Many of us in pelvic rehabilitation started out working exclusively with female patients and within the realm of urinary dysfunction. As our caseload broadened and the recognition that a "simple" case of urinary dysfunction was about as common as a "simple" ankle sprain, our education and clinical skills branched out to meet the needs of our patients. Many therapists had to extrapolate what they knew about women's anatomy and pelvic rehabilitation and apply that knowledge to men. (Even despite some therapists' insistence that their caseload should focus on women, the men who were desperate for care would show up anyway!) So what is different about men, and why is there a need to understand not only the common dysfunctions they face, but also how men tend to approach health care?
To begin with, men have significant barriers to healthcare, including lack of a primary caregiver. (Grant et al., 2012) Although men may have greater social privileges than women, that privilege also comes with social pressures to be more dominant, more in control and to be less emotional. (Fleming et al., 2014) These barriers and pressures may make it difficult for a man to seek the healthcare that can improve his state of well-being. Therapists can familiarize themselves with approaches to communication and providing support that fit within the context of the individual patient, allowing him to learn needed strategies while still maintaining a sense of empowerment.
Men also tend to have different pelvic dysfunctions than women. Anatomically, a longer urethra means that men tend to suffer fewer urinary tract infections. Without the physiologic needs for childbirth, men are designed with a smaller pelvis, larger bony attachments for muscles, and decreased rates of prolapse and abdominal wall separation. Men do, however, tend to have higher rates of dysfunctions such as inguinal hernias, and may be more prone to rectal prolapse than rectocele. Prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men, can also lead to significant urinary and sexual dysfunction following surgery or other treatments. As pelvic rehabilitation providers, we want to be best prepared to answer questions about all domains in men's health, whether the concerns relate to bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction or pain.
The Institute's continuing education course on Male Pelvic Dysfunction is new this year, with all lectures and labs revised. This course has been taught for many years, allowing the instructors to collect feedback about the needs of the therapists who treat men across the country (and around the world!) Because most therapists have not had the opportunity to learn the details of male anatomy that may influence pelvic dysfunction, this course includes anatomy lecture and palpation throughout the two days of training. Topics in the course are designed to cover issues in male continence, sexual function, prostate issues (both benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and post-prostate cancer treatments), and male pelvic pain. Conditions such as epididymitis, scrotal and testicular pain, and Peyronie's are discussed, from the aspects of medical evaluation, rehabilitative evaluation and intervention, and from the available literature.
If you are already treating female patients, your knowledge will serve you well in the Male Pelvic Dysfunction course. If you are completely new to pelvic rehabilitation, this course will cover important basics such as internal (rectal) pelvic muscle assessment and skills for pelvic rehabilitation. The labs and activities have been re-designed to allow both the experienced and the new therapist to feel appropriately challenged regardless of skill level. If this is your year to increase your knowledge (and maybe your caseload) about men in pelvic rehab, you will have opportunities in March in Nashville and Denver in August to take the male course!
Fleming, P. J., Lee, J. G., & Dworkin, S. L. (2014). “Real Men Don't”: Constructions of Masculinity and Inadvertent Harm in Public Health Interventions. American Journal of Public Health, 104(6), 1029-1035.
Grant, C. G., Davis, J. L., Rivers, B. M., Rivera-Colón, V., Ramos, R., Antolino, P., . . . Green, B. L. (2012). The men’s health forum: An initiative to address health disparities in the community. Journal of community health, 37(4), 773-780.