Jennafer Vande Vegte, MSPT, BCB-PMD, PRPC began her career as a physical therapist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI. Since 2002 Jen has focused her professional attention on treating women, men, and children with pelvic health disorders. She has been faculty for Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute since 2009 and loves to inspire other rehab professionals treating pelvic floor dysfunction. She is an author of the chapter, “Manual Therapy for the Pelvic Floor” which was published in the book, “Healing in Urology.” Jen was a contributing writer for the Pelvic Floor Capstone curriculum and also co-authored the continuing education course, “Boundaries, Self-Care and Meditation” with Nari Clemons.
Do you ever feel like you put more care into treating your patients than do for themselves?
Do you often have patients reaching out to you via phone or email outside of their appointment times?
Do you feel alternatively burdened by patient care/documentation and proud of the way you give 100% to your work?
Do you often give your all to your patients and come home depleted and even grumpy with the people you love?
As rehab professionals, we had to work really hard, and strive even, to get really good grades in high school and college to be accepted into our rigorous and demanding training programs. We developed strong work ethics and were praised for our success. During those years, self-care may not have been a priority. Maybe we were single, childless with significantly fewer responsibilities. We could put the pedal to the proverbial metal and keep on going.
Did anyone in school teach us about energy preservation? Offer up the idea that if we continued to work that hard, and give that much it would lead to job DISsatisfaction, compromise our relationships and our health and lead to burnout.
So we kept working and striving in our jobs, even though now our LIVES were getting more complicated. Maybe we found a life partner. Perhaps we bought a home. We found pets to care for. Maybe we had children. And we found ourselves utterly exhausted.
If this story sounds familiar to you, Nari Clemons and I would love to invite you to a different way to practice. A different way to live. We designed our class “Boundaries, Self-Care and Meditation” for YOU to find joy in work-life balance. To love what you do, but leave work with energy for all the things you love OUTSIDE of work.
Using a shared responsibility model, you will gain skills in allowing patients to own the responsibility for their recovery. You will illuminate where you are losing energy and develop the skillfulness to shift. Meditation and mindfulness will become a means to a healthier, more balanced nervous system for yourself as well as for your patients.
In short, this class can be LIFE-CHANGING. For both you and your relationships with your patients and the people in your life.
We invite you into a new way. Come join us this fall.
Boundaries, Self-Care, and Meditation Part 1 - September 9, 2023
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 12.5
Description: This course is a two-part series intended to be completed in order. Participants should register for Part 1 and Part 2 at the same time, or complete Part 1 and wait to complete Part 2 at a later date. This course was developed by Nari Clemons, PT, PRPC, and Jennafer Vande Vegte, PT, PRPC, and was "born out of our own personal and professional struggles and our journey to having a life and a practice that we love and can sustain." The intention of this class is deep, personal, and professional transformation through evidence-based information and practices.
The instructors recommend completing this series in two parts to allow time to process and implement one leg of the journey before undertaking the next. Both Part One and Part Two have a significant amount of pre-work to digest and practice before meeting via Zoom. Please plan for up to 12 hours of pre-course work. This sets the stage for you to find your path to experiencing more joy, energy, and balance.
In Part One. participants begin their process of study, meditation, and self-reflection in the weeks prior to the start of the class. Pre-work includes a focus on the neuroscience of pain, trauma, PTSD, and meditation. Participants will learn about the powerful influence both negative and positive experiences have on our nervous system’s structure and function. Personal meditation practice and instruction will create changes in the participant's own nervous system. Participants will also learn how to prescribe meditation for various patient personalities and needs, as well as analyze yourself through inventories on coping, self-care, empathy, burnout, and values as well as track how you spend your time. Commitment to pre-work will facilitate rich discussion as we put what you have learned into practice around building a shared responsibility model of patient care, language to support difficult patients, and both visualizing and planning steps to create new, healthier patterns in your life and in your practice.
Boundaries, Self-Care, and Meditation Part 2 - November 4, 2023
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 13
Description: This course is a two-part series intended to be completed in order. Participants should register for Part 1 and Part 2 at the same time, or complete Part 1 and wait to complete Part 2 at a later date. This course was developed by Nari Clemons, PT, PRPC, and Jennafer Vande Vegte, PT, PRPC, and was "born out of our own personal and professional struggles and our journey to having a life and a practice that we love and can sustain." The intention of this class is deep, personal and professional transformation through evidence-based information and practices.
The instructors recommend completing this series in two parts to allow time to process and implement one leg of the journey before undertaking the next. Both Part One and Part Two have a significant amount of pre-work to digest and practice before meeting via Zoom. Per the instructors "This sets the stage for you to find your path to experiencing more joy, energy, and balance."
Part Two continues the focus on personal and professional growth for the participant, with a deeper dive into meditation and self-care practices. Yoga is introduced as a means of mindful movement and energy balance. Participants will learn to identify unhealthy relational patterns in patients and others and skills on how to use language and boundaries to create shifts that keep the clinician grounded and prevent excessive energic and emotional disruptions. There is a lecture on using essential oils for self-care and possibly patient care. Learning new strategies to preserve energy, wellness, and passion while practicing appropriate self-care and boundaries will lead to helpful relationships with complex patients. This course also includes a discussion of energetic relationships with others as well as the concept of a "Higher Power". Discussion will also include refining life purpose, mission, and joy potential, unique to the individual participant. The goal is that the participating clinician will walk away from this experience equipped with strategies to address both oneself and one's patients with a mind, body, and spirit approach.
Mora Pluchino is instructing her new course, Pediatric Pelvic Floor Play Skills, which is scheduled to debut on October 22, 2023. This short course is targeted to pelvic health providers looking for specific “child-oriented” treatment techniques for pediatric pelvic health patients. This class will cover some basic challenges and changes for a new or experienced pelvic health provider entering the realm of treating pediatric patients with pelvic floor diagnoses. Pediatric Pelvic Floor Play Skills is intervention focused and does not delve into specific pediatric diagnoses.
As an only child, I have lived my life working to be surrounded by children. From the age of 11 when I could take the Red Cross’s babysitter training, I worked as a mother’s helper, babysitter, and nanny. I never even had a “real” job until beginning my career as a physical therapist in 2009. Before I entered the world of treating pelvic floors, I was a physical therapist who spent the beginning years of my career caring for mostly pediatric and neurological patients. I was in charge of a pediatric program and helped with their specialty programs for kids including cardiopulmonary, feeding, and robotics.
I got brave and jumped into pelvic floor treatment in 2016 and have never looked back.
Because I had so much “kid” experience both personally and clinically, I quickly took Dawn Sandalcidi’s course Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (now called Pediatrics Level 1 - Treatment of Bowel and Bladder Disorders). I started treating these kiddos and realized that being a pediatric therapist and being a pelvic floor therapist can feel like two completely different “hats.” I would have internal conversations like “I want to teach this child to bear down, but they’re two years old and on the autism spectrum and cannot even tolerate sitting on a toilet - what do I do?”
Having a pediatric background and skills made me feel like I had tools in my toolbox to create ideas to address my plan of care. I found my colleagues who did not have as much pediatric experience really struggled with taking the pelvic floor skills they had and applying them to working with children in the clinic.
Here is an example of calls I get from fellow pelvic floor practitioners…
“A 5-year-old child presenting with bedwetting, stool staining, and daytime urinary urgency. Limited food choices - eats mac and cheese, grilled cheese, quesadillas, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and goldfish - no veggies, fruit choices - bananas and strawberries only. The child does not drink water but will drink juice, Coke, and chocolate milk. The child does not like sports and prefers to read and watch TV. The child avoids sitting on the toilet for BMs and complains they are painful. Parents are willing to try anything but don’t know where to start. The child is very motivated to please caregivers and loves stickers and watching YouTube videos of cute cats. On assessment, the child has a weak core, poor sitting posture without back support, and has trouble bearing down when asked.”
The therapist and I talked about how these symptoms all screamed “pediatric constipation” with a little bit of core weakness and poor pelvic floor coordination mixed in. She knew what would happen with an adult. She knew that increasing fiber and water intake as well as activity were all great lifestyle changes to start. She mentions that utilizing a squatty potty and regular toilet sits are also indicated. But HOW do you get a 5-year-old to do these things? How do you teach parents to implement these changes? How do you make these changes easy and peaceful for busy parents and potentially resistant children?
In the case of this kiddo, we created the following plan:
If you are looking at this plan thinking “BUT HOW” this may be a great class for you. Pediatric Pelvic Floor Play Skills is an intervention-focused one-day remote class is targeted to pelvic health provider looking for specific and “child-oriented” treatment techniques for the pediatric pelvic health patient (it does not delve into specific pediatric diagnoses). This class will cover some basic challenges and changes for a new or experienced pelvic health provider entering the realm of treating pediatric patients with pelvic floor diagnoses.
The course goal is to review topics related uniquely to treating the pediatric population and then review treatment skills for different age groups. Get ready to learn basic pediatric care topics such as postural, developmental, feeding, and behavioral considerations. The labs will include both observational and interactive lab experiences designed to teach ANY therapist multiple treatment and play techniques to incorporate into their pediatric practice. The in-person aspect of this course involves movement and play, so be ready to observe and then practice some kid-friendly activities.
Course Dates: October 22
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 10
Description: This one-day remote continuing education class is targeted to any pelvic health provider looking for specific and “child oriented” treatment techniques for the pediatric pelvic health patient. This class will cover some basic challenges/ changes for a new or experienced pelvic health provider entering the realm of treating pediatric patients with pelvic floor diagnoses. This class is intervention focused and does not delve into specific pediatric diagnoses.
This course will begin with a combination of lectures on basic pediatric care topics such as postural, developmental, feeding, and behavioral considerations. The labs will include both observational and interactive lab experiences designed to teach ANY therapist multiple treatment and play techniques to incorporate into their pediatric practice. The in-person aspect of this course involves movement and play, so please plan your space and clothing accordingly.
This course will be instructed by Mora Pluchino, PT, DPT, PRPC who is a physical therapist with experience in both pelvic health, pediatrics, and pediatric pelvic health. This class is designed for a clinician who has already taken pelvic floor education including Pelvic Floor Level 1 and/or Pediatrics Level 1 -Treatment of Bowel and Bladder Disorders or something equivalent and is looking for play oriented treatment ideas.
Caitlin Smigelski, PT, DPT is a pelvic floor physical therapist in Portland, OR. She focuses in the treatment of bowel and bladder dysfunction and complex pelvic pain and specializes in transgender health and the treatment of patients who are pregnant or postpartum. Caitlin values active treatment approaches and teaching individuals ways to manage and improve their symptoms. She is active with the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy and serves on the CAPP-OB committee and is also a member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Caitlin and Sandi Gallagher traveled to Argentina to present at the 2018 WPATH Symposium on Physical Therapy in People Undergoing Vaginoplasty.
As Pride Month comes to an end, it’s important to reflect on how healthcare providers can promote a safe and inclusive environment for all patients. Members of the transgender community face discrimination and increased barriers to accessing healthcare. According to a 2022 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation of transgender adults
Healthcare providers need to improve the care it provides the transgender community. By being an active ally in your clinic, you can facilitate positive change. Active allyship is when a person with privilege and power supports people who are marginalized. It requires more than just solidarity, but taking action. Below are just a few steps you can take to improve the experience of a transgender person in your clinic.
○ Share your pronouns verbally, on your ID badge, bio, business card etc. This normalizes the act of sharing one’s pronouns and creates a safer space for all.
○ Ask all of your patients for their pronouns via an intake form or during the interview.
○ Never assume someone's gender identity based on their appearance, and don't hesitate to ask individuals for their pronouns.
○ Correct coworkers if they misgender a patient, even when the patient is not present.
○ Edit intake forms for inclusivity. Ask about sex assigned at birth, gender identity and pronouns followed by a blank space for the patient to fill in.
○ Avoid gendered language in the clinic such as guys and ladies and gentlemen. Instead use terms like folks, y’all, people, everyone etc.
○ Only use gendered terms like Sir, Ma’am, Mr. and Ms. once someone has shared their gender and pronouns.
○ Don’t assume the relationship or gender of a person who comes with your patient to an appointment
○ If your facility has single stall bathrooms, make them gender-neutral.
○ If a single-user restroom is not an option, post signs and have a written policy that supports people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
○ Use your voice to advocate for inclusive policies within your healthcare institution. Encourage the adoption of policies that protect transgender patients from discrimination, such as:
■ the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms
■ gender-affirming documentation processes
■ non-discriminations policies inclusive to transgender individuals
■ publishing statements supporting health care for transgender people and youth
■ staff trainings
○ Encourage your professional organization to publish a statement in support of transgender healthcare. Many professional organizations have already issued statements, including the AMA, AAP, ACOG, ANA, ACNM, and WHO.
○ Learn about laws and policies affecting transgender people where you live. When discriminatory and harmful laws are present, call or email your representative or sign a petition to support positive change.
○ A key step towards becoming an active ally is to educate yourself about transgender identities, experiences, and healthcare needs. Understanding the unique challenges faced by transgender individuals will enable you to provide compassionate and informed support.
○ Read books, articles, and research papers written by transgender authors or experts in the field.
○ Take a course specific to rehabilitation. Herman and Wallace offers two remote courses: Transgender Patients: Pelvic Health and Orthopedic Considerations (17 contact hours) and Inclusive Care for Gender and Sexual Minorities (15.5 contact hours)
○ Learn from online resources. A few examples include the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center through the Fenway Institute, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the University of California San Francisco Gender Affirming Health Program, and the National Center for Transgender Equality
○ Share key information with all clinic staff including those in non-clinical roles
By cultivating a welcoming and inclusive environment, advocating for policy changes, and seeking new learning opportunities, you can make a significant difference in the lives of transgender people by helping to create a healthcare system that is truly inclusive and affirming for all.
Transgender Patients: Pelvic Health and Orthopedic Considerations
Price: $500.00 Experience Level: Beginner Contact Hours: 17 hours
Course Dates: August 19
Description: This course is appropriate for any physical rehabilitation professional, regardless of their specialty area, who has an interest in better serving people who are gender diverse. There is specific content aimed at teaching pelvic health therapists how to expand their skills for working with people of all gender identities. There will be particular education regarding gender-affirming genital surgeries as well as a discussion of other gender-affirming surgeries and medical interventions that people transitioning might choose.
Often times therapists think of genital surgeries and sexual function when contemplating work with transgender people. Therapists have far more to offer transgender patients. For providing optimal care, knowledge of the intricacies of gender transition is essential. We provide that overview in this course. Topics covered include:
Faculty member Christine Stewart, PT, CMPT began her career specializing in orthopedics and manual therapy and became interested in women’s health after the birth of her second child. Christine joined Olathe Health in 2010 to further focus on women’s health and obtain her CMPT from the North American Institute of Manual Therapy. She also went through Diane Lee's integrated systems model in 2018. Her course, Menopause Transitions and Pelvic Rehab is designed for the clinician that wants to understand the multitude of changes that are experienced in the menopause transition and how they affect the aging process.
What was your motivation for creating this course?
As I was entering my mid-40s, I started to experience some physiological symptoms that were a bit unnerving. My sleep was inconsistent. My menstrual cycle which used to be every 35 days now was every 21 – and it changed. It lasted longer and was much heavier than before. I also started to experience heart palpitations. I sought out care from my primary care doctor, who ran labs and referred me to a cardiologist. I was placed on a halter monitor and underwent a cardiac ultrasound. The tests all came back..... normal. But I didn’t feel normal. What was happening with my body and why didn’t any of the health professionals that I consulted seem to have any answers? That was where my journey began. I started reading and researching. What I soon learned was that these symptoms, while bothersome and a little unnerving, were common. They often begin as the ovary is changing in its ability to produce hormones. I learned there are ways to manage symptoms through lifestyle choices and treatments that can help in a stage of life that can last for over 20 years. I then started to listen, really listen, to what my patients were telling me about their bodies. I had answers for them about what they were experiencing and could offer some solutions and referrals to the appropriate healthcare providers. While they were all very grateful, I kept hearing the same frustrations. Why don’t more healthcare providers know about perimenopause and menopause? Why am I being told that I must live with my symptoms? Why aren’t more providers well-versed in treatment options? That was my “aha” moment. If more healthcare providers knew about these changes and the symptoms that manifest as a result, hundreds if not thousands of patients could get the care that they need. I wrote Menopausal Transitions and Pelvic Rehab in an effort to bridge the gap in knowledge that currently exists for many of the health care providers treating this patient population. It is a culmination of hours of research into hormones, physiology, health impacts, and treatment options during this time.
Who do you think should take this class?
I truly believe all providers can benefit from taking this course! Nearly 50% of the population can spend most of their lifespan in perimenopause and menopause. Gaining a thorough understanding of this phase of life allows providers to educate and lead their patients down a path of more successful aging. They need this information and are eager to learn! In addition, the knowledge gained about lifestyle modifications can be extrapolated to all patients treated daily, not just those in the menopausal transition.
What is your go-to resource for questions about menopause?
One of the most exciting things to see is how the paradigm regarding menopause is changing. There are books, Instagram influencers, Facebook groups, and featured stories appearing in mainstream media. The dialogue surrounding menopause seems to be shifting in a positive way which is great! However, misinformation and false narratives are still being propagated. My resource for the most accurate information is the North American Menopause Society. It is a great site for finding efficacy with treatment options and for debunking much of the fear and myths about menopause.
What has been some of your favorite feedback from participants?
I love to hear about how participants have gained an understanding of their own symptoms and what is happening in their bodies. Getting feedback that they have learned treatment strategies in this course that they will implement in their own lives as well as in the lives of their patients is so exciting. Knowing that clinicians are educating their patients and co-workers on this transition is so meaningful. It thrills me to know the message is going forward!
Price: $475.00 Experience Level: Beginner Contact Hours: 16.75 hours
Description: This two-day course is designed for the clinician that wants to understand the multitude of changes that are experienced in the menopause transition and how they affect the aging process. According to the North American Menopausal Society, by the year 2025, 1.5 billion people will be in menopause worldwide. Despite the large population in this transition, health care providers are often unsure of how to treat patients experiencing menopause (Kling 2019).
As clinicians, this is an excellent opportunity to understand the physiological consequences to the body as hormones decline, in order to assist our patients in lifestyle habits for successful aging. Topics will include cardiovascular changes, metabolic syndrome, bone loss and sarcopenia, neurological changes (headache, brain fog, sleeplessness), Alzheimer’s risk, and urogenital changes. Symptoms and treatment options will also be discussed, including hormone replacement, non-hormonal options, dietary choices and exercise considerations. Upon completion of this course, participants will have a basic understanding of the hormonal changes during menopause, the impact on various health systems and interventions that can assist with improving this transition.
Kate Bailey, PT, DPT, MS owns a private practice in Seattle that focuses on pelvic health for all genders and ages and works under a trauma-informed model where patient self-advocacy and embodiment are a priority. In addition to being a physical therapist, I’ve been teaching Pilates for nearly 20 years and yoga for over 10. Kate’s course, Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists, combines live discussions and labs with pre-recorded lectures and practices that will be the basis for experiencing and integrating restorative yoga into physical therapy practice. Kate brings over 15 years of teaching movement experience to her physical therapy practice with specialties in Pilates and yoga with a focus on alignment and embodiment.
Stress is a primary topic of conversation in all domains of our lives. Are we getting the right nutrition and exercises? Are we “balancing” our lives well? How are we attempting to stave off burnout whether we are a clinician or a patient? The stress of having medical needs, particularly when they are complex can be overwhelming: multiple appointments to juggle with education from a wide variety of medical perspectives (hopefully aligning relatively well), and then just trying to keep up with normal adulting responsibilities. If you are a clinician the idea of burnout and being drained emotionally is likely a familiar one.
When thinking about stress and overwhelm, there are a plethora of physiological consequences ranging from small, workable symptoms to severe mental and physical outcomes. In this blog we’ll look at cognition from two studies: one that looked at those experiencing breast cancer related cognitive impairment and a second looking at third year medical student wellbeing.
Cognition can be separated into two domains: Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.
Fluid intelligence is the ability to process new information and solve novel problems in real time. Think about having to come up with questions for your doctor when managing medications, or simply learning what that medication does and what possible side effects to watch out for. Fluid intelligence is the domain in which we learn new precautions after a surgical procedure or learn about what to do if in a pain flare. Fluid intelligence includes learning, problem solving and comprehension.
Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use knowledge that was previously acquired through education and experience. This is how we use past experience to inform decision making. How we start at entry level education and then build on that with continuing education. Its how people who have dealt with chronic illness or pain can approach new medical issues in perhaps a more adaptable manner.
In a study by Deng et al. fluid and crystallized intelligence changes were studied using two different kinds of yoga as the catalyst. Restorative yoga compared to Vinyasa yoga, said another way, a restful practice versus a vigorous practice. The restorative group had no improvements in crystallized cognition. But they did have statistically significant improvements in fluid cognitions with effect sizes growing from participants being in the 42nd percentile to the 55th percentile among the general population after 24 weeks of practice. The change in ability to learn, comprehend and problem solve whilst working through cancer related cognitive impairment is incredibly important. The vinyasa group had no statistically significant changes in fluid cognition, but did have improvements in crystallized cognition. Thus depending on which cognitive domain is troubling the patient more, you can offer a bit of support in that decision making process.
While much of the continuing education offered to clinicians is in regards to how to become more skillful for your patients, we also need support for clinicians to ensure their own wellbeing. This can come in the form of boundaries, support groups, mental health counseling, etc. It can also come in the form of establishing a simple weekly practice of restorative yoga. In a study by Adesanya et al, 3rd year medical students were offered a 45 minute restorative class once a week for 6 weeks. This is the time in a medical student’s life where a primary focus on didactics transitions into clinical care. With this practice, once a week, medical students reported improved wellbeing marked by increased relaxation and reduced stress related to decision making. It was also noted that the efficiency of the practice was more feasible for the clinical life of having to decide how to spend one’s time outside of work. While restorative yoga is not a substitute for aerobic, strength and mobility training, it is imperative to see the cognitive benefits of this practice and how that might improve our decision making in the domains of our selfceare (nutrition, exercise, sleep), as well as our mental and relational health (friendships, partnerships, colleagues).
Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists
Price: $275.00 Experience Level: Beginner Contact Hours: 10.75 hours
Course Dates: August 12, 2023
Description: This course is an online course that combines live Zoom discussions and labs, pre-recorded lectures, and pre-recorded practices that will be the basis for experiencing and integrating restorative yoga into physical therapy practice.
It is well known that stress is an important contributor to overall quality of life, chronic pain, and disease risk. Our society’s focus on high productivity and achievement often creates chronic fatigue and reduced ability to regulate our nervous systems. Sleep may be the only time a person actually rests during the day. For those who have survived trauma, even sleep is not restful. And so we stay in a state of stress that is difficult to manage.
Restorative yoga is an accessible practice that can teach patients (and practitioners) how to rest systematically, for short periods of time, on a regular basis to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to balance with the sympathetic nervous system for improved neuroregulation. We will also talk about the difference between meditation and restorative yoga, and how they can support each other in order to support the ability to drop into relaxation.
Designed for the virtual classroom, the lectures are pre-recorded for viewing at convenience. A set of restorative postures, each taking 20-30 minutes are offered prior to the live meetings so that participants can experience what a patient might experience when restorative yoga is a component of their home program. We will then discuss participant experiences, questions and strategize how to reduce barriers to relaxation so that patients can integrate this practice into their lifestyle. There will also be live labs for breathing techniques and specific meditations that may be helpful to patients working with an unregulated nervous system.
Ziya “Z” Altug, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, is instructing his course, Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox, scheduled for July 29. This remote course covers 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 nature-based therapies.
Ziya is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and a Doctor of Physical Therapy with 32 years of experience treating musculoskeletal conditions. He utilizes lifestyle and integrative medicine strategies in his clinical practice. Ziya is the author of Integrative Healing: Developing Wellness in the Mind and Body (Cedar Fort, Inc, 2018). He has been a longstanding member of the American Physical Therapy Association for the past 29 years and a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine since 2017. He is finishing the book Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London) for publication in early 2024.
According to the ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (American College of Sports Medicine 2022) book from the American College of Sports Medicine, “exercise programs that incorporate individual tailoring, supervision, stretching, and strengthening, coupled with client preference and practitioner expertise, are associated with the best outcomes.”
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine defines lifestyle medicine as (American College of Lifestyle Medicine 2023), “Lifestyle medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches including:
Lifestyle medicine may play a role in managing chronic low back pain (Altug, 2021). For example, a retrospective longitudinal study by Roberts and colleagues (2022) found that “people who adopt optimal lifestyle behaviors and positive emotional factors are more likely to be resilient and maintain high levels of function despite suffering from low back pain.” Furthermore, a study by Williams and colleagues (2019) in the European Journal of Pain found that a healthy lifestyle intervention consisting of weight loss, physical activity, and diet may be cost-effective compared to usual care for managing chronic low back pain. Moreover, a cohort study by Bohman and colleagues (2014) found that healthy lifestyle behaviors appear to decrease the risk of back pain among women.
Case Study Patient Description:
The patient is a 50-year-old female referred to physical therapy by her family physician:
After a comprehensive assessment, a physical therapist treated the patient in the clinic and provided her with the following home program guidelines:
In addition to the formal home program, the physical therapist encouraged the patient to consider creating a small home gym and take a cooking class at a local community college on the weekend to further establish sustainable, healthful habits.
After three months of following her home program instructions, the patient’s back pain decreased to 0-2/10 with activities of daily living, her body weight was reduced by 10 pounds, and she no longer had shortness of breath with stairclimbing and fatigue with walking. This case shows that simple and cost-effective clinical recommendations using the lifestyle medicine approach may effectively help treat back pain.
Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox
Price: $125.00 Experience Level: Beginner Contact Hours: 4.5 hours
Course Dates: July 29, 2023
Description: Brief lectures will focus 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.
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. Ziya utilizes lifestyle and integrative medicine strategies in his clinical practice. He is the author of the book Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox from Jessica Kingsley Publishers (London: United Kingdom, 2024). Ziya Altug is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He has taken workshops in yoga, Pilates, tai chi, qigong, meditation, Feldenkrais Method, and the Alexander Technique.
Tara Sullivan, PT, DPT, PRPC, WCS, IF has specialized exclusively in pelvic floor dysfunction treating bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunctions, and pelvic pain since 2012. Alyson N. Lowrey, PT, DPT, OCS became involved with pelvic rehabilitation through working in a clinic with Tara and is a board-certified orthopedic specialist and primarily works with the ortho patient population. Tara brought along the pelvic floor population to the clinic where she and Alyson joined forces. Alyson, with her ortho perspective, is better able to recognize that in some of her orthopedic patients, a lot of their pain was coming from the pelvic floor. The pelvic pain patient population crosses over from physical therapy to the orthopedic and occupational therapy worlds. By treating their patients wholistically Tara and Alyson have been able to make a huge difference to both of their practices.
How do you explain pain to a patient?
This is the question that Tara Sullivan, PT, DPT, PRPC, WCS, IF, and Alyson N Lowrey, PT, DPT, OCS address in their new course Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population. By focusing specifically on the topic of pain science in their new course, Tara and Alyson delve into the true physiology of pain including the topics of central and peripheral sensitization. Pelvic specialists that can benefit from this course are those whose patients have chronic pelvic pain including endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginismus, vestibulodynia, primary dysmenorrhea, and prostatitis. The biggest thing is to learn how to recognize if there is a sensitization component to your patient’s pain.
Pain is in the Brain
Acute pain can indicate specific injury to the body. Chronic pain is very different. With Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) the initial injury has healed, but the pain continues because of changes in the nervous system, muscles, and tissues. Recognizing that the nervous system influences pain perception, especially in the chronic pelvic pain population, is the first step in treating these patients, but is it enough? The chronic pain population is often dismissed or misled that they have something drastically wrong with them, or worse, nothing wrong with them at all. Alyson and Tara share that “this population often has the most functional deficits and the worst clinical outcomes. We want to change that.”
The medical definition of pain is an unpleasant feeling that is conveyed to the brain by sensory neurons. Pain is a universal experience that serves to alert the brain to potential damage to the body. It performs the function of triggering avoidance to preserve itself from harm. Oddly, the strength and unpleasantness of pain are not directly related to the nature or extent of the damage.
When the pain signal remains active in the nervous system for longer than six months and persists after the triggering event has healed, then it is cataloged as chronic pain. There is another layer when experiencing chronic pain known as central sensitization. This is an increased responsiveness of the nervous system that results in hypersensitivity and an increased pain response outside the area of injury. Pain itself can produce systematic and chemical brain changes resulting in more pain from fewer stimuli.
Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population offers tools to recognize when sensitization may be playing a role and provides the framework needed to apply pain science to the chronic pelvic pain population. In this course, you will gain an understanding and expand your knowledge on how pain science specifically presents in patients suffering from endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, primary dysmenorrhea, pelvic floor muscle overactivity, vulvodynia/vestibulodynia, vaginismus, and prostatitis.
Case studies and specific intervention techniques, including how to explain pain to a patient, are discussed so participants leave with the confidence to address the missing link in treating your patient’s chronic pelvic pain. We will also discuss how common rehab interventions such as manual therapy, dry needling, biofeedback, graded exposure, and therapeutic exercise assist in downregulating the nervous system.
Alyson shares that being able to recognize chronic pain in the patient is huge, that this is “not your regular patient who has a peripheral injury and we just need to rehab them through that process. It’s a whole different ballgame when we’ve got our nervous system in a hypersensitive state.” She continues, “a huge part of the treatment is educating your patient about pain and trying to decrease the fear around movement…and how we use our words to decrease fear is huge.” This course also discusses how to desensitize the nervous system through dry needling, diaphragmatic breathing, sleep hygiene, and bowel and bladder retraining.
Price: $400.00 Experience Level: Beginner Contact Hours: 12 hours
This remote course is designed for the pelvic rehab specialist who wants to expand their knowledge, experience, and treatment in understanding and applying pain science to the chronic pelvic pain population including endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginismus, vestibulodynia, primary dysmenorrhea, and prostatitis. This course provides a thorough introduction to pain science concepts including classifications of pain mechanisms, peripheral pain generators, peripheral sensitization, and central sensitization in listed chronic pelvic pain conditions; as well as treatment strategies including therapeutic pain neuroscience education, therapeutic alliance, and the current rehab interventions' influence on central sensitization. This evidence-based course will provide the rehab professional with the understanding and tools needed to identify and treat patients with chronic pelvic pain from a pain science perspective.
Lecture topics include the history of pain, pain physiology, central and peripheral sensitization, sensitization in chronic pelvic pain conditions, therapeutic alliance, pain science and trauma-informed care, therapeutic pain neuroscience education, the influence of rehab interventions on the CNS, and specific case examples for sensitization in CPP.
Course Dates: July 22-23
In this brief blog, I hope to explore several lifestyle medicine strategies (sleep hygiene, stress management, social connectedness) and how they may be included in therapeutic interventions to improve clinical outcomes. Frates and colleagues define lifestyle medicine as "The use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a predominately whole-food and plant-based diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substance use, and other non-drug modalities to treat, oftentimes reverse, and prevent the lifestyle-related, chronic disease that's all too prevalent."1 Figure 1, adapted from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, outlines the six pillars of lifestyle medicine.
Figure 1. Components of lifestyle medicine
Sleep Hygiene in Patient Education
The following are some simple patient education strategies that may help patients improve sleep:2-5
Stress Management Patient Education
The following are some simple patient education strategies that may help patients manage stress:6
Social Connectedness Patient Education
The following are some simple patient education strategies that may help patients improve socialization and social connectedness to form nurturing and constructive relationships:7-13
If you are interested in learning more about these topics and others, please see my course Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine Toolbox for Rehab and Pain Management with Herman & Wallace.
Resources for Clinicians:
Learn how to include integrative and lifestyle medicine into your clinical practice with these resources:
Ziya "Z" 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.
Z received his Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Studies in 1985 and 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.
Z 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.
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.
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.
Sandra Gallagher has served on varied committees and boards at the state and national level, most recently as the chair of the CAPP-OBC committee for the Academy of Pelvic Health of the APTA. She has presented on the role of PT in gender-affirming vaginoplasty at UCSF Transgender Health Summit, APTA Combined Sections Meeting, and at the 2018 international meeting of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Join Transgender Patients: Pelvic Health and Orthopedic Considerations with instructors Sandra Gallagher, PT, DPT, WCS & Caitlin Smigelski, PT, DPT on April 29th.
In working with surgeons that perform and patients undergoing gender-affirming genital surgery I’ve had the chance to recognize that some of our most basic skills of assessing tissue and tissue healing play a huge role and optimizing healing. I personally have loved taking another look at some of the wound healing principles that I used early in my career in the 90s, to assist in developing timelines for post-surgical recoveries of gender surgeries.
In addition to the basic science of tissue healing, we’ve integrated current and novel neuroscience to develop Graded Motor Imagery guidelines to improve the sensory outcomes of vaginoplasty and phalloplasty surgeries. Graded Motor Imagery (GMI) is a treatment approach commonly associated with treating pain. It is generated from understanding the underlying neuroplasticity of complex pain conditions such as phantom limb pain. (1) Graded Motor Imagery in rehabilitation means that the focus is placed on synaptic exercise and health. The use of neuroplasticity to change sensory experiences occurs in other parts of rehab and goes under different names. Sensory integration, cortical integration, or mapping, are some other terms used. In addition to being used for reducing pain in complex regional pain syndrome, the techniques are used for reducing limb neglect in stroke rehab, and restoring limb function in complex hand surgeries (2,3,4,5). In pelvic rehab, we are using these concepts with urinary urgency suppression and in cis females with vaginal pain. There are handfuls of article exploring the presence and phenomena of phantom penis in trans men (6,7,8)
Using GMI for Phalloplasty
When using GMI for phalloplasty, the primary goal is to improve erogenous sensation in the penis. This is done with three main techniques: visualization of static and dynamic functions of the penis, tactile stimulation starting with a simple touch and progressing toward sensory stimulation, and sexual/erogenous stimulation (9). As people move through the process they use stimulation of the buried erectile tissue and other erogenous parts of their body while touching the penis. This can be a partnered or independent activity. This can be adapted regardless of the number of stages involved in the surgery.
Using GMI for Vaginoplasty
With vaginoplasty, the attaining pain-free and erogenous sensation typically progresses more directly than in phalloplasty, as there are fewer complications with vascular and nerve recovery. The clitoris and its neurovascular bundle are intact and continue to be perineal tissue. We use traditional pelvic rehab interventions of clinical EMG, and a robust home program of dilation, exercise, TENS, and self-care including patient-directed manual interventions. The addition of GMI guidelines for vaginoplasty more commonly is directed toward reducing vulvovaginal pain. Whereas the phalloplasty sensory protocol is initiated early in the surgical process, the vaginoplasty guidelines are more commonly applied when post-surgical pain limits someone's function. The GMI process here uses visualization and activities of seeing vulvas in one's surrounding environment, such as flowers, folded fabrics, and Georgia O'Keefe artworks. This is intended to be a neutral practice. Similar to the desensitization process in limb rehab, using various textures and depth of touch, combined with watching the light touch can help with pain reduction. As pain abates using stimulation of other erogenous tissue while touching the vulva or dilating can be added.
For providing optimal care, knowledge of the intricacies of gender transition is essential. Join me in Transgender Patients: Pelvic Health and ORTHO Considerations on April 29th to learn more regarding gender-affirming genital surgeries, discussion of other gender-affirming surgeries, and medical interventions that people transitioning might choose. We provide that overview in this course. Topics covered include:
Price: $500 .00 Experience Level: Beginner Contact Hours: 17 hours
This course is appropriate for any physical rehabilitation professional, regardless of their specialty area, who has an interest in better serving the people who are gender diverse. There is specific content aimed at teaching pelvic health therapists how to expand their skills for working with people of all gender identities. There will be particular education regarding gender-affirming genital surgeries as well as discussion of other gender-affirming surgeries and medical interventions that people transitioning might choose.