Kristina Koch, PT, DPT, is a board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health physical therapy and a certified lymphedema therapist. Kristina has been treating pelvic health conditions in individuals of all ages and genders since 2001 and works in private practice in Colorado Springs, CO. She has served as a guest lecturer for the pelvic health curriculum at Regis University in Denver and for the 3rd year medical students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs campus. She is the creator of Pharmacologic Considerations for the Pelvic Health Provider.
Although it is not within the scope of practice for rehab therapists to manage medications, it’s important that we review patient medications during the initial evaluation and on an ongoing basis. Therapists have a duty to assess medications impact on treatment and patient outcomes and to ensure patient safety. The population is aging and many patients over the age of 65 are on more than 5 medications, increasing the risk of medication side effects, adverse drug reactions, and drug interactions.
Primary care providers spend approximately 14-17 minutes with a patient during a visit, and the patient gets about 5 minutes to discuss their concerns, leaving little time for medication reconciliation or discussion regarding medication side effects (Tai-Seale, McGuire & Zhang, 2007). As therapists, we tend to see our patients for longer periods of time and more frequently, giving the patient more of an opportunity to discuss their signs and symptoms. Additionally, patients referred for pelvic health issues are often seeing multiple specialty providers (Ob/Gyn, urology, urogynecology, pain management, etc.) for their care, and each one is typically prescribing medications, potentially leading to polypharmacy. Understanding a medication’s actions, its impact on therapy, the side effects, and potential adverse drug reactions, can help guide treatment and improve patient outcomes.
A recent patient example is a post-menopausal cisgender female, referred by her primary care physician, for urinary urgency and nocturia. Her past medical history was significant for breast cancer. Her medications included an aromatase inhibitor, antihistamine due to seasonal allergies, and Vitamin C. After reviewing her medications and history, I recommended a non-hormonal vaginal lubricant and within 2 weeks her symptoms were 80% improved. Understanding the side effects of her medications allowed me to educate the patient about the effects of her medication and how to manage her symptoms.
More and more patients are attending therapy through direct access. As the first point of contact for patients, it's imperative that rehab professionals have a foundational knowledge of the medications often prescribed to treat pelvic floor conditions, GI, GU, and reproductive health issues. The ability to have educated conversations with our patients and other healthcare providers involved in their care can greatly improve the quality of care and outcomes, and maintain patient safety. The ability to discuss medications, vitamins, and supplements or complementary alternatives, that can minimize side effects, have fewer impacts on quality of life, and enhance function is an integral part of comprehensive patient care.
Join Kristina on Saturday, January 7, 2023, for Pharmacologic Considerations for the Pelvic Health Provider. This one-day, remote course will discuss the importance of understanding pharmacology and medication review, the current research regarding the pharmacologic treatment of numerous pelvic and reproductive health conditions and their side effects, drug interactions, and non-pharmacologic alternatives that are available for pelvic and reproductive health. Registration information and additional details are available at www.hermanwallace.com. #hermanwallacepelvicrehab, @hermanwallacepelvicrehab
Ciccone, C. D. (2007). Pharmacology in Rehabilitation. (4th ed.). F.A. Davis Company.
Tai-Seale, M., McGuire, T.G., & Zhang, W. (2007). Time allocation in primary care office visits. Health Services Research. 42(5), 1871-1894. Doi: 10.1111/j.175-6773.2006.00689.x
Janes, M., & Kornetti, D. (2017). Medications: defining the role and responsibility of physical therapy practice. https://www.fsbpt.org/Portals/0/documents/free-resources/WinterForum2017Medications.pdf?ver=pf8bn4ZwoorAAg1PECZLfw%3D%3D
January 7, 2023
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 7.5
Description: This seven-and-a-half hour, one-day remote learning course will discuss medications used for the treatment of pelvic floor and genitourinary conditions as well as common side effects of medications routinely used for pelvic floor dysfunction. This course will be taught by Kristina Koch, PT, DPT via Zoom. Medications for constipation and GI dysfunction, as well as pelvic pain conditions such as Vulvodynia, Chronic Prostatitis, and Endometriosis, will be covered. The course will also cover medications and side effects in Gender-Affirming Care for patients who are transitioning.
Ziya Altug, PT, DPT, MS, OCS is a board-certified doctor of physical therapy with 32 years of clinical experience treating musculoskeletal injuries. Z currently provides outpatient physical therapy in the home setting in Los Angeles, California, and serves as a continuing education instructor. He received his Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, a Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Studies in 1985, a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1983 from West Virginia University, and a Doctor of Physical Therapy from the College of St. Scholastica in 2015. Z is a long-standing member of the American Physical Therapy Association and a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He has attended workshops in yoga, tai chi, qigong, Pilates, Feldenkrais Method, and the Alexander Technique.
Dr. Altug is the author of the books Integrative Healing: Developing Wellness in the Mind and Body (2018), The Anti-Aging Fitness Prescription (2006), and Manual of Clinical Exercise Testing, Prescription, and Rehabilitation (1993). In 2020, he published the chapter Exercise, Dance, Tai Chi, Pilates, and Alexander Technique in The Handbook of Wellness Medicine. In 2021, he published the article Lifestyle Medicine for Chronic Lower Back Pain: An Evidence-Based Approach in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Z joins the H&W faculty and is presenting his personally curated course Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox for Rehab and Pain Management. This week he sat down with The Pelvic Rehab Report to discuss his course.
What made you want to create this course?
My father was a physician specializing in internal medicine. He specialized in treating conditions such as tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma. Starting in elementary school, I remember discussing with my Dad the importance of nutrition, sleep, stress control, and sustainable activity in healing. Of course, as a ten-year-old, I played with his stethoscope and reflex hammer for hours! My father used “lifestyle medicine” principles to help his patients recover. My Mom introduced me to the benefits of aromatherapy for relaxation. She used to wash our clothes with lavender-scented soaps, and there was lavender-scented potpourri throughout our house. My mother used to say the lavender was to “keep the wolves away so the sheep can sleep.” She also taught me how to prepare and cook healthful meals in high school. Now, I have a fascination with culinary medicine. I am very grateful for all of these childhood experiences.
Before entering PT school, I majored in physical education and exercise science. After I graduated from PT school, I wanted to use my interest in wellness, health, fitness, and self-care strategies to help patients heal and recover. Recently, I have followed the American College of Lifestyle Medicine research and webinars to gain additional knowledge. Currently, I treat patients in their homes and teach continuing education courses in integrative and lifestyle medicine.
What need does your course fill in the field of pelvic rehabilitation?
This course provides practical tools to help clinicians manage pain. For example, my course will cover research, resources, and labs to create clinically relevant pain, anxiety, depression, and stress management strategies using lifestyle medicine, integrative medicine, and expressive and art-based therapies. Participants will be able to practice Tai Chi/Qigong, expressive and art-based therapies including Music, Dance, and Drama Therapy, nature and aromatic therapies, self-hypnosis, and self-massage. All of these strategies may be helpful for clinicians specializing in pelvic rehabilitation.
Who, what demographic, would benefit from your course?
Rehabilitation providers of any experience level would benefit from taking this course.
What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
I currently focus on orthopedics and geriatrics. I especially enjoy working with older patients in their homes and designing creative home exercise programs they can use to stay healthy.
What do you find is the most useful resource for your practice?
I enjoy using resources from the following organizations:
What books or articles have impacted you as a clinician?
I enjoyed reading the following three books to expand my knowledge of lifestyle medicine and integrative medicine:
What is your message to course participants who are just starting their journey?
I recommend all clinicians collaborate with professionals outside their own profession. For example, I recommend physical therapists work with the following:
Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox for Rehab and Pain Management
January 21, 2023
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 4.5
Description: This course was written and developed by Ziya “Z” Altug, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, a board-certified doctor of physical therapy with 32 years of experience in treating musculoskeletal conditions, Brief lectures on the research and resources and labs will cover a toolbox approach for creating clinically relevant pain, anxiety, depression, and stress management strategies using lifestyle medicine, integrative medicine, expressive and art-based therapies, and the impact of nature on health. Participants will be able to practice Tai Chi/Qigong, expressive and art-based therapies including Music, Dance, and Drama Therapy, nature and aromatic therapies, self-hypnosis, and self-massage.
Janet Drake Whalen, PT, DPT sat down with The Pelvic Rehab Report this week to discuss herself and how she came to TA for Herman & Wallace. Janet is scheduled to TA next at the Doylestown PA for Pelvic Floor Level 1 scheduled January 7-8 2023.
Hi Janet, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your clinical practice?
I am a physical therapist with 36 years of experience who has spent 34 years of my career in women’s health physical therapy. Over my career, I have been an advocate and continue to promote abdominal and pelvic health for all. My career led me to become a Lamaze-educated childbirth educator, certified neuroscience practitioner, women’s health coach, and professional yoga therapist. My clinical practice now is in a hospital setting where I am educating outpatient therapy staff, healthcare providers, and physicians on pelvic health. I am heading the start of a 4th-trimester program and a sexual health program.
What has your educational journey as a pelvic rehab therapist looked like, and how did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?
My educational journey started after an unplanned cesarean birth of my first son 34 years ago. In 1988 resources for women after delivery was scarce. I started looking into education and found a course taught by a nurse, Jo Laycock, from England. I attended her course sitting with nurses to learn about incontinence. My first women's health physical therapy courses were through the OB/GYN section of the APTA taught by Elizabeth Noble, Holly Herman, Kathy Wallace, Jill Boissonnault, and Marla Bookout. When Holly Herman and Kathy Wallace started their own education company, I started to attend courses through Herman & Wallace. After my vaginal birth after the Cesarean of my second son in 1990, I studied and earned my Lamaze International Childbirth Educator certification. I taught Lamaze for 9 years and continue with my certification. I started as a teaching assistant with Herman & Wallace approximately 15 years ago.
What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
This is a difficult question for me, although I would have to say that pregnancy and postpartum was my initial passion. Sexual health and whole-body wellness have been my passion for the past 12 years. I enjoy the interdisciplinary approach to sexual dysfunctions and continuing to learn more every year from patients and fellow clinicians.
If you could get a message out to physical therapists about pelvic rehab what would it be?
Every patient has a pelvis with organs and muscles. If you are treating spine and hip patients, you are affecting the pelvic floor muscles and the pelvic floor muscles are affecting your patients’ symptoms. External treatment can be as effective as internal treatment - so take a pelvic health course, you and your patients will benefit!
What lesson have you learned in a course, from an instructor, or from a colleague or mentor that has stayed with you?
I've had so many amazing instructors and colleagues over the years. From my therapeutic pain specialty certification to Louis Gifford’s work on what patients really what to know: 4 questions...
Also, listen to your patient's story. Meet your patients where they are and ask them open-ended questions.
What do you find is the most useful resource for your practice?
Besides a hi-low table, my ears and my heart.
What is in store for you in the future as a clinician?
To educate as many clinicians and therapists as possible to be ready to hand over the baton in five to seven years. A successful 4th-trimester program and sexual health program at the hospital I am currently employed.
What books or articles have impacted you as a clinician?
This is another tough question for me I have a library of books. But I will say that a textbook that I always have on hand is Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers. Research articles that provide a consensus of terminology and classifications with algorithms that are great to discuss with other clinicians.
What has been your favorite Herman & Wallace Course and why?
Pelvic Floor 3 (now Pelvic Floor Capstone) with Holly Herman piqued my interest in sexual health. Since that time all the visceral and myofascial courses with Ramona Horton have shaped and deepened my practice.
What lesson have you learned from a Herman & Wallace instructor that has stayed with you?
One lesson that has stayed from Nari Clemens is how important it is to take care of yourself. Another from Ramona Horton regarding hands-on treatment is that you are having a conversation with the brain/nervous system.
What do you love about assisting at courses?
What I love about assisting at courses is meeting all the physical therapists from different stages of their careers with an interest in pelvic health. Their energy excites me and reminds me how wonderful our profession is.
What is your message to course participants who are just starting their journey?
If you're just starting your journey, hold on! There is a lot to learn, to practice, to share, and to educate others. You are going to influence so many people’s lives.
Tara Sullivan, PT, DPT, PRPC, WCS, IF sat down with Holly Tanner and The Pelvic Rehab Report to discuss her course, Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab. Tara started in the healthcare field as a massage therapist, practicing for over ten years including three years of teaching massage and anatomy, and physiology. Tara has specialized exclusively in Pelvic Floor Dysfunction treating bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunctions, and pelvic pain since 2012.
Hi Tara, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?
Sure! So I’m Tara. I’ve been a pelvic health rehab therapist for about 10 years now. I started right out of PT school and I got a job at a local hospital where they were looking to grow and build the pelvic rehab program. So of course, I found Herman & Wallace and started taking all of the classes there that I could and just kept learning over the years. Now the program is expanded across the valley, we have nine different locations, and it’s been very successful and fulfilling. It’s my passion.
Recently, I would say the past four to five years of my career, I’ve started getting more into sexual dysfunctions. I was always into pelvic floor dysfunction in general - bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pelvic pain, but I didn’t get specifically into the sexual medicine side of it until recently. I did the fellowship with ISSWSH that really pulled all of that information together with what I’ve learned through the years.
Can you explain what ISSWSH is and how that combined with the knowledge base that you already had?
I feel like ISSWSH for me, where I came full circle. I finally was like “I get it.” ISSWSH is the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and it’s all the gurus like Dr. Goldstein, Rachel Rubin, and Susan Kellogg that have been around forever doing the research on sexual medicine. I started attending their conferences, became a faculty member, and presented at their annual fall meeting here in Scottsdale. Then I ended up doing their fellowship. Every year I would attend the conference, but it took a couple of years for all of that knowledge to soak in and for me to be able to really apply it. For example, that patient with that sticky discharge, maybe that is lichen planus – that’s the kind of medical side that you don’t necessarily learn in physical therapy school.
That for me just really helped my differential diagnosis which means that you can get the patient’s care faster. Get them to that resolution faster because you are working with a team of people and we all have our roles. As PTs and rehab practitioners, we have the time to sit with our patients. We are so blessed to have an hour, and the medical doctors don’t, for us to really take that time to figure out the patient’s history and what they’ve been through, and what could be the cause of it. We have the time to be the detective and help them get the care they need. Whether it’s with us, or in conjunction with something else. My goal is to never tell someone that I can’t help them because it’s not muscular.
How has this knowledge helped you in your collaboration with other practitioners in your practice?
I feel like this knowledge was the missing link for me. It brings it all together for the patient. So the patients come here and the urologist says “that’s not my area,” and then the gynecologist says “that’s not my area.” Then they come to you and you’re like “it’s kind of my area, but I can’t prescribe the medication that you need.”
My practice got so much better, just in the sense of the overall quality of care, when I was able to develop those relationships with the doctors. I could pick up the phone and say “Hey, that patient that you sent me – I think they have vestibulodynia, and I think it’s from their long-term use of oral contraceptive pills. I think that they might benefit from some local estrogen testosterone cream.” They would say, I don’t know about that, and I’d respond “let me send you some articles. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.”
Now I can just pick up the phone or send them a text asking them to prescribe so and so. It really helped bridge that gap. The doctors now will say “Ok. I know something’s going on, but I don’t know if it’s muscular or tissue. I don’t have that training, what do you think?” So it’s just been such a collaboration, it’s been so great. Then I’ll go the reverse of that and watch them do a surgery, watch them do a procedure.
For our patients, we need to take that time and work with the physicians and develop that relationship with them, because it’s easy to pass it off as “that’s not my job.” Especially the vestibule! The gynecologist goes right through it and looks into the vaginal canal and then the urologist is like I’m going to look at the urethra but I’m not looking around it, let me just stick that scope in. This knowledge and ability to use differential diagnosis, for me just brings it all together.
Does your course have an online, pre-recorded portion as well as a live component?
Yes. There are about nine lab videos on manual techniques because everyone wants to know what to do. For me, it’s more about what you know. What can you identify and differentiate with the differential diagnosis. Then we have about two hours of just the basic lectures on general pain and overactivity of the pelvic floor so that we can spend our time in the live lecture getting into the very specific conditions that we as PTs are, not necessarily diagnosing, but recognizing and sending for further care. That’s really where I wanted this class to fill the gap between the urologist, the gynecologist, and the PT.
Is your course primarily vulvo-vaginal conditions or are there some penile, scrotal, or other conditions?
It is both male and female dysfunctions, and I have a few transgender cases. I don’t personally treat the transgender population very often so I only have a couple of examples of that. I have a lot of examples where I’m trying to get practitioners to recognize the problem by what the patient is saying and their history, and how to funnel this into their differential diagnosis. Case studies include different types of vestibulodynia and causes, all the different skin conditions…and it’s not necessarily something that they didn’t learn in one of the Pelvic Floor Series courses, but I wanted one class where they could just talk about all the sexual dysfunctions and get into some of the ones that we don’t see as often but are present.
We also talk about PGAD (persistent genital arousal disorder), and with male dysfunctions, we talk about spontaneous ejaculation and urethral discharge, post finasteride syndrome. All of these things that you might not see every day, but when you see them you’ll recognize them so that you can help patients talk to the doctor and get the proper care. There are a lot of random, not as obvious, conditions that are not as prevalent. Then there are the common conditions that we see every single day like lichens.
What is the biggest takeaway that practitioners have who come into your class?
It is really being able to access and effectively use differential diagnosis. A lot of practitioners in the course are like “I always wondered what that was.” I have a ton of pictures that I share, and I’m like, I know have seen this before. I think a lot of it is the differential diagnosis. The feedback that I get from every class is “I feel like I can go to the clinic on Monday and apply what I learned.” “I’m going to go buy a q-tip and start doing a q-tip test because now I know what to do with that information.” They feel that confidence of really being able to apply it, talk to the patient, talk to the doctors, and figure out that meaningfulness.
Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 15
Description: This two-day course provides a thorough introduction to pelvic floor sexual function, dysfunction, and treatment interventions, as well as an evidence-based perspective on the value of physical therapy interventions for patients with chronic pelvic pain related to sexual conditions, disorders, and multiple approaches for the treatment of sexual dysfunction including understanding medical diagnosis and management.
Lecture topics include hymen myths, squirting, G-spot, prostate gland, sexual response cycles, hormone influence on sexual function; the anatomy and physiology of pelvic floor muscles in sexual arousal, orgasm, and function, and specific dysfunction treated by physical therapy in detail. Including vaginismus, dyspareunia, erectile dysfunction, hard flaccid, prostatitis, and post-prostatectomy, as well as recognizing medical conditions such as persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), and dermatological conditions such as lichen sclerosis and lichen planus. Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to confidently treat sexual dysfunction related to the pelvic floor as well as refer to medical providers as needed and instruct patients in the proper application of self-treatment and diet/lifestyle modifications.
A weekly blog published every Friday with news, insights, and updates relating to the field of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Erica Vitek, MOT, OTR, BCB-PMD, PRPC has attended extensive post-graduate rehabilitation education in the area of Parkinson disease and exercise. She is certified in LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) BIG and is a trained PWR! (Parkinson Wellness Recovery) provider, both focusing on intensive, amplitude, and neuroplasticity-based exercise programs for people with Parkinson disease. You can learn more about this topic in Erica's remote course, Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation.
Does the person with Parkinson disease sense where to contract their pelvic floor and the level of contraction they need to overcome the strength of the urge they experience? The sensorimotor deficit that we can visually observe as degradation in movement amplitude in the limb motor system, for example shuffling steps and micrographia, is also suspect in the pelvic floor. Also, consider the lengthening of the pelvic floor that must occur for emptying the bowels. Adequate descent amplitude of the pelvic floor and proper coordination with the abdomen to do so may also not be sensed. Further, strengthening of the pelvic floor is an effective technique for improved sexual health functioning, but may also be challenged by impaired sensorimotor feedback. Treatment of this sensorimotor mismatch in the pelvic floor in a person with Parkinson disease requires specialized expertise and feedback from an OT or PT who treats pelvic floor dysfunction and understands how the neurodegeneration affects their abilities.
When most people think about people with Parkinson disease, they think about stooped posture, shuffling gait, slow and rigid movement, balance difficulties, and tremoring. Often these motor symptoms are the main target of pharmacological treatments with neurologists and many experience positive functional gains. Non-motor symptoms, however, can be more disabling than motor symptoms and have significant adverse effects on the quality of life in people with Parkinson disease.
The pharmacologic management of non-motor autonomic dysfunction, including urinary, bowel, and sexual health impairments, is often ineffective, not supported by adequate research, or causes intolerable side effects for people with Parkinson disease. In a recent article titled “Update on Treatments for Nonmotor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease – An Evidence-Based Medicine Review.” Seppi, K, et al., 2019, the authors state this about the use of a pharmacological treatment approach - “Before attempting any treatment for lower urinary tract symptoms, urinary tract infections, prostate disease in men, and pelvic floor disease in women should be ruled out.” It is rare to see a mention of the pelvic floor within the literature that addresses helping people with Parkinson disease.
Pelvic rehabilitation specialists have a unique opportunity to step in and help these individuals improve their quality of life and many neurologists are unaware of the benefits our services could provide for their patients. Please join me in an exciting dive into understanding the physiology of how Parkinson disease affects a person’s pelvic health and develop your skills to effectively assess and develop treatment plans to change the life of these individuals.
Here is a sneak peek acronym into some of the teaching strategies discussed in Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation!
Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation
January 27-28, 2023
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 10
Description: This course introduces basic neuroanatomy with a detailed overview of pelvic neurophysiology in preparation for an extensive in-depth look at pelvic health treatment options for Parkinson disease. Pelvic floor external and internal neuro-musculoskeletal assessment considerations will be instructed with the understanding that participants have prior experience in pelvic health coursework or pelvic health patient treatment experience.
Preparatory lectures about Parkinson disease will help develop a clear understanding of the neurophysiology of the disease to establish an equal foundation between experienced practitioners and those who have never worked with this patient demographic. Live course lectures deep-dive into characteristic pelvic health conditions that people with Parkinson's disease may face, discuss multiple assessment and treatment planning options, and will also discuss applications for TENS in the neurologic population.
Faculty member, and Sr. TA, Mora Pluchino, PT, DPT, PRPC is a graduate of Stockton University with a BS in Biology (2007) and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (2009). Mora authored and instructs Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals and Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens.
With the end of 2022 approaching, now is the perfect time to take a pelvic health-focused ethics class. For many states, licensed professionals have to fulfill an ethics continuing education requirement, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health, and many other healthcare providers.
I started writing this series a year ago. I struggled to find a class to meet my biannual ethics requirement for New Jersey that was related to my practice in pelvic health. I soon realized that as a pelvic health provider and educator, the most popular questions that come up for practitioners, secondary only to specific treatment interventions, are ethical in nature.
Providers want to know that they are providing services that are legal and ethical. Even if you have never considered yourself as being overly concerned with the topic of ethics, you have probably had these thoughts. That was certainly the case for me! The further I fell down the rabbit hole of ethics, the more I realized it affects our day-to-day clinical life minute by minute. Ethics is the study of right versus wrong and how we make those personal qualifying decisions. So this covers everything from cleaning procedures, scheduling, patient care, and more!
Practitioners want to know that they will not be open to any legal action for the care and services provided. This usually requires more awareness and knowledge than just purchasing an annual liability insurance policy. Each provider and clinical environment has their own ethos, policies, and procedures, but there are also larger existing rules and laws to help guide providers to provide the best possible care.
In Ethical Concerns for the Pelvic Health Professional, we discuss the basics of doing no harm to our patients, obtaining informed consent, and decision-making based on different ethical models. The goal here is to send you to work immediately following this class feeling more confident in ethical labeling and decision-making. This class is a more global and essential look at the concept of ethics as applied to pelvic health.
The sole purpose of Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens is to explore the ethical challenges pelvic health practitioners may experience from a health law perspective. This course is for any pelvic health professional looking to build skills for ethical evaluation, problem-solving, and derivation of solutions with a specific focus on legalities and related concepts.
This series of ethics-related classes is meant to build your clinical character and problem-solving abilities in what feels like "sticky" situations and help to guide you to clinical and business decisions that make you feel comfortable at the end of a work day.
To sweeten up this class series, each offering has an expert join the discussion on certain topics and case studies, to offer additional perspectives and points of view to the discussion.
I am looking forward to having an open discussion about the ethical and legal considerations for our profession at the next offered class on December 10th, 2022!
Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 6
Description: This one-day remote course covers ethical considerations from a legal lens for professionals working in the area of Pelvic Health. In general, Health Care Professionals have many day-to-day ethical considerations to “do no harm.” This includes basic decisions for billing, patient care, safety, and compliance. Pelvic Rehabilitation comes with additional layers of vulnerability and ethical challenges, and the legalities of pelvic health can add further complications for patient care, business, and clinical practice decisions.
The purpose of this class is to explore the ethical challenges Pelvic Health Practitioners may experience from a health law perspective. This course is for any Pelvic Health Professional looking to build skills for ethical evaluation, problem-solving, and derivation of solutions with a specific focus on the legalities and related concepts. Prior to the live aspect of this course, participants will be asked to review the ethical framework and definitions via pre-recorded lecture and take Core Values Self Assessment. Live instruction will review applicable health laws and legal terms that converge with the pelvic health world. This will be followed by case study discussion in small groups, followed by a large group discussion with input from the instructor and a legal expert/ educator. The remainder of this course is meant to be a guided discussion through the legal and ethical struggles of the pelvic health practitioner.
Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals - Remote Course
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 6
Description: This course is for any Pelvic Health Professional looking to build skills for ethical evaluation, problem-solving, and derivation of solutions, and explores the ethical challenges practitioners may experience including consent, managing trauma and abuse, and preventing misconduct. Prior to the live aspect of this course, participants will be asked to review the ethical framework and definitions via pre-recorded lecture and take Core Values Self Assessment. Live instruction will review the ways in which patients and practitioners can be vulnerable in the pelvic health treatment setting and how to address this. This will be followed by case study discussion in small groups, followed by large group discussion with input from the instructor and an ethics expert/ educator. The remainder of this course is meant to be a guided discussion through the ethical struggles of the pelvic health practitioner
Aparna Rajagopal, PT, Mhs, PRPC, and Leeann Taptich, PT, DPT are the authors and instructors of the Breathing and the Diaphragm remote course. Aparna and Leeann bring a wealth of experience to this course.
Aparna: About 10-plus years ago I had a patient who had a large para esophageal hernia which had been surgically repaired. She had been referred to therapy because of general debility and weakness and she couldn't do endurance-based things like gardening or walking for long periods of time. She was in her mid-sixties. She had seen 2 or 3 therapists and they couldn’t figure things out. She had the same complaint that she couldn’t breathe and every time she said she couldn’t breathe the therapist would obviously refer her back to the doctor who would run cardiac tests, and all kinds of other tests and say she was cleared from a medical standpoint and then send her back to therapy. So in this process, the patient came to me and one of the first things she said was that she had difficulty taking in a breath of air -that she felt like she couldn’t expand - not that she couldn’t breathe.
Based on that complaint, I started my assessment. I started looking at the thoracic spine and found that she actually couldn’t expand from the rib cage at all because of her surgery to fix her large para esophageal hernia. One of the things we know about para esophageal hernias is also that it can be associated with increased intraabdominal pressure - related to things like chronic severe constipation, chronic cough, etc. She got better. She healed, and I realized that this was something that patients needed. In the process of treating her, my interest in breathing and the diaphragm developed.
Leeann: I started at Henry Ford Health Systems, where Aparna and I currently work together, about 7 years ago. Around that time, Aparna did a one-hour lecture on dysfunctional breathing and breathing to help us understand the mechanics of the pelvic floor and the abdominals, and the diaphragm. I’ve always looked for my missing link in my treatment, specifically in my lumbar/low back pain patients. The lecture was a lightbulb moment for me, and it made sense to me. What I used to focus on at that time was Transverse Abdominis engagement and it didn't always work for all patients.
I call Aparna my missing link. So, it started off with the one-hour lecture that she delivered. Then we collaborated and worked on developing a four-hour course on the same topic that ended up with eight hours worth of content because of how much great research there was available about the topic. Gradually the four-hour class transitioned into what we have now - a full weekend course. It’s a great mash-up of ortho and pelvic floor approaches for both of us and has really helped both of us treat our patients better from both a pelvic standpoint and an orthopedic standpoint.
Aparna: We work together. We are able to treat patients jointly, bringing in the diaphragm/breathing aspect, incorporating the sports and manual training that Leeann has and the pelvic knowledge that I have. We are able to tie everything together and treat our patients in a very holistic way.
Leeann: My big thing is that we try to incorporate more of the regional interdependence model. When patients come in with symptoms in an area, we look above, below, and beyond to see how the whole system is functioning together. We like to see how the body moves as a whole instead of focusing on just one part of it. That’s where most of our treatment is derived from and how we work together.
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 14
Description: This remote course is designed to expand the participant's knowledge of the diaphragm and breathing mechanics. Through multiple lectures and detailed labs, participants will learn how the diaphragm, breathing, and the abdominals can affect core and postural stability through intra-abdominal pressure changes. As an integrated approach, the course looks at structures from the glottis and the cervical region to the pelvic floor and helps in understanding a multi-component system that works together. Optimal function of the diaphragm and breathing patterns are key to a healthy pelvic floor, a normal functioning core, and postural stability. Evidence-based methods to assess the diaphragm and breathing mechanics are presented along with easy-to-apply practical intervention strategies.
This course includes assessment and treatment of the barriers by addressing thoracic spine articulation and rib cage abnormalities in the fascial system of muscles related to breathing and the diaphragm. The assessment concepts and treatment techniques can easily be integrated into a therapist's current evaluation and intervention strategies.
Kelly Sammis, PT, OCS, CLT, AFDN-S is a physical therapist, educator of dry needling and all things pelvic, Pilates instructor, wife, and mama living and working in Parker, Colorado. She specializes in the treatment of male and female pelvic floor dysfunction, athletic injury/return to sport, sports performance, and persistent pain. Her formal education took place at Ohio University (2007) and The University of St Augustine for Health Sciences (2010). Kelly serves as the lead faculty developing and teaching dry needling and pelvic health courses nationwide. Kelly co-instructs the Herman & Wallace Dry Needling courses along with site fellow faculty member Tina Anderson, MS PT.
Urinary incontinence (UI) is defined as ‘any complaint of involuntary leakage or urine’ that has several different subtypes based on when this leakage occurs1. UI is a common and relevant condition that has a profound influence on well-being and quality of life of many patients worldwide. Millions of men and women throughout the world are affected. According to our body of evidence, UI can affect anywhere between 5-70% of the female population2-4 and 11-32% of the male population5,6, contributing to decreased participation in preferred daily, work and recreational activities alongside an immense economic burden for some of those affected.1-7These symptoms have not only been shown to have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, but also on their mental health status.7
While UI is both common and very bothersome, it is also very treatable. I would love nothing more than to see our society and healthcare continuum recognize that UI is something that is ABNORMAL versus the typical categorization that it is a normal part of the aging, postpartum or postoperative experience.
Common, not normal. Common, but treatable.
UI can be treated with lifestyle and behavioral interventions, bladder training, electrical stimulation, pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) with or without biofeedback, physical therapy, neuromodulation, periurethral injections and, in some cases, surgical intervention. 5,8
Understanding the continence mechanism
In a well-functioning pelvic floor, the connective tissue of the ligaments and fascia act together with the pelvic floor musculature to counteract the impact of any increase in intra-abdominal pressure and ground reaction forces, helping to maintain our continence.8-10 This is an automatic function, requiring no need to think about voluntary contraction of the pelvic floor musculature. 8 When this mechanism is not working adequately, which can undoubtedly be multifactorial, urinary incontinence may occur.
The external urethral sphincter mechanism is a complex system of striated muscle which includes fiber blends from the urogenital triangle musculature and the anterior muscle bundle of the levator ani. 11 The good news here is that we, as rehabilitative clinicians, have many different tissue targets for treatment of UI.
Dry Needling and UI
Dry needling (DN) encompasses the insertion of solid filament, non-injectate needles into, alongside or around muscles, nerves or connective tissues with or without mechanical and/or electrical stimulation for the management of pain and dysfunction in neuromusculoskeletal conditions. DN is both effective and efficient in modulating the central and peripheral nervous systems as well as the somatic tissues, including the pelvic floor.
There is a growing body of evidence that has provided us with an understanding on how to best utilize this technique in our clinical practice as it relates to UI.12-17 With the external urethral sphincter and associated tissues being a main player in our urinary continence mechanism, it provides a road map on how we can utilize DN to treat UI. This boils down to two things: (1) tissue specificity and (2) utilization of electrical stimulation. DN provides us with an avenue to directly influence a specific tissue as we are able to use an indwelling needle electrode placed strategically into a muscular or perineural tissue target. Using that tactically placed indwelling electrode we can then precisely deliver electrical stimulation, essentially speaking the language of the neuromotor system, making this technique one of the most effective tools we have as rehabilitative clinicians to treat UI.
Ultimately, we are able to stimulate the pudendal nerve alongside the targeted tissues. This can help to improve electric activation, proprioception and coordination in pelvic floor contraction during situations that contribute to UI.18,19,22 Additionally, the pudendal nerve is an efferent nerve for the external urethral sphincter, so this treatment is capable of increasing the pressure of urethral closure, improving UI. Another important factor is that electrical stimulation has been shown to increase blood flow to the urethra and pelvic floor musculature, lending towards improvements in neuromuscular connections, muscle fiber function and genital atrophy, all leading to improvements in the mechanism of urethral closure. 19-22
The power of the tissue reset that DN provides has changed clinical outcomes for the better. It has, and will continue to, positively impact and change the lives of many patients through facilitating a more balanced homeostatic baseline within the tissues, healthier motor recruitment patterns and optimal neuromuscular utility to re-establish function. Want to add this tool to your clinical practice? Check out our Dry Needling course offerings with Herman & Wallace!
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 26
Description: This is the foundational dry needling course in our three course pelvic health series. Practitioners will learn an innovative approach to treating clients with pelvic floor and neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction commonly associated with lumbopelvic pain, incontinence, voiding dysfunction and/or sexual pain or dysfunction. This foundational dry needling course will instruct participants in the application of dry needling to female pelvic floor musculature and associated neuroanatomical structures including the lumbosacral spine, abdomen, pelvis, and hip joint complex. This course will provide a comprehensive review of anatomy, a strong emphasis on safety and precautions, ample lab time to optimize dry needling techniques, as well as dialogue surrounding clinical integration and relevant evidence.
Salt Lake City, UT - November 5-6, 2022
Experience Level: Advanced
Contact Hours: 26
Description: Dry Needling and Pelvic Health: Advanced Concepts and Neuromodulation is a lab intensive, hybrid course designed with the pelvic health practitioner in mind. This course is an innovative approach to treating clients with pelvic floor dysfunction commonly associated with pelvic pain, incontinence, voiding dysfunction and/or sexual pain or dysfunction. This advanced dry needling course will instruct participants in the application of dry needling to female and male pelvic floor musculature and associated neuroanatomical structures including the thoracolumbar spine, trunk, abdomen, pelvis and hip joint complex. This course will also discuss and integrate the concept of and techniques associated with neuromodulation. Additionally, there will be a comprehensive review of anatomy, a strong emphasis on safety and precautions, ample lab time to optimize dry needling techniques, as well as dialogue surrounding clinical integration and relevant evidence.
Dawn Sandalcidi, PT, RCMT, BCB-PMD can be found online at https://kidsbowelbladder.com/. Dawn is a long time instructor with Herman & Wallace and has generously shared her recent blog with The Pelvic Rehab Report. "Stool Withholding And Core Activation" can be found in its original post on her website here: https://kidsbowelbladder.com/stool-withholding-and-core-activation/.
What do they have in common?
About 9-12% of children suffer from functional constipation, which is the vicious cycle of retained stool causing rectal distention and subsequent loss of sensation and urge to defecate, which results in further stool retention. The exact physiologic causes for functional constipation are not completely understood.
We know the bowel absorbs water constantly. The longer stool sits in the rectum, the harder it becomes. For some children, this leads to very large stools that are uncomfortable or difficult to eliminate. In turn, these children may practice something called stool withholding (which may be the reason stool was sitting in the rectum too long in the first place).
There are many other reasons a child may withhold their stools beside the standard issues that functional constipation presents. Some other reasons for stool withholding include:
No matter how or why a child began withholding stools, it’s vital to treat the problem as soon as possible. When withholding and constipation go untreated, they can cause lifelong issues. In this article, we will explore the relationship between constipation and core control, specifically the child’s ability to generate intraabdominal pressure.
What are the Symptoms a Child May have When Practicing Stool Withholding?
Normally, when enough stool enters the rectum and it’s time for a bowel movement, the rectum will send messages to the brain to make you aware that it’s time to have a poop. Ideally, when you receive this message and become aware of your body’s need to defecate, you find a toilet and do so.
When a child regularly withholds stools, the stool may become retained in the rectum and cause rectal distention and a subsequent loss of sensation. Because the rectum isn’t able to sense its fullness, the messages are never sent to the brain, and the sense of urge to poop disappears.
Although children who withhold stools may not have the urge to poop, they can have other physical symptoms if their stool withholding causes stool retention.
Physical symptoms of stool retention include:
Children who withhold stools do not always have retention, however, and sometimes will simply withhold stools due to their environment (such as being at school during the day), and poop as soon as they get home.
How Might Core Strength Relate to Stool Withholding?
I treated a 6-year-old child once who had a bowel movement every single day, but only after he fell asleep in his parents' arms. His parents hadn’t been able to transition him out of diapers because of this. His bowel movements were so predictable that his parents would wait for him to poop, then clean him up and put him back to bed.
This child was also autistic and did have issues with low tone. I discovered during examination of the child that he had a difficult time voluntarily contracting his core muscles. Rotational and balance activities were difficult for him to perform as well due to his lack of core control.
You may be wondering what the core has to do with constipation, or stool withholding specifically. For starters, you need adequate core strength in order to sit upright on the toilet. Without proper core control, children may develop poor toileting postures which can lead to difficulty with defecation.
Correct toileting posture involves first being able to have enough hip extension, back extension, and side-to-side control to balance in a seated position on the toilet seat. Seats of differing heights add to the complexity of good toileting posture.
Proper Body Position for Toileting
Ideally, your feet should be supported, not dangling (which is a common occurrence for our children using adult-sized toilets). Forearms should be resting on the thighs, and the hips should be bent to at least 90 degrees of flexion. The spine should be in a neutral position (no posterior pelvic tilt).
This position allows for the pelvic floor muscles to relax appropriately, and for the core muscles to activate enough in order to produce appropriate intraabdominal pressure.
Without appropriate intraabdominal pressure generation, it will be difficult for a child to push out their poop. This is precisely what we discovered with my patient who was withholding until she got into bed. When in her parents' arms she was flexed, it was easier for her to generate enough intraabdominal pressure to poop, and so she did!
Knowing the reason for his withholding allowed us to target treatment planning where he needed it the most.
How to Address Core Strength in Children who Withhold Stools
Once you’ve determined that core activation is a root issue, you’ll need to address it in order to see any change with your patient’s bowel habits. Parents are usually at their wit’s end and are looking to you for answers. Your physical exam is your best tool in identifying root causes of stool withholding.
Many children attending physical and/or occupational therapy do suffer from low tone. As we’ve learned, this can compound constipation issues and even lead to stool withholding.
With the child above, we worked on core activation exercises first in supine, then in prone on an incline, and gradually added challenge to his exercises until she was able to generate enough intraabdominal pressure to poop on the toilet independently.
Even if your patient does not suffer from low tone, core activation and training may still be indicated. Some children have difficulty with coordinating or timing appropriate muscle contraction and relaxation. Be sure to evaluate the core when treating patients who suffer from constipation and stool withholding.
These children may have difficulty crossing midline as well. Age-appropriate exercises to engage the core while also incorporating diagonal and midline-crossing motions will be beneficial for those patients.
Additionally, you’ll want to assess the rib cage. Oftentimes I find children who have difficulty with core control also have a wider rib angle and hence need upper abdominal engagement exercises.
Lastly, many of the children you’ll treat will need help with rotation. This is a common finding during examination and without addressing rotation, you’ll see much slower progress.
Treating Stool Withholding and Core Issues is Possible
So many children with constipation will not receive appropriate treatment during childhood and their problems will persist into adulthood. It’s our job as pediatric therapists to identify children in need of help. Many children with bowel and bladder problems will be seen in your clinics for other issues, and unfortunately never even bring up the bowel or bladder concerns.
I put together a list of 5 Screening Questions you can ask your patients to determine whether they might be suffering from bowel or bladder issues and not even know it. This is a quick and easy way to identify patients in need of pediatric pelvic floor therapy.
It’s a great idea to get in touch with your local pediatric pelvic floor specialist to be able to easily refer these patients. You can also become a pediatric pelvic floor therapist yourself by taking my online courses! I believe this patient population is severely underserved and have made it easier than ever to learn how to best support these children.
My courses are held live in various locations around the world throughout the year, but I also offer online options for you to be able to work at your own pace from the comfort of home. Inside my online courses, there is space in every module to leave comments or ask questions and they go directly to me.
Sign Up For the Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Remote Course.
I’ve also created a group online where those who have taken my courses can collaborate, receive my mentorship, and discuss any issues that come up along their pediatric pelvic floor therapy journey. The group is called KBB Professional Village.
Experience Level: Intermediate
Contact Hours: 15
Description: This two-day, remote course is offered on Zoom and is the next step for therapists who focus on the pediatric pelvic floor patient population. It is designed to expand your knowledge of the development of normal bowel patterns in children, introduce the new Rome IV criteria (Zeevenhoovenet al. 2017), and review the anatomy and physiology of the GI system with emphasis on Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (FGID).
This course will delve into the most common types of functional constipation and the tests and measures used to assess it. Special emphasis on constipation with the coexistence of fecal incontinence (Nurko, Scott. 2011) and the psychological effects of these disorders will also be presented. Additionally, participants who have not yet been trained will learn external and internal anorectal PFM evaluation of the pediatric perineum. Indications for rectal balloon training and determining the appropriate patient will be instructed with lab. Functional defecatory positions for breathing and PFM relaxation, manual therapy techniques of the abdominal wall and viscera will be taught.