Michelle Lyons - Featured Herman & Wallace Instructor

In our weekly feature section, Pelvic Rehab Report is proud to present this interview with Herman & Wallace instructor Michelle Lyons, PT, MISCP

Michelle Lyons

How did you get started in pelvic rehab?

Like a lot of therapists whom I talk to when I travel and teach, it was after the birth of my daughter, when I realized what an under-served population postpartum women are! After childbirth, the focus almost entirely shifts to the baby, and poor old Mum is left, by and large, to fend for herself. Now, more than ever, when we are looking at shorter hospital stays and the lack of maternity leave, we as pelvic therapists need to grow awareness of the needs of women throughout the life cycle and what we have to offer. Pelvic rehab is a high touch, low risk, cost effective and highly effective (yet under used) treatment option. I am passionate about spreading the Pelvic Rehab Gospel!

Who or what inspired you?

Holly Herman. The woman is a pelvic legend. If you get the chance to take one of her course, do it. An amazing breadth, width and depth of expertise and experience.

What do you find more rewarding about teaching?

Confession: I am a pelvic nerd. I just love talking about the fascinating interplay of anatomy, physiology, psychology, form and function. I am (almost) never happier than when I get to spend a weekend with a group of therapists exploring diagnoses, assessments, interventions and outcomes with a like minded group of pelvic health professionals. Whenever I teach, I always learn something too – I really like the classes I teach to be conversational and we tend to have some interesting sidebars and tangents! But I think that just adds to the learning experience – we have all had different pathways educationally, personally and professionally, and I think that looking at different perspectives and approaches can only be a good thing, especially for the patients we treat.

How did you get started teaching pelvic rehab?

My background was in sports medicine and MSK dysfunction. I come into the wonderful world of pelvic health about 15 years ago. Now I look on that background as being incredibly important – I think in order to be a great pelvic therapist, you really need a solid orthopedic expertise. You can’t treat the pelvic floor without looking at the pelvic girdle (and spine and hips and feet and …..!)

What trends/changes are you finding in the field of pelvic rehab?

I think we are learning more and more about Pain Science – sometimes on a daily basis. I think one of our primary role as pelvic therapists can be as educator – I often say to classes that most people know more about their phones than they do about their own bodies! So having anatomical models, books and learning aids can be a great way to empower our patients. I always emphasize including biopsychosocial approaches in working with patients, talking about issues like central sensitisation, the effects of chronic pain and worry on the brain etc BUT I do think we have to be careful, too, that we don’t ignore the biomedical. Sometimes I worry that the pendulum is swinging too far – we have to be sure that we are addressing the physical problems as well!

The other big trend I see is engagement on social media! Just over a year ago, after I taught a course in the UK, I set up a Facebook group with my friend & colleague, Gerard Greene, called Women’s Health Physiotherapy. We now have over 2300 members from all over the world and it is so heartening to see international colleagues from the US, the UK, Australia, the Middle East and Ireland talking, sharing ideas, questions, resources and clinical reasoning. So reassuring to know that others have dealt with the same problems we may be facing in our daily patient caseloads! The Facebook group has been a great success and in fact we submitted a poster based on the group looking at how SoMe can benefit physiotherapists internationally and it has been accepted for presentation at WCPT in Singapore in May.

If you could get a message to all therapists about pelvic rehab, what would it be?

You have such an amazing skillset – you have the power to effect HUGE change in your patients’ lives. The CSP (the governing body for Physiotherapists in the UK) acknowledges that pelvic health is one of the few growth areas within our profession. I think as pelvic therapists, we have the ability to integrate gynaecological, obstetric, orthopaedic, hormonal, oncological and biopsychosocial systems. We are skilled interviewers, skilled manual therapists and skilled exercise/lifestyle precribers. We have the ability to take our patients from being passive recipients to active participants in their own healthcare. It is the best job in the world!

If you could make a significant change to the field of pelvic rehab or the field of PT, what would it be?

I would love to see our role more widely understood and acknowledged. Most of our medical colleagues don’t know what we do! The other big change I would love to see in the U.S. is national registration – I hear from so many therapists how restrictive individual state licensure is and how it can hold them back from job opportunities. I do understand that this is an issue that is hopefully on the horizon, and I think that will be a huge boost to our profession!

What have you learned over the years that has been most valuable to you? Never stop learning! There are always more books to buy, articles to read and courses to attend, but it is just as important to take time to assimilate new knowledge and always ask yourself – ‘Does this change how I would practise? How? Why?' Got to love that clinical reasoning skill set!!

What is your favorite topic about which you teach?

So….this is a tricky one! I teach the Pelvic Floor series and the Pregnancy series. I have developed a number of specialty topics for Herman & Wallace over the years – The Athlete & the Pelvic Floor, Menopause – a rehab approach, Special Topics – Endometriosis, Infertility & Hysterectomy and Oncology & the Male Pelvic Floor and Oncology & the Female Pelvic Floor. To pick just one is impossible! I truly love teaching them all, but if I had to narrow it down I would have to have joint winners. PF1 because I really see this course as the ‘gateway drug’ to a career in pelvic health – I just love to watch as participants move from that first scary lab session (!) to the end of Day 3 and feeling of ‘Yes! I get this! I love pelvic rehab!’. The other joint winner would have to be Oncology & the Female Pelvic Floor – we have so much to offer the survivors of gynaecological cancers. However, unlike our well publicized and relatively well researched role in prostate cancer rehab, gynae cancer survivors are often left to deal with problems encompassing orthopedic, soft tissue, lymphatic, sexual and continence function issues. We have work to do in raising our profile in cancer survivor-ship programs for these women. So, talking about the effects of cancer and cancer treatment on life with and after cancer is an issue I feel very strongly about.

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