(646) 355-8777

Herman & Wallace Blog

Extra Tools in the Treatment Belt for Pelvic Floor Rehab

In manual therapy training, we do not learn just one position to mobilize a joint, so why should pelvic floor muscle training be limited by the standard training methods? There is almost always at least one patient in the clinic that fails to respond to the “normal” treatment and requires a twist on conventional therapy to get over a dysfunction. Thankfully, classes like “Integrative Techniques for Pelvic Floor and Core Function” provide clinicians with the extra tools that might help even just one patient with lingering symptoms.

In 2014, Tenfelde and Janusek considered yoga as a treatment for urge urinary incontinence in women, referring to it as a “biobehavioral approach.” The article reviews the benefits of yoga as it relates to improving the quality of life of women with urge urinary incontinence. Yoga may improve sympatho-vagal balance, which would lower inflammation and possibly psychological stress; therefore, the authors suggested yoga can reduce the severity and distress of urge UI symptoms and their effect on daily living. Since patho-physiologic inflammation within the bladder is commonly found, being able to minimize that inflammation through yoga techniques that activate the efferent vagus nerve (which releases acetylcholine) could help decrease urge UI symptoms. The breathing aspect of yoga can reduce UI symptoms as it modulates neuro-endocrine stress response symptoms, thus reducing activation of psychological and physiologic stress and inflammation associated with stress. The authors concluded the mind-body approach of yoga still requires systematic evaluation regarding its effect on pelvic floor dysfunction but offers a promising method for affecting inflammatory pathways.

Pang and Ali (2015) focused on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for interstitial cystitis (IC) and bladder pain syndrome (BPS). Since conventional therapy has not been definitely determined for the IC/BPS population, CAM has been increasingly used as an optional treatment. Two of the treatments under the CAM umbrella include yoga (mind-body therapy) and Qigong (an energy therapy). Yoga can contribute to IC/BPS symptom relief via mechanisms that relax the pelvic floor muscle. Actual yoga poses of benefit include frog pose, fish pose, half-shoulder stand and alternate nostril breathing. According to a systematic review, Qigong and Tai Chi can improve function, immunity, stress, and quality of life. Qigong has been effective in managing chronic pain, although not specifically evidenced with IC/BPS groups. Qigong has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and activate the brain region that suppresses pain. The CAM gives a multimodal approach for treating IC/BPS, and this has been recommended by the International Consultation on Incontinence Research Society.

Evidence is emerging in every area of treatment these days, so it is only a matter of time before randomized controlled trials regarding alternative treatment methods for the pelvic floor begin to fill pages of our professional journals. Yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, biologically based therapies, manipulative and body-based approaches, and whole medical systems all offer safe, effective treatment options for the IC/BPS and urinary incontinence patient populations. The more we use these extra treatment tools and document the results, the more likely we will see clinical trials proving their efficacy.


Tenfelde, S and Janusek, L. (2014). Yoga: A Biobehavioral Approach to Reduce Symptom Distress in Women with Urge Urinary Incontinence. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE. 20 (10), 737–742. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2013.0308
Pang, R., & Ali, A. (2015). The Chinese approach to complementary and alternative medicine treatment for interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome.Translational Andrology and Urology, 4(6), 653–661. http://doi.org/10.3978/j.issn.2223-4683.2015.08.10

Continue reading

Physical Therapy & Human Movement: A S.T.E.M. Approach

Dr. Dischiavi is a Herman & Wallace faculty member who authored and teaches Biomechanical Assessment of the Hip & Pelvis: Manual Movement Therapy and the Myofascial Sling System, available this August in Boston, MA.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. These fields are deeply intertwined and taking this approach could potentially be a way to facilitate the physical therapist’s appreciation of human movement.

Science: I would bet most physical therapists would agree that science is the cornerstone of our profession. It is time to look across all the landscapes of science to better understand the physical principles that govern movement. Biotensegrity is a great example of how science from a field such as cellular biology can help possibly explain how we maintain an erect posture when the rigid bony structure of our skeleton is only connected from bone to bone by soft tissues [1]. The brain and central nervous system regulates muscle tone, and it is resting muscle tone that give our bodies the ability to be upright. Without resting muscle tone, we would crumple to the ground as a heap of bones within a bag of skin. Since the CNS can either up or down regulate muscle tone, this allows us to create the rigidity we need to accomplish higher level movements such as sport, and then return to a resting state after the movements are performed (see running skeleton picture below). This theory of organismic support was bred within the scientific field of cellular biology, and can potentially be applied effectively to the human organism. As physical therapists, I agree we need to be skeptical of new ideas, but we also need to embrace the idea that the physical sciences have applied to nature for centuries, and it is possible these various scientific fields can help us unlock new ideas and allow us to look at things through a different lens.

Technology: As not only a practicing physical therapist, but as a newly appointed assistant professor within a budding physical therapy program it is my duty to embrace evidence based practice. I believe without question, when evidence that is sound exists it should help direct patient care. It is also clear that our tests and measures that are currently being utilized to help develop new evidence are lacking, specifically with regard to human movement and sport performance.

Sports performance is such a complex system (more on this later) we can’t expect to study things such as injury prevention at slow speeds utilizing maneuvers that aren’t even seen in the sport itself. Recently, Bahr [2] suggested that screening for sports injuries is pretty much a futile effort as he titled his article “Why screening tests to predict injury do not work - and probably never will…: a critical review.” Eventually technology will need to be developed that can measure high speed movement across multiple planes and ranges of motion, and essentially capture the complex spiraling that occurs with human movement and the bodies effort to attenuate ground reaction forces. This concept can be illustrated in the current work of Tak and Langhout [3] who have developed a novel approach to measure hip ROM in soccer players. They have essentially performed a thorough needs analysis of the kicking motion and determined that the classical method of measuring hip ROM doesn’t take into account the body’s need to spiral itself to gain the energy in the system needed to kick a ball [Fig 1]. This global understanding of the dynamic integration of the kinetic chain (which is covered in my hip course!) is what has led them to design this new method to measure hip ROM. Now, we will need technological advancements to capture, record, and measure these types of positions across three planes and at high speeds to establish the data that will eventually lead to evidence that will translate into sport. This is a great example of how clinical innovation sometimes precedes actual evidence to support its use. As William Blake was quoted as saying “what is now proven was once only imagined.”

Engineering: Structural engineering should be included in every physical therapy education program. There are many basic structural engineering principles that directly apply to a physical therapists practice. For example, the principal of elastics is frequently discussed within structural engineering. Elastics describes to what extent deformation is proportional to the forces applied to a particular material. In physical therapy muscles are that particular material, muscles must have elasticity and extensibility, not flexibility! In elastics, a rubber band is often used as a simple example to explain this engineering concept.

A rubber band will elongate and develop potential energy until release and then unleash kinetic energy. Our human movement system relies heavily on the principle of elastics. The rectus femoris is a two-joint muscle across the hip. During gait and running the rectus femoris is elongated as the hip moves into extension, this elongation builds its potential energy until the foot comes off the ground to initiate the swing phase, and the kinetic energy released in the system allows momentum to carry the lower extremity forward.

I would add that possibly the twisting created by the contralateral counter trunk rotation and reciprocating arm and leg swing that accompanies the hip extension is what creates tension throughout the entire anterior chain, similar to why Tak and Langhout feel its important to take up all soft tissue slack three dimensionally to effectively measure hip ROM needed for a soccer kick. It is considering that the elasticity in the entire system (organism) is needed to create an efficient human movement, which is kicking a ball in this example. When the body utilizes passive lengthening of muscle chains, as in elastics, it allows the body to move more efficiently. This is described by Chu [4] who reports that in the pitching motion maximizing force development in the large muscles of the core and legs produces more than 51%- 55% of the kinetic energy that is transferred to the hand [Fig 2]. The thoracolumbar fascia is involved in the kinetic chain during throwing activities and connects the lower limbs through the gluteus maximus muscle to the upper limbs through the latissimus dorsi. This idea of a dynamic integration of the kinetic chain is the main concept of the exercise portion of my hip course!

Math: The dynamic systems theory is an area of mathematics that most physical therapists probably don’t consider during everyday treatment. Little do they know, every treatment decision we as therapists make for our patient/clients has some root found in the dynamic systems theory. In fact, it is a fitting description when this theory is applied to human movement. Human movement is an incredibly complex system comprised of many different systems all working at the same time. Paul Glazier recently offered a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) for sports performance [5] and he discusses in detail the various systems and dynamic elements involved in sports performance from musculoskeletal, to neural, to cognitive, environmental, hormonal, and emotional just to name a few. The systems at work during sport when combined are exponential and most likely infinite. This is why it is so difficult to try and capture all these dynamic systems in a laboratory setting with the current technology available. In my hip course offered through Herman & Wallace I offer a novel paradigm to help clinicians construct therapeutic exercise programs using the hip as a cornerstone to human movement. I try to compact these various systems into 8 overlapping elements related to sport performance. When each of these 8 components are “exploded” as you might see in an engineering schematic where an engine is exploded to see all the parts that make the engine or more simply explained using a cheeseburger as the example [Fig 3]. Sure its easy to spot the cheeseburger when its whole just like when you see an athlete on the field running it seems obvious. Once the cheeseburger is “exploded” you can now isolate each sub-element included in your cheeseburger. This cheeseburger example is an obvious over-simplification, but if we exploded the bun to see the underlying grain and the seeds and so on…you now start to get an idea of how deep and intertwined all these subsystems are. Interestingly, the engine and the cheeseburger have finite parts and fit together, the human system has different parts in different systems depending on the sport and who might be playing it, under ever-changing scenery, and so on. So you can now see how the 8 components I outline in my course can house many different aspects of these dynamic systems. Although, I think this is progress with regard to the current state of the evidence, specifically with regard to utilizing the hip during movement, there are other systems at work that clinicians simply cannot control, such as gender, hormonal, environmental, etc…The idea is to try to identify and then manipulate modifiable factors whenever possible. These concepts are more clearly described and implemented in my hip course! Please come and check it out, and let me know what you think!

I’m hoping the STEM approach can possibly make it into physical therapy curriculums to illustrate to future physical therapists that there are many different disciplines at work with regard to physical therapy, and taking a global view of these elements can certainly be worthwhile.


1. Ingber, D.E., N. Wang, and D. Stamenovic, Tensegrity, cellular biophysics, and the mechanics of living systems. Rep Prog Phys, 2014. 77(4): p. 046603.
2. Bahr, R., Why screening tests to predict injury do not work-and probably never will...: a critical review. Br J Sports Med, 2016.
3. Tak, I., et al., Hip Range of Motion Is Lower in Professional Soccer Players With Hip and Groin Symptoms or Previous Injuries, Independent of Cam Deformities. Am J Sports Med, 2016. 44(3): p. 682-8.
4. Chu, S.K., et al., The Kinetic Chain Revisited: New Concepts on Throwing Mechanics and Injury. PM R, 2016. 8(3 Suppl): p. S69-77.
5. Glazier, P.S., Towards a Grand Unified Theory of sports performance. Hum Mov Sci, 2015.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Continue reading

Electrical Stimulation as part of a treatment program for urgency urinary incontinence

Today's blog is a contribution from Kristen Digwood, DPT, CLT, of the Elite Pelvic Rehab clinic in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Urgency urinary incontinence (UUI), which is the involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency, is a common health problem in the female population. The effects of UUI result in limitations to daily activity and quality of life.

Current guidelines recommend conservative management as a first-line therapy in urinary incontinence, defined as "interventions that do not involve treatment with drugs or surgery targeted to the type of incontinence".

By Yeza - Own work, GFDLElectrical stimulation is commonly used as part of a treatment program for women with UUI. There are several methods and parameters that can be used to improve urge incontinence, however the magnitude of the alleged benefits and best parameters is not completely established. Studies have suggested that the use of electrical stimulation to inhibit an overactive bladder functions to modulate unwanted detrusor contractions by way of sensory afferent stimulation of S2 and S3. This causes parasympathetic inhibition.  In addition to this effect, contraction of the pelvic floor muscles results in inhibition and relaxation of the detrusor muscle which reduces urinary urgency.

Common methods of electrical stimulation include suprapubical, transvaginal, sacral and tibial nerves stimulation.

As with any medical treatment, practitioners seek the most effective methods and parameters to achieve the patient’s goals. A recent systematic review of electrical stimulation in the treatment of UUI included nine trials to treat UUI were included with total of 534 female patients. Most patients in the trials were close to 55 years of age. Five articles (total of nine) described a frequency of twice-weekly therapy and sessions of 20 minutes. Twelve weeks was the most common duration of therapy. All the studies applied an intensity of stimulation below 100 mA, with four of them (4/9) using 10 hz as the frequency. Intervaginal electrical stimulation showed the greatest subjective improvement and was the most effective.

The most frequent outcome measure was bladder diary, used in all papers; subjective satisfaction was used in 8; and quality-of-life questionnaires in 6, from a total of 9 papers.

The study noted that reports about electrical stimulation generally lack information on its cost-effectiveness. This is an important point, especially because in therapies with similar benefits cost may be one of the factors to indicate the most appropriate treatment. If we consider the relatively few adverse effects, low cost, and similar effectiveness when compared to medication, intravaginal electrical stimulation, according to available data, appears to be a good alternative treatment for UUI.

1. Thüroff JW, Abrams P, Andersson KE, Artibani W, Chapple CR, Drake MJ, et al.: EAU guidelines on urinary incontinence. Eur Urol. 2011; 59: 387-400.
2. Kralj B. The treatment of female urinary incontinence by functional electrical stimulation. In:Ostergard DR, Dent AD (eds). Urogenecology and Urodynamics. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins; 1991.
3. Eriksen, BC. Electrical Stimulation. In: Benson JT editor. Female pelvic floor disorders: investigation and management. New York:Norton, 1992; 219-231.
4. Lucas Schreiner  , Thais Guimarães dos Santos  , Alessandra Borba Anton de Souza, et al. Int. braz j urol. vol.39 no.4 Rio de Janeiro July/Aug. 2013.

 

Continue reading

Low Dose Estrogen and Vaginal Microbiomes in Atrophic Vaginitis

Vaginal wall thinning associated with menopausal changes can cause vaginal burning and pain, limitations in sexual function, and vaginal redness or even changes in discharge. Because these symptoms can mimic many other conditions such as pelvic floor muscle dysfunction or an infection, it is necessary for the pelvic rehabilitation therapist to be alert to identifying vaginal atrophy as an issue to rule out so that patients can access appropriate medical care when needed.

Vaginal Canal Normal vs. MenopauseAtrophic vaginitis (AV) is a condition of the vaginal walls associated with tissue thinning, discomfort, and inflammation. The tissue changes often extend into the vulvar area as well. Atrophic vaginitis may also be called vaginal atrophy, vulvovaginal atrophy, urogenital atrophy, or genitourinary syndrome of menopause. Although we tend to associate menopause with women who are in their 40’s or 50’s, any woman who has stopped having her menstrual cycles or who has had a significant reduction in her cycles may be at risk for vaginal atrophy. Any woman who has had a hysterectomy may also be at risk of this thinning of the vaginal walls. Common symptoms of vaginal wall thinning include vaginal dryness, tissue irritation, redness, itching, and a “burning” pain. Interruption in sleep, limitations in activities of daily living, and changes in mood and temperament have also been reported.

One common pharmacological intervention for vaginal and vulvar atrophy is the topical application of hormone creams such as estrogen. A recent study examined the effects of low dose estrogen therapy on bacteria that populates the vaginal walls.Shen et al., 2016 This bacteria may be causal or correlated to vaginal health, and also appears related to estrogen levels. Sixty women diagnosed with atrophic vaginitis were treated with low dose estrogen therapy and followed for four weeks to assess the vaginal microbiotia via mid-vaginal swabs. Following are highlights from the linked study’s findings,

  • Prior to treatment, in symptomatic postmenopausal women the Lactobacilli species were less abundant and made up 11.2% of the community, while in asymptomatic women, the communities were more than 50% lactobacilli
  • Gardnerella was more abundant than Lactobacillus in women with atrophic vaginitis
  • Overall diversity of bacterial communities between healthy women and those with atrophic vaginitis was not significantly different
  • In response to treatment with estrogen, women with AV reported improved symptoms and decreased vaginal pH
  • Serum estradiol improved on average from approximately 42 pmol/L to 168 pmol/L by week 2, with little change from week 2 to week 4
  • Lactobacillus count was negatively correlated with symptoms (i.e., more Lactobacillis = less symptoms) and Gardnerella and Atopobium counts were positively correlated with symptoms
  • There were variations noted in how each woman’s vaginal bacterial communities responded to the estrogen therapy in that some women had a dominance of other bacteria after 4 weeks even though their symptoms decreased

In conclusion, the authors stated that “…a Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal community may be considered as one of the signs of AV treatment success…” along with reduced symptoms and increased serum estradiol levels. Prior studies have recognized barriers to treatment that include lack of patient knowledge of vulvar and vaginal atrophy, failure to discuss associated symptoms with physicians, concerns about safety of treatments or poor symptom relief with prescribed interventions.Kingsburg et al., 2013 This leaves the pelvic rehabilitation provider in a excellent role of educating women in the signs and symptoms of atrophic vaginitis, observing the tissues for changes, and communicating with referring providers and prescribers if a concern is noted. Furthermore, failure to recognize the potential for vaginal atrophy and treating these tissues with manual therapy or exercise may injure or exacerbate the problem.

Interested in learning more? Keep an eye out for a Menopause Rehabilitation and Symptom Management course with Michelle Lyons!


Changes in the Vagina and Vulva. Retrieved June 27, 2016 from http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-the-vagina-and-vulva
Kingsberg, S. A., Wysocki, S., Magnus, L., & Krychman, M. L. (2013). Vulvar and vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: findings from the REVIVE (REal Women's VIews of Treatment Options for Menopausal Vaginal ChangEs) survey. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(7), 1790-1799. 
Shen, J., Song, N., Williams, C. J., Brown, C. J., Yan, Z., Xu, C., & Forney, L. J. (2016). Effects of low dose estrogen therapy on the vaginal microbiomes of women with atrophic vaginitis. Scientific reports, 6.
Vaginal Atrophy. Retrieved June 27, 2016 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/home/ovc-20200167

Continue reading

Scientifically Sparing Function Post-Prostatectomy

Spending the past 5 years watching a lot of Disney Junior and reading Dr. Seuss, professional journal reading is generally reserved for the sanctuary of the bathroom. When patients ask if I’ve heard of certain new procedures or therapies, I try to sound intelligent and make a mental note to run a PubMed search on the topic when I get home. Making the effort to stay on top of research, however, makes you a more confident and competent clinician for the information-hungry patient and encourages physicians to respect you when it comes to discussing their patients.

A 2016 article in Translational Andrology and Urology, Lin et al., explored rehabilitation of men post radical prostatectomy on a deeper level, trying to prove that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes nerve regeneration. In many radical prostatectomies, even when the nerve-sparing approach is used, there is injury to the cavernous nerves, which course along the posterolateral portion of the prostate. Cavernous nerve injury can cause erectile dysfunction in 60.8-93% of males postoperatively. The authors discussed Schwann cells as being vital for maintaining integrity and function of peripheral nerves like the cavernous nerve. They hypothesized that BDNF, a member of the neurotrophin family that supports neuron survival and prevents neuronal death, activates the JAK/STAT (Janus kinase /signal transducer and activator of transcription) pathway in Schwann cells, thus facilitating axonal regeneration via secretion of cytokines (IL-6 and OSM-M). Through scientific experiment on a cellular level (please refer to the article for the specific details), the authors were able to confirm their hypothesis. Schwann cells do, in fact, produce cytokines that contribute to the regeneration of cavernous nerves.

From a different cellular perspective, Haahr et al., (2016) performed an open-label clinical trial involving intracavernous injection of “autologous adipose-derived regenerative cells” (ADRCs) in males experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) after radical prostatectomy. Current treatments with PDE-5 inhibitors do not give satisfactory results, so the authors performed a human phase 1, single-arm trial to further the research behind the use of adipose-derived stem cells for ED. Some limitations included the study was un-blinded and had no control group. Seventeen males who had ED after radical prostatectomy 5-18 months prior to the study were followed for 6 months post intracavernosal transplantation. The primary outcome was safety/tolerance of stem cell treatment, and the secondary was improvement of ED. The single intracavernosal injection of freshly isolated autologous adipose-derived cells resulted in 8 of 17 men regaining erectile function for intercourse; however, the men who were not continent did not regain erectile function. The end results showed the procedure was safe and well-tolerated. There was a significant improvement in scores for the International Index of Erectile Function-5 (IIEF-5), suggesting this therapy may be a promising one for ED after radical prostatectomy.

In the clinic, we need to treat our patients to the best of our ability. Taking the Post-Prostatectomy Patient Rehabilitation course is vital if even just one patient enters your office seeking treatment. Keeping up on research (even that which seems too full of forgotten science) and learning new manual techniques and exercises can help us rise as clinicians prepared to optimize patients’ function.


Lin, G., Zhang, H., Sun, F., Lu, Z., Reed-Maldonado, A., Lee, Y.-C., … Lue, T. F. (2016). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor promotes nerve regeneration by activating the JAK/STAT pathway in Schwann cells. Translational Andrology and Urology, 5(2), 167–175. http://doi.org/10.21037/tau.2016.02.03
Haahr, M. K., Jensen, C. H., Toyserkani, N. M., Andersen, D. C., Damkier, P., Sørensen, J. A., … Sheikh, S. P. (2016). Safety and Potential Effect of a Single Intracavernous Injection of Autologous Adipose-Derived Regenerative Cells in Patients with Erectile Dysfunction Following Radical Prostatectomy: An Open-Label Phase I Clinical Trial. EBioMedicine, 5, 204–210. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.01.024

Continue reading

Yoga as Medicine for Postpartum Care: A Compelling Art & Science

Yoga offers a compelling mind-body approach to maternal care that is forward thinking and aligns with the World Health Organization and Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for patient-centered care. But let’s take a look at WHY postpartum care MUST change in order to establish need for the entry of yoga into postpartum care.
 
Maternal Health Track Record
 
The United States and similarly developed countries have a very poor track record for postpartum care. The record is so poor that the problem in the US has been labeled a “human rights failure.”1
 
On its own, the US has the worst track record for not only postpartum care, but for maternal and infant mortality and first-day infant death rate in the developed world (Save the Children 2013). Between 1999-2008, global mortality rates decreased by 34% while the US’s rates doubled for mothers.1
 
Patient satisfaction also suffers under the current model of care, with many more mothers experiencing postpartum depression, a significant risk factor for both mother and baby during and after pregnancy.
 
The increase in mortality and poor outcomes can, in part, be attributed not to underuse, but overuse of medical intervention during pregnancy and birth. 2,3,4  Countries that have “access to woman-centered care have fewer deaths and lower health care costs”; and, hospital system reviews in the US show that reducing medical interventions are both reducing cost and improving outcomes.1,4,5
 
The notorious lack of accountability (reporting system) in maternal health care also plagues the US and suggests that maternal deaths are even higher than currently reported, leading to Coeytaux’s conclusion that the “United States is backsliding.”1
 
Improving Postpartum Outcomes with Integrated Physical Therapy Care
 
In After the Baby’s Birth, maternal health advocate Robin Lim writes, 
"All too often, the only postpartum care an American woman can count on is one fifteen minute appointment with her doctor, six weeks after she has given birth. This six-week marker ends an arbitrary period within which she is supposed to have worked out most postpartum questions for herself. This neglect of postpartum women is not just poor healthcare, it is abusive, particularly to women suffering from painful physical and/or psychological disorders following childbirth."
 
Physical therapists can be instrumental change agents in improving current postpartum care, especially through the integration of contemplative sciences like yoga. Yoga can be the cornerstone of holistically-driven, person-centered care, especially in comorbid conditions such as pelvic pain and depression, where pharmacological side effects, stigma, can severely diminish adherence to biomedical interventions.6 Coeytaux, as well as other authors, clearly correlate the reduction of maternal mortality with improved postpartum care. The World Health Organization recommends that postpartum checkups should include screening for:

  • Back pain
  • Incontinence (stress)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Breast pain
  • Perineal pain
  • Depression
  • Painful or difficult intercourse
  • Headaches
  • Bowel problems
  • Dizziness or fainting

A physical therapist is a vital team member in not only screening for many of the
listed problems above, but in managing them. It is important to note that other countries, like France, deliver high quality postpartum rehab care plus in-home visits, all while spending far less than the US on maternal care.
 
The World Health Organization, however, clarifies the vital importance of postpartum care delivery by making a significant recommendation for a paradigm shift in biomedical care.7
 
Yoga as a “Best Care Practice” for Postpartum Care
 
The WHO recommends the use of a biopsychosocial model of care, which yoga is ideally suited to provide via its ancient, multi-faceted person-centered philosophy. Medical Therapeutic Yoga is a unique method of combining evidence-based rehabilitation with yoga to emerge with a new paradigm of practice. MTY:
 

  • Addresses the mother as a person, not as a condition or diagnosis.
  • Empowers mothers with self-care strategies for systems-based, not just musculoskeletal or neuromuscular, change.
  • Addresses all domains of biopsychosocial impairment.
  • Teaches interdisciplinary partnership-based theory, which is integral to creative collaborative discourse and innovation in postpartum care.
  • Equips clinicians with business service, website development, practice paradigm, and social media campaign tools to fully develop the new clinical niche of Professional Yoga Therapy practice. 
  • Promotes patient advocacy, health promotion, and public health education via mainstreaming yoga into rehabilitative and medical services.
  • Provides the gender context for prescription that traditional yoga is lacking.
  • Evolves yoga for use in prenatal and postpartum care.

 
Physical therapy screening and intervention in the postpartum is vital, but the addition of yoga can optimize postpartum care and has enormous potential to be a “Best Care Practice” for postpartum care in rehabilitation. 
 
As a mind-body intervention, yoga during pregnancy can increase birth weight, shorten labor, decrease pre-term birth, decrease instrument-assisted birth, reduce perceived pain, stress, anxiety sleep disturbances, and general pregnancy-related discomfort and quality of life physical domains.8-9
 
In addition to the typical physical therapy intervention for postpartum physical therapy, the MTY paradigm provides:

  • self-care strategies for psychoemotional health and social engagement, increasing self-efficacy, confidence, and self-worth,
  • a concise container for clinical-decision through its algorithmic programming,
  • psychoemotional and neuroendocrine intervention,
  • nutritional counseling  and resource utilization,
  • energetic adjunct therapies steeped in Ayurvedic science,
  • executive functioning and cognitive support,
  • epigenetic effect, and
  • inter- and intrarelational development.

 
Postpartum integrated physical therapy care can provide more comprehensive care than rehab alone because of its multi-faceted biopsychosocial structure and systems-based model of care. Ginger’s course, Yoga as Medicine for Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum provides evidence-based methodology for prenatal and postpartum practice that streamlines clinical decision-making and intervention through introduction of a yogic model of assessment.
 
To learn more about Ginger’s course, visit Yoga as Medicine for Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum


Coeytauz et al., Maternal Mortality in the US: A Human Rights Failure. Contraception Editorial, March 2011. http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/contraception-journal/march-2011
Kuklina E, Meikle S, Jamieson D, et al. Severe obstetric morbidity in the US, 1998–2005. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;113:293–299.
Tita ATN, Landon MB, Spong CY, et al. Timing of elective cesarean delivery at term and neonatal outcomes. NEJM. 2009;360:111–120.
Clark SL, Belfort MA, Byrum SL, Meyers JA, Perlin JB. Improved outcomes, fewer cesarean deliveries, and reduced litigation: results of a new paradigm in patient safety. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;199:e1–105.e7.Abstract | Full Text | Full-Text PDF (100 KB)
Oshiro BT. Decreasing elective deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation in an integrated health care system. Obstet Gynecol. 2009;113:804–811.
Buttner, M. M., Brock, R. L., O'Hara, M. W., & Stuart, S. (2015). Efficacy of yoga for depressed postpartum women: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 21(2), 94-100. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2015.03.003 [doi]
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION., 2002. Towards a common language for functioning, disability and health : ICF. Geneva: World Health Organisation.
Curtis, K., Weinrib, A., & Katz, J. (2012). Systematic review of yoga for pregnant women: Current status and future directions. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, 2012, 715942. doi:10.1155/2012/715942 [doi]
Sharma, M., & Branscum, P. (2015). Yoga interventions in pregnancy: A qualitative review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 21(4), 208-216. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0033 [doi]

Continue reading

Vitamin D Deficits: Impacting the Pelvic Floor

Appropriate sun exposure and/or daily supplements provide our bodies with sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. I would venture to guess almost every one of the patients I treated in Seattle had a deficiency of Vitamin D if they were not taking a supplement. Running outside year round has always kept my skin slightly tan and my levels of Vitamin D healthy; however, when I was pregnant in the Pacific Northwest, I had to supplement my diet with Vitamin D, which was a first for this East Coast beach girl. The benefit of Vitamin D has spread beyond just bone health, with studies showing its impact on pelvic floor function.

Parker-Autry et al., (2012) published a study discerning the Vitamin D levels in women who already presented with pelvic floor dysfunction versus “normal” gynecological patients. The retrospective study involved a chart review of 394 women who completed the Colorectal Anal Distress Inventory (CRADI)-8 and the Incontinence Impact Questionnaire (IIQ-7). These women all had a total serum 25-hydroxy Vitamin D [25(OH)D] drawn within one year of their gynecological visit. The authors defined a serum 25(OH)D of <15ng/ml as Vitamin D deficient, between 15-29ng/ml as Vitamin D insufficient, and >30ng/ml as Vitamin D sufficient. In the pelvic floor disorder group comprised of 268 women, 51% were found Vitamin D insufficient, 13% of whom were deficient. The CRADI-8 and IIQ-7 scores were noted as higher among the Vitamin D insufficient women. Overall, the mean 25(OH)D levels in the women without pelvic floor issues were higher than those who presented with pelvic floor disorder symptoms.

Another case-control study in 2014 by Parker-Autry et al., focused on the association between Vitamin D deficiency and fecal incontinence. They considered 31 women with fecal incontinence versus a control group of 81 women without any pelvic floor symptoms, looking at serum Vitamin D levels. The women with fecal incontinence had a mean serum Vitamin D level of 29.2±12.3 ng/ml (insufficient/deficient), while the control group had a higher mean level of 35±14.1 ng/ml (sufficient). The women completed the Modified Manchester Health Questionnaire and the Fecal Incontinence Severity Index, and women with deficient Vitamin D scored higher on the questionnaire, indicating fecal incontinence as a burden on quality of life. The severity scores were higher for Vitamin D deficient women, but there was not a statistically significant difference between the groups.  Once again, the pelvic floor disorder and Vitamin D deficiency correlation prevailed in this study.

An even more recent study looked at postmenopausal women and Vitamin D deficiency (Navaneethan et al., 2015). This prospective case control study involved 120 postmenopausal women, 51 of whom had pelvic floor disorders. The serum 25-hydroxy Vitamin D levels were obtained, and the results revealed a deficiency in those women with pelvic floor dysfunction. Vitamin D levels were found to be significantly lower in women who were 5 years or more into menopause. Overall, Vitamin D was deemed a worthy factor to consider in the pelvic floor disorder population as well as in postmenopausal women.

Taking time to talk to patients about their lifestyle, daily supplements, and diet can often shed light on their ability to benefit from our treatments. If a Vitamin D deficiency sounds possible, discuss current research with them and suggest they get their serum Vitamin D levels checked. Don’t underestimate the power of a little sunshine – it just might have a positive impact on pelvic floor health.


Parker-Autry, C. Y., Markland, A. D., Ballard, A. C., Downs-Gunn, D., & Richter, H. E. (2012). Vitamin D Status in Women with Pelvic Floor Disorder Symptoms. International Urogynecology Journal, 23(12), 1699–1705. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-012-1700-8
Parker-Autry, C. Y., Gleason, J. L., Griffin, R. L., Markland, A., & Richter, H. E. (2014). VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY IS ASSOCIATED WITH INCREASED FECAL INCONTINENCE SYMPTOMS. International Urogynecology Journal, 25(11), 1483–1489. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-014-2389-7
Navaneethan, P. R., Kekre, A., Jacob, K. S., & Varghese, L. (2015). Vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal women with pelvic floor disorders. Journal of Mid-Life Health, 6(2), 66–69. http://doi.org/10.4103/0976-7800.158948

Continue reading

Several Breakthrough Breast Cancer Studies Revealed at 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting

The American Society of Clinical Oncology convened their 2016 annual meeting over the weekend, and several of the presentations suggest new methods of preventing breast cancer recurrence.

Extended Hormone Therapy Reduces Recurrence of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer patients who are treated with aromatase inhibitor therapy are generally prescribed the the estrogen drugs for a five year course. A new study has suggested that by doubling the length of hormone therapy, the recurrence rate for breast cancer survivors drops by 34%. The study included 1,918 women who underwent five years of hormone therapy with the drug letrozole. After five years, half of the group switched to a placebo while the other half were given an additional five year treatment.

Drug Used to Treat Type 2 Diabetes May Increase Breast Cancer Survivability

The Univerisity of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has published results from two recent studies which document the effects of Metformin, a drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes, on breast cancer and endometrial hyperplasia. The study tracked outcomes for 1,215 patients who were diagnosed and surgically treated for breast cancer. Patients who began to use metformin after their diagnosis were found to have a 50% higher survivability rate than those who did not use metformin.

The timing of metformin use is extremely important when it comes to breast cancer survivability rates. The study also found that patients who used metformin prior to their diagnosis were more than twice as likely to die than those who never used the drug.

Research Suggests a "Mediterranian Diet" May Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence

A study has indicated that a diet rich in vegetables, fish, and olive oil may decrease the odds of a breast cancer survivor experiencing a relapse or recurrence of their cancer. The study tracked 300 women with early-stage cancer and found that those who ate a normal diet were more likely to experience a breast cancer recurrence. The findings build upon previous research which indicated that a Mediterranean diet, and especially extra virgin olive oil, could reduce breast cancer risk by 68%.

Want to Learn More?

Susannah Haarmann, PT, CLT, WCS is the author and instructor of Physical Therapy Treatment for the Breast Oncology Patient, a course offered through the Herman & Wallace Institute. This continuing education course for medical practitioners offers a rehabilitation perspective for providers who work with oncology rehabilitation patients. Join Dr. Haarmann this in Stockton, CA on September 24-25 to learn evaluation and treatment techniques necessary to make an outpatient therapist an essential member of any oncology team.


1) Paul E. Goss, et al. J Clin Oncol 34, 2016 (suppl; abstr LBA1)
https://www.asco.org/about-asco/press-center/news-releases/ten-years-hormone-therapy-reduces-breast-cancer-recurrence
2) Yun Rose Li. University of Pennsylvania, American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting 2016
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/uops-ddm060316.php
3) http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/41404/20160606/mediterranean-diet-prevent-breast-cancer-recurring.htm

Continue reading

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fighting Inflammation

When a 472 pound gentleman recently arrived for an evaluation for low back pain, he came to the clinic for me to help him, not deride him about his weight (which he complained all his doctors have already done). He claimed he had lost 120 pounds but gained back 50, and his low back was extremely painful with transitional movements and daily function. Undoubtedly, this man’s body was a battlefield for inflammation, and no matter how much manual therapy or exercise I implemented, nutrition education seemed vital. Instead of just chatting about baseball or the weather, competently sharing what we’ve studied and learned in continuing education courses is warranted in our practice.

In a 2016 review Klek reveals the most current evidence regarding Omega-3 Fatty Acids in nutrition delivered intravenously. Although physical therapists do not decide the ingredients for patients’ parenteral nutrition, the article thoroughly explains the essential benefits of fatty acids. Aside from being important structural components of cell membranes and precursors of prostaglandins and cholesterol, fatty acids regulate gene expression and adjust pathways of cells regarding inflammation and cell-mediated immune responses. Ultimately, fatty acids modulate metabolic processes in the body, whether locally, in a particular region, or at remote sites. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to inhibit synthesis of triglycerides by the liver, prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce cancerous cell growth, and even affect the development of rheumatoid arthritis and Chrohn’s disease. This article not only sheds light on parenteral nutrition for post-surgical, oncology, critically ill, and even pediatric patients but also educates the healthcare professional on the impact fatty acids have on the patients we treat.

In 2015, Haghiac et al. performed a randomized double-blind controlled clinical trial to determine if Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation could reduce inflammation in pregnant woman who are obese. Although the study began with 36 subjects in each group, only 24 women in the experimental group receiving 4 capsules a day of Omega-3 fatty acid (total of 2000mg) and 25 of the women taking 4 placebo capsules a day completed the supplementation over the 25 weeks up until delivery. The authors referenced the findings that low grade inflammation becomes exacerbated in obese pregnant women. While an excess of Omega-6 fatty acids practically promotes inflammation via eicosanoid (hormone) production, a healthy balance of Omega-3 fatty acids lessens inflammatory and immunosuppressive eicosanoid production. This study demonstrated an improvement in inflammation in the women who took the Omega-3 fatty acid as evidenced by a decrease in the expression of inflammatory genes in adipose tissue and placenta as well as reduced plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) at delivery.

Being able to control or reduce inflammation on a cellular level through nutrition could promote an exciting cycle of positive events for obese patients. Decreased inflammation in the body could decrease pain, which could allow and even promote increased activity and likely boost metabolism to equip them to battle obesity. The “Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist” course should spark the interest of any therapist wanting to guide patients not only on movement and function but also on the appropriate nutrition that best facilitates the body’s ability to heal and perform.

To learn more about nutrition and it's effects on pelvic rehabilitation, check out Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist this month in Lodi, CA.


Klek, S. (2016). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Modern Parenteral Nutrition: A Review of the Current Evidence. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 5(3), 34. http://doi.org/10.3390/jcm5030034
Haghiac, M., Yang, X., Presley, L., Smith, S., Dettelback, S., Minium, J., … Hauguel-de Mouzon, S. (2015). Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Reduces Inflammation in Obese Pregnant Women: A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Clinical Trial. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0137309. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137309

Continue reading
Tags:

Strengthening hip muscles could improve pelvic floor strength: An Article Review

The following guest post comes to us from Angie Johnson, a physical therapist with Kaiser Permanente in Portland, OR.

Did you know that the pelvic floor muscles are actually quite thin? “Pelvic floor muscles are able to produce enough force to overcome changes in intra-abdominal pressure during less rigorous activities of daily living,“ but in activities such as coughing and jumping, “intra-abdominal pressure clearly exceeds the maximum force generated by pelvic floor muscles alone.”1 But we know that people are continent of urine during these activities, so it begs to question what structures help support the pelvic floor during high force events?

In our journey of pelvic rehabilitation and evidence-based medicine, researchers have determined that contributors to pelvic floor function include trunk stabilization2 and co-contraction of the abdominal wall (especially transverse abdominus)3,4. But this is only the beginning of the story. To add to this picture, new research, recently published in the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy (January/April 2016) validates what we as practitioners already know; hip muscles play a crucial role in optimal pelvic floor functioning.

Knowledge of the anatomy of the pelvic floor and hip musculature helps to give us more understanding of the continence mechanism during high force activity. Obturator internus, which can be easily palpated through the vaginal wall “acts to externally rotate the hip. Interesting, this muscle actually shares a fascial attachment with the pelvic floor muscles.”

Researchers from a team at San Diego State University asked the very pertinent question: If you strengthen obturator internus do you strengthen the pelvic floor muscles too? To answer this question, they conducted a randomized control trial of 40 nulliparous women, aged 18-35, who were assigned to a hip exercise or control group. Both hip external rotator strength and pelvic floor muscle strength (via the Peritron™ perineometer) were measured in all of the women. The exercise group was then asked to perform clamshell exercises, isometric wall external rotation and “monster walks” as their specific hip exercises. The prescription of the exercises were 3 sets of 10 repetitions 3 days per week for 12 weeks. One session each week was supervised in the laboratory to ensure proper execution.

After the 12 weeks, the exercise group had an increase in hip external rotation strength, but also in pelvic floor muscle peak pressure. That was without any specific pelvic floor strengthening exercises at all. Strengthen the hips by doing these three exercises, and pelvic floor strength increases!! This is exciting and fantastic news for us as pelvic floor therapists and a good message to convey to our patients.

The results of this study are preliminary, but if you are treating pelvic floor weakness, hip external rotation strengthening exercises in addition to the traditional kegel strengthening exercises are a must. Go ahead – let’s all get hippie!


Tuttle LJ, DeLozier ER, Harter KA et al. The Role of the Obturator Internus Muscle in Pelvic Floor Function. Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy. 2016; 40, 1 pg 15-19
Sapsford R. Rehabilitation of pelvic floor muscles utilizing trunk stabilization. Man Ther 2004;9(1):31-42
Sapsford RR, Hodges PW, Ricahrdson CA, Cooper DH, Markwell SJ, Jull GA. Co-activation of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles during voluntary exercises. Neruourol Urodyn 2001;20(1):3-12
Sapsord RR, Hodges PW. Contraction of the pelvic floor muscles during abdominal maneuvers. Arch Phys Med REhabil. 2001;82(8):1081-1088

Continue reading

Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Boundaries, Self-Care, and Meditation - Remote Course

May 22, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Oncology of the Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Remote Course

May 26, 2020 - Jun 4, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Chicago, IL (RESCHEDULED)

May 29, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center

Boundaries, Self-Care, and Meditation - Columbus, OH (RESCHEDULED)

May 29, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Syracuse, NY (RESCHEDULED)

May 29, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: SUNY Upstate Medical University

Gender Diversity and Pelvic Health - Livingston, NJ (RESCHEDULED)

May 29, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Ambulatory Care Center- RWJ Barnabas Health

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Maywood, IL (Rescheduled)

May 29, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Loyola University Health System

Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

May 30, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

May 30, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Sacroiliac Joint Evaluation and Treatment - Nashua, NH (RESCHEDULED)

May 30, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: St. Joseph Hospital Rehabilitative Services

Postpartum Rehabilitation - Foothill Ranch, CA (Rescheduled)

May 30, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Intercore Physical Therapy

Pilates for the Pelvic Floor - Valencia, CA (Rescheduled)

May 30, 2020 - May 31, 2020
Location: Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital

Building Resilience Through Nourishment

Jun 2, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Series Capstone - Salt Lake City, UT (SOLD OUT)

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Remote Course

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 6, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pediatric Incontinence - Grand Rapids, MI (RESCHEDULED)

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Kansas City, MO (Rescheduled)

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Centerpoint Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Atlanta, GA (RESCHEDULED)

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Emory Healthcare

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Washington, DC (Rescheduled)

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: The George Washington University

Pelvic Floor Level 1- Canton, OH (Rescheduled))

Jun 5, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Aultman Hospital

Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists - Remote Course

Jun 6, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 Part 1 - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Jun 6, 2020 - Jun 7, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Trauma Informed Care - Remote Course

Jun 6, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Berrien Springs, MI (Rescheduled)

Jun 7, 2020 - Jun 9, 2020
Location: Andrews University

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Bay Shore, NY (Rescheduled)

Jun 7, 2020 - Jun 9, 2020
Location: Touro College: Bayshore

Pelvic Floor Level 1 Part 1 - Remote Course

Jun 11, 2020 - Jun 12, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Oncology of the Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Alexandria, VA (RESCHEDULED)

Jun 12, 2020 - Jun 14, 2020
Location: Inova Physical Therapy Center