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Over the past 28 years, my pelvic floor has endured at least 20,000 miles of running, including racing on the collegiate level and then completing 10 marathons. Add to the high-impact sport two 8.1 pound natural childbirth deliveries 26 months apart, and you can imagine why I accepted the invitation to blog for this well-respected institute. One of my elderly patients once told me my uterus was going to drop out from so much running (which, thankfully, has NOT happened); however, I have to admit, urinary stress incontinence and frequent urination were unwelcome enough consequences! On the positive side, it all initiated my journey to understanding the pelvic floor.

 

By Mike Baird [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2014, Poswiata et al used the Urogenital Distress Inventory (UDI-6) to assess how prevalent stress urinary incontinence may be among elite female skiers and runners. Of the 112 female athletes in the study, 50% reported leaking a small amount of urine. Coughing and sneezing provoked leakage for 45.54% of those women, indicating stress incontinence, and 58.04% of the women in the study reported frequent urination. Are those acceptable statistics? I would have to say no.

 

Research results can be comforting so athletes can be told they are not alone regarding a quite personal aspect of their lives. When I could supposedly empty my bladder, stand to wash my hands and have to go again, walk down the hall to put on my sneakers and go once again before heading out the door for a run, it was nice to know someone else was probably experiencing the same issue that morning. Just because it is common, though, does not make it “normal.” We are not meant to leak just because we stress our bodies beyond normal ADLs.

Today we hear from Martina Hauptmann, PT, PMA-CPI, instructor of "Pilates for the Pelvic Floor: Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Osteoporosis and Peripartum". Join Martina this September 19-20 in Chicago, IL to learn how to incorporate Pilates into your treatment plans!

 

Because the cost of staying in business is increasing and the insurance reimbursement rates are dropping, many physical therapy clinics are looking for cash based supplemental services (medically-orientated gym memberships, Pilates classes, yoga classes, durable exercise supplies etc). Offering Pilates as part of the physical therapy clinic’s therapeutic interventions will differentiate your clinic and may be marketed to physicians and the community to increase your clinic’s market share. Post rehabilitation, the offering of cash based Pilates wellness classes can increase the clinic’s bottom line, allowing for further rehabilitation of the client beyond the time frame allowed by insurances and improve retention of clients.

 

Pilates is a system and philosophy of exercises based on the work of Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) that focuses on precision and optimal alignment. This approach requires the client to focus her mind on the exercise in order to increase motor control. Women are attracted to the Pilates method because of its gentle but effective nature. Offering Pilates as part of your therapeutic offerings is a great marketing tool to physicians and to the community as well as an effective method for instructing specific muscle re-training.

 

An article promoting the beneficial role of a thorough clinical assessment was published last year in the Scandinavian Journal of Urology, and although the article is directed to medical providers, serves as an excellent summary for pelvic rehabilitation providers. Doctors Quaghebeur and Wyndaele describe a “four-step plan” that can help direct treatment efficiently, and that emphasizes the muscular and neurologic systems as potential referral sources. While you may not be surprised about several of the steps, you may find this article to be a useful tool, particularly for the terrific chart about neuralgia-type pain that you can find in the linked article.

 

Step 1 should include history taking with attention to information about the following:

- urinary frequency, urgency, and nocturia
- bowel habits
- sexual complaints and quality-of-life impact
- pain description with significant detail
- use of questionnaires

 

Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS teaches the "Low-Level Laser Therapy for Female Pelvic Pain Conditions" course for Herman & Wallace. Join her on October 3-4 in New York, NY to learn about this new modality!

 

Physical therapists deal with chronic pain that can be problematic to treat and manage on a daily basis. There is an arsenal of tools, exercises and techniques at their disposal, but many times using a modality can help accelerate the pain-relieving process.

 

At my healing center in New York City, we treat an extremely difficult type of chronic pain loosely classified under the umbrella term "pelvic pain". Pelvic pain can express itself as sacroiliac pain, hip bursitis, symphysis pubic dysfunction, and vulvodynia. Chronic pelvic pain is sometimes perceived as a "woman's issue", but we treat both men and women who have suffered for years with their conditions. We are challenged to think outside the box to provide relief for these patients.

Reema Thakkar, PT, DPT has been a practicing Physical Therapist in Manhattan since 2011, specializing in orthopedics and vestibular rehabilitation. Reema has offered to share insights about her journey into pelvic rehabilitation.

 

Working as a physical therapist for 4+ years in Manhattan, I soon realized the need for pelvic floor rehabilitation within the pre- and post- natal community, as well as the geriatric community. Much of our population did not even know that this type of rehabilitation was effective or even available. Others, were simply embarrassed by the topic altogether. I decided - a complete novice in this field - to attend a Herman & Wallace PF course and see what was available as a resource for me, and my patients.

"I can happily report that as more and more patients catch wind of what I’m working on, their interest spurs."

 

My first course was definitely overwhelming. I had studied beforehand, like any eager student would, but I still felt as though it was my first day of PT school and I was scared I would “break” the patient. The candor and wit, in which each topic was presented to us that weekend, completely eased my mind. The pelvic floor, like any other daunting body part we had studied through our careers as PTs, was equally as influenced by the pulls and strains of our daily lives…and the muscles and joints needed our help.

Tagged in: Clinical Practice

The phrase “rectal prolapse” may be easily confused with the term “rectocele” yet they may be very distinct clinical presentations. A rectocele refers to a prolapse of the posterior wall of the vagina that allows the rectum to bulge forward towards the posterior vaginal wall. This condition occurs most often in women rather than men. A rectal prolapse is a protruding of the rectum itself outside of the anal verge or opening. An overview article published in 2013 in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery provides information about the condition that may assist the pelvic rehabilitation provider with valuable clinical concepts. Prior to becoming a full external prolapse, an internal intussusception may occur (and observed on defecography) and progress to include an external mucosal prolapse. Rectal prolapse may occur with or without other conditions of pelvic organ descent such as a cystocele or uterine prolapse. Although the prevalence of complete rectal prolapse is low, and occurs more often in women or in elderly patients, interference with quality of life may be significant.

 

Symptoms can include pain, difficulty emptying the bowels, bloody and or mucous discharge, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence or constipation. Patients may also complain of a lump or a bulge in the rectum that may or may not improve following a bowel movement. A complete rectal prolapse can be described as a full-thickness protrusion of the rectum through the anus. A more serious consequence of this condition is strangulation of the bowel. Features of a rectal prolapse often include a redundant sigmoid colon, levator ani muscle diastasis, and loss of the vertical position of the rectum, according to the article.

 

Treatment of a rectal prolapse may include surgery. Prior to surgery, a physical exam, colonoscopy, anoscopy, and possibly manometry and defecography may be completed. The surgical goals are to correct the prolapse, improve any complaints of discomfort, and to resolve bowel dysfunction. Surgical approaches may include abdominal or perineal approaches, minimally invasive versus open surgery, and techniques can include posterior versus ventral and rectopexy with or without sigmoidectomy. For more details about the specific approaches for rectal prolapse repair, see the linked article. The authors of this overview article point out that because “…there is a paucity of data evaluating the effectiveness and appropriateness of the various surgical techniques…”, there is not one single management strategy for each patient.

Tagged in: Bowel Health Prolapse

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Herman & Wallace faculty member Lila Abbate instructs several courses in pelvic rehabilitation, including "Coccyx Pain, Evaluation and Treatment". Join Lila this October in Bay Shore, NY in order to learn evaluation and treatment skills for patients with coccyx conditions.

 

Case studies are relevant reading for physical therapists. Reviewing case studies puts you into the writer’s brain allowing you to synthesize your current knowledge of a particular diagnosis taking you through some atypical twists and turns in treating this particular patient type. In JOSPT, August 2014, Marinko & Pecci presented a very well-written case study of two patients with coccyx pain. By then, I had already written my Coccyx course and couldn’t wait to see what the authors had written. I eagerly downloaded the article to see another’s perspective of coccyx pain and their treatment algorithms, if any, were presented in the article. How were the author’s patients different than mine? What exciting relevant information can I add to my Coccyx course?

 

I believe that coccyx pain patients have more long-standing pain conditions than other patient types. For the most part, the medical community does not know what to do with this tiny bone that causes all types of havoc in patients’ pain levels. Sometimes treating a traumatic coccydynia patient seems so simple and I am bewildered as to why patients are suffering so long - and other times, their story is so complex that I wonder if I can truly help.

Varicoceles are enlarged veins that occur in the scrotum. They can be common in adolescent boys and men, with an incidence rate of approximately 15%. Because up to 1/3 of men dealing with infertility have a varicocele, a repair of this venous herniation may be a first line treatment for male fertility. Varicoceles are sometimes referred to as feeling like a "bag of worms" due to the distended veins that coil through the area (the U.S. National Library of Medicine provides a useful illustration). Although varicoceles may be painless, they are thought to be symptomatic in up to 10% of men. Symptoms can be dull, aching, throbbing, and can worsen with physical activity. Conservative care includes scrotal support, limiting physical activity, and using anti-inflammatory medications.


Vericoceles

Pelvic rehabilitation providers may work with a male patient who complains of scrotal pain, and who has a known diagnosis of a varicocele. If the patient is unsure of such a diagnosis, questioning the patient about prior discussions with his medical providers may reveal that he was told about “enlarged veins in the scrotum” or similar description. Visual inspection may reveal the tell-tale appearance of distended veins inside the scrotum, and palpation may reveal a significant difference among sides (unless both sides are involved of course.) Physical examination for a varicocele is usually completed in supine and standing positions and may be palpable with or without Valsalva maneuver. Keeping in mind that the differential diagnosis for pain in the scrotum can include medical conditions such as testicular torsion, epididymitis, inguinal hernia, testicular tumor, hydrocele, epididymal cyst, or sperm granuloma, patients who have complaints must see an appropriate medical provider to rule out such conditions. It is also possible for a patient’s condition to change or worsen if a period of time has passed, with communication with the referring provider recommended. Post-surgical complications that should also be considered are inguinal hernia repair for nerve entrapment or vasectomy.

 

Because of the nerves traveling in the same pathway as the involved veins, we can also consider the neural tension potentially created from the increased venous distension creating either (or both) compression and drag. Surgical options may be discussed by the medical provider, and these might include a microsurgical ligation or a varicolectomy. According to Park & Lee (2013) “A varicocelectomy should be considered in patients with no alleviation of their pain after conservative management, including resting, scrotal elevation, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics.” Conservative management is exactly where we can fit in as providers of pelvic rehabilitation. Including a condition such as a varicocele in our differential diagnosis and treating planning can further our success with patients.

 

Tagged in: Male Pelvic Floor

Guidelines for the management of 3rd and 4th degree tears were updated and published last month by The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. The purpose of the guidelines are to provide evidence-based guidelines on diagnosis, management and treatment of 3rd and 4th degree perineal tears. These types of tears are also referred to as obstetric anal sphincter injuries, or OASIS. The authors acknowledge an increased rate of reported anal sphincter injuries in England that may in part be due to increased awareness and detection of the issue. In terms of classification of anal sphincter injuries, the following is recommended (note the different levels at grade 3:

 

Rectum

- 1st degree tear: injury to the perineal skin and/or the vaginal mucosa
- 2nd degree tear: injury to the perineum involving the perineal muscles but not involving the anal sphincter.
- 3rd degree tear: injury to the perineum involving the the anal sphincter complex
- Grade 3a tear: Less than 50% of the external anal sphincter (EAS) thickness is torn.
- Grade 3b tear: More than 50% of the EAS thickness is torn.
- Grade 3c tear: Both the EAS and the internal anal sphincter (OAS) are torn.
- 4th degree tear: Injury to the perineum involving the anal sphincter complex (EAS and IAS) and the anorectal mucosa.

 

Risk factors for anal injury are also outlined in the guidelines, although the authors point out that accurate prediction based on the risk factors is not reliable. The noted risk factors are as below:

The research on pelvic pain and specifically on sexual dysfunction has focused on heterosexual women, leaving a large gap in the clinically-based evidence. A study published last year in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy aimed to narrow this gap by studying the characteristics of vulvar pain in women in a variety of relationships. The associations between qualities such as love and communication were evaluated in relation to the participants' perceptions of how pain influenced their relationships. Within the research report, the authors establish that pelvic pain commonly causes pain and limitation with sexual function, and that queer women (defined in their work as women who identify as something other than heterosexual) also experience pain with sexual function.

 

"Of the 839 women, 31% reported genital pain, with 12% of the women with genital pain in a same-sex relationship, 67% in a mixed-sex relationship, and 21% being single"

The women in the study provided information about demographics, experiences of genital pain and pain characteristics. They completed surveys including the Dyadic Trust Scale (measures trust in a close relationship), the Rubin Love Scale (assesses level of romantic love), and the Communication Subscale of Evaluation and Nurturing Relationship Issues, Communication and Happiness Marital Satisfaction Scale (measures level of communication). Participants' average age was 25, and of the 77% who were in a relationship, most (60%) were in a mixed-sex relationship. Average length of relationships was 3 years, with nearly 84% of the women being white with some level of higher education.

 

Of the 839 women, 31% reported genital pain, with 12% of the women with genital pain in a same-sex relationship, 67% in a mixed-sex relationship, and 21% being single. Of the 260 women reporting genital pain, 39% identified as heterosexual, 15% identified as lesbian, and 46% identified as bisexual. The most common pain locations reported were inside the vagina (48%), in the pelvis or abdomen (45%), at the vaginal opening (39%), and 21% of the women reported global vulvar pain. From the data, the authors also report that women in same-sex relationships were likely to report that tampon insertion was painful.

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