There's a lot going on in the world of pelvic rehab, and continuing education is no exception! This March, Herman & Wallace is hosting NINE courses around the country. It's a lot to keep up with, so we thought you might appreciate a brief overview of what's coming up next!
Pelvic pain can have many sources, and Elizabeth Hampton wants to help you quickly get to the source. Finding the Driver in Pelvic Pain empowers you to play detective in order to help even the most complex patients. Don't miss out on Finding the Driver in Pelvic Pain in San Diego, CA on March 4-6, 2016
How important is a good diet? For most of us eating healthy is important, and for many pelvic rehab patients it is a necessity. That's why Megan Pribyl wrote her "Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist" course. This beginner level course is intended to expand the your knowledge of the metabolic underpinnings for local to systemically complex disorders. Don't miss out on Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist - Kansas City, MO - March 5-6, 2016!
Fascial mobilization is a rising star in pelvic rehab treatment techniques, and Ramona Horton is excited to share it with you! "Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity" is the best opportunity you'll get to learn about the evaluation and treatment of myofascia for pelvic dysfunction. Check it out on our continuing education course page. Ramona will be teaching these techniques in Santa Barbara, CA on March 11-13.
Sometimes the newborn is the one to get all the attention, but what about the new mother? Be sure that you can help postpartum women with symptoms like postural dysfunction, pelvic girdle dysfunction, diastasis recti abdominis and more by attending Care of the Postpartum Patient in Seattle, WA this March 12-13, taught by the wonderful Holly Tanner!
12% of women in the US have vulvar pain for 3 or more months at some stage in their life. It takes a multidisciplinary approach to address all the causes and co-morbidities, and that is exactly what you'll get at Dee Hartmann's Vulvodynia: Assessment and Treatment in Houston, TX on March 12-13, 2016. Dee aims to address the vicious cycle of pain, visceral and sexual dysfunction, and the general hit to quality of life that patients with vulvodynia suffer from.
The sacroiliac joint, pelvic girdle, and pelvic ring sure can take a beating, and Peter Philip knows how to keep you moving. Through exercise and stabilization, the pelvic rehab practitioner can quickly treat pain in the lumbopelvic-hip complex. Learn all about the direct and indirect anatomy that influences the sacroiliac joint, and then get ready to find and treat the source of pain and dysfunction in Sacroiliac Joint Treatment in Minneapolis, MN on March 19-20, 2016.
The menopause transition is not something many people look forward to. For some women it goes more smoothly than others, and it's the less fortunate ones who need access to a well-trained pelvic care professional. Michelle Lyons is flying in from Ireland to help you to become that pro! Be it vaginal atrophy, sexual health dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, or any other of the myriad possible symptoms of menopause, you'll be equipped to handle them all after attending Menopause: A Rehabilitation Approach in Atlanta, GA on March 19-20, 2016.
What are the attributes and barriers to care for college-aged women who have pelvic pain? This is a question asked by researchers who published an original article on the topic in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. To complete the study, a random sample of 2000 female students at the University of Florida were sent an online questionnaire. Included in the questionnaire was basic demographic data, general health and health behavior questions, psychosocial factors, measures assessing different types of pelvic pain such as dyspareunia, dysmenorrhea, urinary, bowel, or vulvar pain, and information about barriers to care for pelvic pain and quality of life measures. A total of 390 women completed the survey, and the mean age was 23 years old. Most of the women in the sample identified as white, with 9.6% identifying as black or African-American. Most of the respondents had never been pregnant. The chart below lists some of the data.
|Experienced pelvic pain over past 12 months
|Symptoms with bowel movements
|Vulvar pain (including superficial dyspareunia)
|Of women with pelvic pain, those lacking diagnosis
|Of women with pelvic pain, those who have not visited doctor
Barriers to receiving care included difficulty with insurance coverage and providers’ “…lack of time and knowledge or interest in chronic pelvic pain conditions.” An interesting finding was that among the women who had pelvic pain, those who were sexually active reported lower scores on physical and mental health. Even among the women without pelvic pain, those who were sexually active reported lower mental health scores.
How can this study encourage us as pelvic rehabilitation providers? Can we reach out to providers and share the potential benefits of pelvic rehab care to decrease the burden on the patient in finding services? It seems that in addition to continually spreading the word that pelvic pain can be eased with rehabilitation efforts, we can provide the interest and knowledge in the subject so that the patient can feel validated and can be instructed in self-management tools.
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.
'Secret Weapon' for Pain
Chronic pelvic pain is very different from other types of pain because it's intimately connected to our emotional, spiritual and psychological states, and can involve many symptoms in the nervous, endocrine, visceral, gynecological, urological and muscular systems. It can be very difficult to treat, and can require from six months to one year of physical therapy, depending on patient presentation and history.
This lengthy course of treatment requires a fresh approach to therapy and modalities. When I started treating this population I had many difficulties when it came to controlling their pain and I had to think differently. Electrical stimulation and ultrasound were not working as well as I'd hoped, and were providing insufficient pain relief to these patients.
I needed a modality that, when incorporated with my pelvic pain treatment protocols, could help produce immediate and long-lasting pain-relieving effects. I needed a modality that could significantly decrease pain within one session, and that my patients could believe in because of the results.
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) proved to be my secret weapon when treating women with chronic pelvic pain. (I frequently call it "light therapy", because many patients are put off by the term "laser.")
I have been successfully using light therapy for nearly ten years. It helps my patients keep their pain at bay, and many request that I use it as part of their therapy. Of course, light therapy is only as good as the therapist using it. You have to apply this modality correctly, and use the science properly to maximize results.
LLLT was approved by the FDA in 2002. At that time, the modality was hailed by the New England Patriots and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others, for its ability to help top athletes quickly return from injury. Endorsements from these organizations piqued my interest and I decided to research its principles.
I realized that LLLT could be used on many levels. LLLT is unique: it is a cellular bio-stimulator and is used to increase vitality of cells as well as processes that occur within the cell. Not all lasers are "created equal," and you have to be careful with the type you purchase.
Principles that must be taken into consideration include wavelength in nanometers, power in milliwatts, and total energy delivered in joules. In my pelvic pain protocols, I use LLLT on sensitive and painful tissues that are unable to tolerate any heat production.
Many lasers claim to be great therapeutic lasers, but actually produce heat within the tissue and cells. Any heat production has the potential to harm cells and destroy them. Heat production indicates the delivery of too many joules of energy per cycle. The goal with LLLT is to stimulate health and vitality within the cell to produce effects such as pain relief, collagen synthesis, resetting nerve potential, anti-inflammatory effects, and endorphin production.
New Look at Modalities
LLLT has changed the way I treat all pain syndromes. It's had such a positive impact that I've created laser protocols for vulvodynia, scar and bladder pain. I also created a special class for the Herman and Wallace Institute class for physical therapists who treat chronic pelvic pain. I encourage any colleagues specializing in this population to investigate this remarkable modality and to attend the class in October. If you are looking for something different and a modality that will change the way you treat come and learn how to use if effectively.
Michelle Lyons is instructor of "Oncology and the Female Pelvic Floor: Female Reproductive and Gynecologic Cancers", among other Herman & Wallace courses. We thought you might like to hear her expert analysis of current research going on in the field of gynecologic oncology, and the benefits therapeutic yoga can have on patient rehabilitation. Take it away, Michelle!
More than 65,000 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancers (vulvar, vaginal, cervical, ovarian, endometrial) in the United States each year (Sohl et al 2012). Treatment options for these women include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy – all of which have the potential to have local, regional and global effects on a woman’s body. The pelvic rehab specialist is in a unique position to hugely improve quality of life issues for these women – dealing with issues directly associated with pelvic health (urinary, sexual and bowel function and dysfunction) as well as more global issues such as bone health, peripheral neuropathies and musculoskeletal dysfunctions.
Yoga has enormous potential as a therapeutic tool for gynecologic cancer survivors and as exercise prescription experts, we can add yoga as a multi-purpose tool to our skill-set.
Empirical research on therapeutic yoga has been ongoing for several decades, including several recent studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors. Although most of the research looking at the benefits of yoga for cancer survivors has been done in the context of breast and prostate cancers, we can safely extrapolate many of the benefits associated with oncology rehab yoga, including its immediately obvious ability to improve flexibility, strength, balance, but also the impact yoga can have on decreasing inflammation, improving sleep and raising quality of life scores in pelvic cancer survivors.
Recent papers by Dewhirst et al showed how moderate exercise can improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation by decreasing tumour hypoxia – they also discovered that this may limit metastatic aggression.
We also know that exercise can be potent medicine when it comes to dealing with the effects of cancer treatments, especially fatigue, bone health and cardiovascular function, which may disrupt return to exercise (Kerry et al 2005). But pelvic cancer patients may face extra barriers when it comes to returning to exercise, such as pelvic pain and concerns about continence, as well as diminished flexibility, balance and strength. But as Blaney et al concluded in their 2013 paper ‘…however, the main barriers reported were those that had the potential to be alleviated by exercise.’ And in my opinion, this can be achieved by integrating yoga into our pelvic oncology rehab programs.
These recent and exciting research findings have encouraged me to add a therapeutic yoga lab session to my Oncology & the Pelvic Floor course, which I will be teaching in NY next month. This is the last chance to catch this course stateside this year so I hope you will join me in White Plains to explore the many ways we can make a serious impact on pelvic cancer survivorship (Bring your yoga mat!)
Psychooncology. 2013 Jan;22(1):186-94.
Cancer survivors' exercise barriers, facilitators and preferences in the context of fatigue, quality of life and physical activity participation: a questionnaire-survey. Blaney JM1, Lowe-Strong A, Rankin-Watt J, Campbell A, Gracey JH.
Annals of Behavioral Medicine
April 2005, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 147-153
A Longitudinal Study of Exercise Barriers in Colorectal Cancer Survivors Participating in a Randomized Controlled Trial
Kerry S. Courneya Ph.D., Christine M. Friedenreich Ph.D., H. Arthur Quinney Ph.D., Anthony L. A. Fields M.D., Lee W. Jones Ph.D., Jeffrey K. H. Vallance M.A., Adrian S. Fairey M.Sc.
JNCI J Natl Canc
Allison S. Betof, Christopher D. Lascola, Douglas H. Weitzel, Chelsea D. Landon, Peter M. Scarbrough, Gayathri R. Devi, Gregory M. Palmer, Lee W. Jones, and Mark W. Dewhirst
Modulation of Murine Breast Tumor Vascularity, Hypoxia, and Chemotherapeutic Response by Exercise
Today we present Part II of Michelle Lyons' discussion on sex after gynecologic cancer. Michelle will be teaching a course on this topic in White Plains in August!
In Part One of this blog, I looked at the sexual health issues women face after gynecologic cancer. In Part Two, I want to explore different treatment options that we as pelvic rehab specialists can employ to help address the many implications of cancer and cancer treatment
Treatment for gynecologic cancers, including vulvar, vaginal, cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancers, may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or hormonal therapy. We know that any of these approaches can have an adverse effect on the pelvic floor, as well as systemic effects on a woman’s body. Issues can include pain, fibrosis, scar tissue adhesions, diminished flexibility, fatigue and feeling fatigued and unwell. The effects on body image should not be under-estimated either. In their paper ‘Sexual functioning among breast cancer, gynecologic cancer, and healthy women’, Anderson & Jochimsen explore how ‘…body-image disruption may be a prevalent problem for gynecologic cancer patients…more so than for breast cancer patients’. The judicious use of manual therapy and local and global exercise prescription may be excellent pathways for a women to re-integrate with her body.
Many women will have to learn to care for a new colostomy or how to catheterize a continent urostomy. A woman who has had a vulvectomy will need sensitive counselling to understand that she can still respond sexually. Patients who have had a vaginectomy with reconstruction as part of a pelvic exenteration will need extensive rehab to help them achieve successful sexual functioning. We as pelvic rehab practitioners are in a uniquely privileged position – not only can we ask the questions and discuss the options but we are licensed to be ‘hands on’ professionals, using our core skills of manual therapy, bespoke exercise advice and educating our patients about a range of issues from the correct usage of lubricants, dilators, sexual ergonomics and brain/pain science. I am in the habit of describing pelvic rehab as the best specialty in physical therapy but I think this is especially true when it comes to the junction of oncology and pelvic health. This is where we can integrate our knowledge of neuro-science, orthopaedics, the lymphatic system and pelvic health to deal with the effects of pelvic cancers and their treatment.
In Farmer et al’s 2014 paper, ‘Pain Reduces Sexual Motivation in Female But Not Male Mice’ , the authors found that ‘Pain from inflammation greatly reduced sexual motivation in female mice in heat -- but had no such effect on male mice’. Unfortunately ongoing pelvic pain is a common sequela of treatment for gynecologic cancers – reasons ranging from post-operative adhesions, post-radiation fibrosis or vaginal stenosis or genital lymphedema. It is also worth bearing in mind the ‘rare but real’ scenario of pudendal neuralgia following pelvic radiation, as discussed by Elahi in his 2013 article ‘Pudendal entrapment neuropathy: a rare complication of pelvic radiation therapy.’
The good news is that we have much to offer. Yang in 2012 (‘Effect of a pelvic floor muscle training program on gynecologic cancer survivors with pelvic floor dysfunction: A randomized controlled trial’) showed that pelvic rehab improved overall pelvic floor function, sexual functioning and QoL measures for gynecological cancer patients. Yang’s pelvic rehab group (administered by an experience physiotherapist) displayed statistically significant differences in physical function, pain, sexual worry, sexual activity, and sexual/vaginal function. Gynecological cancer and treatment procedures are potentially a fourfold assault: on sexual health, body image, sexual functioning, and fertility. Sexual morbidity is an undertreated problem in gynecological cancer survivorship that is known to occur early and to persist beyond the period of recovery (Reis et al 2010). We have a good and growing body of evidence that pelvic rehab, delivered by skilled therapists, has the potential to address each of these issues. And perhaps, most encouraging, here is Yang’s conclusion: ‘…‘Pelvic Floor Rehab is effective even in gynecological cancer survivors who need it most.’ (Yang 2012)
Interested in learning more about the role of pelvic rehab in gynecologic cancer survivorship? Join me in White Plains in August!
A few weeks ago, a pelvic course participant shared some sensitive and intimate thoughts about being at a course and being "the biggest girl in class." This week, we will address specific strategies for communicating with your patients and for adapting your exam techniques when appropriate. The following quote is from an educational book for Nurse Practitioners, and echoes a very healthy and realistic sentiment about our role when working with patients in pelvic rehabilitation.
"If the exam is limited by obesity, the patient should be told in a clear, non-judgmental manner. Patients have a right and responsibility to understand the findings of the health care visit."
Unfortunately, according to the authors, women who are obese are less likely to receive routine gynecologic care due to bias and fear of judgement, or even practical issues like exam tables, gowns, and equipment not being adequate. Another issue is that of mobility: is the exam table too narrow for safety and comfortable positioning? In my own clinical practice, I have had patients ask me: "Is that massage table going to hold me?" In order to answer that question, you need to know what the safe weight limits are for your chairs, walkers, exam tables, and any other equipment your patients may use. You might imagine that if a patient is concerned about falling off of a table, completing an appropriate exam could be difficult due to muscle guarding. Other techniques recommended include the following:
- ask an assistant to gently hold back skin folds if vagina or vulva is obscured
- ask the patient to flex her hips upward if able
- ask patient to help hold back excess skin in lower abdomen if helpful
- ultrasound may be used rather than palpation as needed (this is in reference to a medical gynecologic exam, but how might rehab US contribute to our toolkit?)
- document any difficulty with the examination - placing a small towel or pillow under the patient's hips may also help in viewing the cervix
This "Bias Tool Kit" offers further suggestions to avoid causing harm when evaluating a woman who is obese:
- if you would like to weigh the patient, ask for consent first, using sensitive language, i.e. "would you like to be weighed today?" and maintain privacy
- in addition to considering equipment like tables, think about having a stepstool with a handle, properly sized blood pressure cuffs, sturdy, armless chairs, and a long exam speculum
- use words that patients find more acceptable, such as excess weight or BMI
Advice to the nurse practitioners include the following to counter the fact that obese women are often discriminated against:
"If the exam is limited by obesity, the patient should be told in a clear, non-judgmental manner. Patients have a right and responsibility to understand the findings of the health care visit." For example, for a medical exam: "Due to the shape and size of your body, I wasn't able to feel your uterus and ovaries." Any similarly needed communications can be shared in a professional and warm tone.
While sensitive topics can require patience, practice, and an abundance of professionalism, everyone wins when difficult subjects are approached with honesty. Thanks again to Erin B. for shining her light on this sensitive and valuable topic.