Movement and the Pelvic Patient

Tracy M. Spitznagle

This blog was written by H&W instructor, Tracy Spitznagle,PT, DPT, MHS, who instructs the Movement Systems Approach course with Herman & Wallace. You can catch Tracy in the next offering of her course, April 12-13 in Houston, TX.

Should pelvic health practitioners be concerned about movement? Based on personal conversations this month, I would argue an emphatic “yes!”

The first part of 2014 has been exciting for me for understanding movement impairment education. Recently, I attended the Washington University Program in Physical Therapy MSI retreat, where discussion focused on movement and the hip. It was an amazingly cool dialog! The retreat was hosted by Dr. Shirley Sahrmann and guest speaker Dr. Donald Neumann. After the retreat, the University had a visiting lectureship and I had the pleasure of having a breakfast meeting with guest speaker Dr Chris Powers. It has been a movement system educational smorgasbord.

Consider this: the physiological system for which physical therapists are responsible is the movement system. Pain in the pelvic region is commonly associated with myofascial pain, but why did the neural muscular system develop the problem pain to touch? I believe the therapist needs to consider how the neuro-muscular components of the lumbopelvic region could be foremost in the cause of the pain.

At this retreat, I had great reaffirmation of my ideas related to movement. According to Chris Powers, “Increased hip adduction with medial rotation is the most common movement impairment during cutting, jumping and running in women with ACL injuries, there is a huge body of research to support this.”

However, the female athlete is not the only one who moves improperly and develops pain and tissue injuries. Women of all ages are more likely to adduct and medially rotate their hip, simply the habit of leg crossing when sitting re-enforces this issue. This movement impairment can be partially explained by the shape of the female pelvis and the architecture of the muscles. Believe it or not, my favorite muscle, (Don Neumann’s, too) the obturator Internus, is implicated in the movement impairment of the female with an ACL injury as well as the female with pain with intercourse.

Don Neumann PT PhD agrees; according to Dr Neumann, “it is logical to consider that the obturator Internus is more susceptible to strain due to the 130 degree turn it takes out of the pelvis.”

Thus, I believe it is logical to test for hip lateral rotation weakness as well as excessive movement in to adduction and medical rotation as a common movement habit of women, and especially women with pain located deep in the pelvis over the region of the obturator internus.

Motion analysis based on the methods developed by Chris Powers requires a lot of expensive equipment to analyze movement and only those who can run, jump and cut benefit from his information. On the other hand, movement testing of simple tasks that you already know how to do (i.e. bending, standing on one leg, and reaching up overhead) are inexpensive tools to evaluate movement. The hardest part is learning what to look for. Once you recognize kinesiological-based movement impairments you can provide corrective activities at a very low overhead!

The Movement course I teach for Herman and Wallace provides the opportunity to learn a basic movement exam that can be used for women of all ages. The course provides an overview of the anatomy of the hip, spine and SIJ and how impairment movement of these regions relate to common pelvic pain conditions you may be treating. This course provides a means for you to specifically educate your patient on how to move with less pain!

Want more from Tracy? Check her out in Houston in April!

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