research results can be comforting so athletes can be told they are not alone regarding a quite personal aspect of their lives. When I could supposedly empty my bladder, stand to wash my hands and have to go again, walk down the hall to put on my sneakers and go once again before heading out the door for a run, it was nice to know someone else was probably experiencing the same issue that morning. Just because it is common, though, does not make it “normal.” We are not meant to leak just because we stress our bodies beyond normal ADLs.
A very recent study by Luginbuehl et al (2015 July 21), just published online, attempted to explore the electromyography (EMG) activity of pelvic floor muscles with variable running speeds (7, 9, and 11km/h) over 10 steps. The highest pelvic floor muscle activity was recorded at 11km/h, which would sensibly suggest the muscles produce a greater contraction the faster someone runs. If a runner has developed a decreased ability to activate the pelvic floor muscles, stress urinary incontinence will likely become a highly irritating problem with fast running speeds over time. But how do they know, and where do they go?
Without health practitioners trained in rehabilitation of pelvic floor dysfunctions, consider how chronic an issue urinary stress incontinence would be for a large athletic population. So many women (and men) do not even recognize their leakage or frequent urination as treatable “issues” and never mention them to anyone. Often times, we are treating an athlete for a hip or lumbar injury and purposefully yet discretely have to ask the right questions and then educate the patient how some of their symptoms are secondary to pelvic floor deficits. Someone has to explain what is normal, and, better yet, someone HAS to make an effort to fix what is “broken” and restore the pelvic floor to a higher level of function. With the proper training, perhaps that someone can be you.
1. Poświata, A., Socha, T., & Opara, J. (2014). Prevalence of Stress Urinary Incontinence in Elite Female Endurance Athletes. Journal of Human Kinetics,44, 91–96. doi:10.2478/hukin-2014-0114.
2. Helena Luginbuehl, Rebecca Naeff, Anna Zahnd, Jean-Pierre Baeyens, Annette Kuhn, Lorenz Radlinger (2015 July 21). Pelvic floor muscle electromyography during different running speeds: an exploratory and reliability study. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. doi: 10.1007/s00404-015-3816-9.