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Manual Therapy – Use your Head to Guide your Hands

What if we were only taught treatment techniques during our healthcare training with no theory or explanation as to why or on whom or under what circumstances they should be used? Focusing on “how to” but ignoring the “discernment as to why” would make for a weak clinician. Manual therapy for the pelvic floor is a treatment approach to implement once we have used our heads and palpation skills to reveal the underlying source of dysfunction.

Pastore and Katzman (2012) published a thorough article describing the process of recognizing when myofascial pain is the source of chronic pelvic pain in females. They discuss active versus latent myofascial trigger points (MTrPs), which are painful nodules or lumps in muscle tissue, with the latter only being symptomatic when triggered by physical (compression or stretching) or emotional stress. Hyperalgesia and allodynia are generally present in patients with MTrPs, and muscles with MTrPs are weaker and limit range of motion in surrounding joints. In pelvic floor muscles, MTrPs refer pain to the perineum, vagina, urethra, and rectum but also the abdomen, back, thorax, hip/buttocks, and lower leg. The authors suggest detecting a trigger point by palpating perpendicular to the muscle fiber to sense a taut band and tender nodule and advise using the finger pads with a flat approach in the abdomen, pelvis and perineum. They emphasize a multidisciplinary approach to finding and treating MTrPs and making sure urological, gynecological, and/or colorectal pathologies are addressed. A thorough subjective and physical exam that leads to proper diagnosis of MTrPs should be followed by manual physical therapy techniques and appropriate medical intervention for any corresponding pathology.

Halder et al. (2017) investigated the efficacy of myofascial release physical therapy with the addition of Botox in a retrospective case series for women with myofascial pelvic pain. Fifty of the 160 women who had Botox and physical therapy met the inclusion/exclusion criteria, and the primary complaint in all those subjects was dyspareunia. The Botox was administered under general anesthesia, and then the same physician performed soft tissue myofascial release transvaginally for 10-15 minutes, with 10-15 additional minutes performed if rectus muscles had trigger points. The patients were seen 2 weeks and 8 weeks posttreatment. Average pelvic pain scores decreased significantly pre- and posttreatment, with 58% of subjects reporting improvements. Significantly fewer patients (44% versus 100%) presented with trigger points on pelvic exam after the treatment. The patients who did not show improvement tended to have inflammatory or irritable bowel diseases or diverticulosis. Blocking acetylcholine receptors via Botox in combination with pelvic floor physical therapy could possibly provide longer symptom-free periods. Although the nature of the study could not determine a specific interval of relief, the authors were encouraged as an average of 15 months passed before 5 of the patients sought more treatment.

The need for the specific treatment for myofascial pelvic pain is determined by a clinician competent in palpation of the pelvic floor musculature finding trigger points and restrictions in the tissue. Listening to a patient’s symptoms and understanding pelvic pathology allow for better treatment planning. Manual Therapy Techniques for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist is a comprehensive course to enhance knowledge in your head to lead your hands in the right direction for assessing/treating patients with pelvic pain.


Pastore, E. A., & Katzman, W. B. (2012). Recognizing Myofascial Pelvic Pain in the Female Patient with Chronic Pelvic Pain. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing : JOGNN / NAACOG, 41(5), 680–691. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1552-6909.2012.01404.x
Halder, G. E., Scott, L., Wyman, A., Mora, N., Miladinovic, B., Bassaly, R., & Hoyte, L. (2017). Botox combined with myofascial release physical therapy as a treatment for myofascial pelvic pain. Investigative and Clinical Urology, 58(2), 134–139. http://doi.org/10.4111/icu.2017.58.2.134

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