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Male Pelvic Floor Function, Dysfunction, and Treatment

Male Pelvic Floor Function, Dysfunction, and Treatment

This week the interviewer becomes the interviewee as Stacey Futterman Tauriello sits down to interview Holly Tanner on the Male Pelvic Floor course.

Stacey Futterman reached out to Holly Tanner back in 2007 through a phone call to see if they could partner on a lecture covering male pelvic pain. The two had never met in person but decided to collaborate on the three-hour APTA National Conference lecture. Holly shares "I still recall the frequent glances I made to match the person behind the voice I had heard for so many long phone calls.”

This presentation was developed into a two-day education course for Herman & Wallace and contained lectures on male anatomy, post-prostatectomy urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and sexual health and dysfunction. The big question of the time was “should we allow men to attend?” Holly puts this in perspective, “As strange as this question now seems, it speaks volumes about the world of pelvic health at that time; mostly female instructors taught mostly female participants about mostly female conditions.”

The Male Pelvic Floor course was first taught in 2008 and has since been expanded to include 22 contact hours. This current content includes 7 pre-recorded lectures and 2 full days of live lectures and labs, allowing more time for hands-on skills in examination and treatment. The schedule still covers bladder, prostate, sexual health, and pelvic pain, and further discusses special topics like post-vasectomy syndrome, circumcision, and Peyronie’s disease.

Because the course often has providers in attendance who have not completed prior pelvic health training, instruction in basic techniques is included. For the experienced therapists, there are multiple lab “tracks” that offer intermediate to advanced skills that can be practiced in addition to the basic skills. Holly adds, “One of the more valuable conversations that we have in the course is how to create comfort and ease in when for most us, we were raised in a culture (and medical training) where palpation of the pelvis was not made comfortable. Hearing from the male participants about their bodies, how they are affected by cultural expectations, adds significant value as well.”

In 2017 Herman & Wallace faculty member, Heather Radar submitted a blog where she wrote about a note that was left on her doorstep by the wife of an older gentleman who had chronic male pelvic pain. When looking into writing this blog I kept coming back to this past blog by Heather, and I have decided to share an abridged version today to accompany Holly Tanner's short interview discussing the Male Pelvic Floor Satellite Lab Course.

Recently, a note was left at my doorstep by the wife of an older gentleman who had chronic male pelvic pain. His pain was so severe, that he could not sit, and he lay in the back seat of their idling car as his wife, having exhausted all other medical channels available to her, walked this note up to the home of a rumored pelvic floor physical therapist who also treated men. The note opened with how she had heard of me. She then asked me to contact her about her husband’s medical problem. It ended with three words that have vexed me ever since…we are desperate. We Are Desperate.

Unlike so many men with chronic pelvic pain, he had at least been given a diagnostic cause of his pain, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, rather than vaguely being told it was just a prostate issue. However, the therapists that had been recommended by his doctor only treated female pelvic dysfunction.

My first thought after reading the note was, “I bet shoulder or knee therapists don’t get notes like this on their doorstep.” My next thought, complete with facepalm, “THIS HAS TO STOP! Pelvic floor rehab has got to become more accessible”.

Pelvic floor therapists see all people including men, women, and transgender. They treat the pediatric, adult, and geriatric populations. They treat pelvic floor disorders in the outpatient, home health, and SNF settings. They treat elite athletes and those with multiple co-morbidities using walkers. They can develop preventative pelvic wellness programs and teach caregivers how to better manage their loved one’s incontinence. This is due to one simple fact: No matter the age, gender, level of health, or practice setting, every patient has a pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor should not be regarded as some rare zebra in clinical practice when it is the workhorse upon which so many health conditions ride. It interacts with the spine, the hip, the diaphragm, and vital organs. It is composed of skin, nerves, muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, lymph glands, and vessels. It is as complex and as vital to function and health as the shoulder or knee is, and yet students are lucky if they get a “pelvic floor day” in their PT or OT school coursework.

I call for every therapist, specialist, and educator to learn more about the pelvic floor. If you only treat pelvic dysfunction in women, please consider expanding your specialty to include men. The guys really need your help. You literally may be the only practitioner around that has the skills to treat these types of problems. Yes, the concerns you have about privacy and feeling comfortable are valid. But, you are not alone in this. Smart people like Holly Tanner have figured all that stuff out for you and can guide you on how to expertly treat in the men’s health arena.

The Silver Lining. Thanks to the champions of pelvic floor rehab education, we’ve come a long way. The good news in this story is that this man’s doctor recognized early that he had pelvic floor muscle dysfunction and recommended that he see a pelvic floor physical therapist. The bad news-it took 2 years before he could find one. The ball is in our court, therapists. Let’s do better. Until there are no more men in the back seat, we still need to #LearnMoreAboutThePelvicFloor.

We need to continue to create more coursework and more clinical training opportunities so that the representation of those treating male patients improves. If you feel ready to take your training to the next level in caring for male pelvic dysfunction, join us for an upcoming Male Pelvic Floor Satellite Lab Course.


MPF Instagram Post

Male Pelvic Floor Satellite Lab Course is scheduled on several dates and satellite locations for 2022, including self-hosted course options. Dates include:

  • April 23-24
  • June 12-13
  • September 24-25
  • October 22-23
  • December 3-4
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Intimacy After Prostate Cancer

Intimacy After Prostate Cancer

Intimacy after prostate cancer

In a 2018 article by Holly Tanner, she explains how managing a medical crisis such as a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for an individual. ‘Faced with choices about medical options, dealing with disruptions in work, home, and family life often leaves little energy left to consider sexual health and intimacy. Maintaining closeness, however, is often a goal within a partnership and can aid in sustaining a relationship through such a crisis.” Research shows that cancer treatment is disruptive to sexual health. Intimacy is a larger concept that may be fostered even when sexual activity is impaired or interrupted.

Prostate cancer treatment can change relational roles, finances, work-life, independence, and other factors including hormone levels. (1) Exhaustion (on the part of the patient and the caregiver), role changes, changes in libido, and performance anxiety can create further challenges. (1, 3, 4) Recovery of intimacy is possible, and reframing of sexual health may need to take place. Most importantly, these issues need to be talked about, as a renegotiation of intimacy may need to take place after a diagnosis or treatment of prostate cancer. (2)

If a patient brings up sexual health, or the practitioner encourages the conversation, many research-based suggestions can be provided to encourage recovery of intimacy including:

• Redefining sex to include other sexual practices beyond penetration, such as massage or touching, cuddling, talking, use of vibrators, medication, aids such as pumps (5)
• Participation in couples therapy to understand their partner’s needs, address loss, be educated about sexual function (7)
• Participation in “sensate focus” activities (developed by Masters & Johnson in the 1970s as “touch opportunities”) with appropriate guidance (6)

Holly continues to share that “Within the context of this information, there is an opportunity to refer the patient to a provider who specializes in sexual health and function. While some rehabilitation professionals are taking additional training to be able to provide a level of sexual health education and counseling, most pelvic health providers do not have the breadth and depth of training required to provide counseling techniques related to sexual health - we can, however, get the conversation started, which in the end may be most important.”


Courses of Interest:

Oncology of the Pelvic Floor Level 2A Remote Course - Male Pelvic and Colorectal Cancers - April 2-3, 2022

  • A colorectal or male pelvic cancer diagnosis has multiple systems that are affected by cancer treatment. The rehabilitation professional that works with the pelvic oncology patient needs to competently navigate treatment techniques for all of these systems, as well as be confident in treating a patient in a personal area. This two-day course will address specific cancer types including prostate cancer, penile cancer, and testicular cancer. Additional cancer types covered include colorectal cancer and anal cancer.

Trauma Awareness for the Pelvic Therapist - Remote Course - Apr 9-10, 2022

  • Bring their increased awareness of trauma to the successful, holistic treatment of patients with pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, and bladder dysfunction.

Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab - Remote Course - Apr 9-10, 2022

  • This course provides a thorough introduction to pelvic floor sexual function, dysfunction and treatment interventions for males and females of all sexual orientations, as well as an evidence-based perspective on the value of physical therapy interventions for patients with chronic pelvic pain related to sexual conditions, disorders, and multiple approaches for the treatment of sexual dysfunction including understanding medical diagnosis and management.

Male Pelvic Floor Function, Dysfunction, and Treatment - Satellite Lab Course - April 23-24 2022

  • Discuss sexual anatomy and physiology, prostate issues, and look at the research describing models of intimacy and what worked for couples who did learn to renegotiate intimacy after prostate cancer. Participants will be able to describe the relationships between pelvic muscle function and men’s sexual health, including the evidence that demonstrates pelvic muscle rehabilitation's positive impact on erectile function.

 


1. Beck, A. M., Robinson, J. W., & Carlson, L. E. (2009, April). Sexual intimacy in heterosexual couples after prostate cancer treatment: What we know and what we still need to learn. In Urologic oncology: seminars and original investigations (Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 137-143). Elsevier.
2. Gilbert, E., Ussher, J. M., & Perz, J. (2010). Renegotiating sexuality and intimacy in the context of cancer: the experiences of carers. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(4), 998-1009.
3. Hawkins, Y., Ussher, J., Gilbert, E., Perz, J., Sandoval, M., & Sundquist, K. (2009). Changes in sexuality and intimacy after the diagnosis and treatment of cancer: the experience of partners in a sexual relationship with a person with cancer. Cancer Nursing, 32(4), 271-280.
4. Higano, C. S. (2012). Sexuality and intimacy after definitive treatment and subsequent androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 30(30), 3720-3725.
5. Ussher, J. M., Perz, J., Gilbert, E., Wong, W. T., & Hobbs, K. (2013). Renegotiating sex and intimacy after cancer: resisting the coital imperative. Cancer Nursing, 36(6), 454-462.
6. Weiner, L., Avery-Clark, C. (2017). Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual. Routledge, New York.
7. Wittmann, D., Carolan, M., Given, B., Skolarus, T. A., An, L., Palapattu, G., & Montie, J. E. (2014). Exploring the role of the partner in couples’ sexual recovery after surgery for prostate cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 22(9), 2509-2515.

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Osteoporosis Management Is For All Practitioners

An interview with Frank Ciuba.

Frank Ciuba, co-instructor of Osteoporosis Management< alongside Deb Gulbrandson, explains that practitioners need the information provided in their course. "This course is the latest up-to-date research compiled by my partner Deb Gulbrandson and myself in the management of osteoporosis for clinicians." He shares that similar to learning about the pelvic floor, "when physical therapists go to school they get only a small amount of what osteoporosis is and very little on how to treat a patient."

Frank explains that he became interested in teaching osteoporosis management when he learned "that one in four men statistically will get osteoporosis or an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime and they're really not being identified." Osteoporosis Management provides an exercise-oriented approach to treating these patients and it covers specific tests for evaluation, appropriate safe exercises and dosing, basic nutrition, and ideas for marketing your osteoporosis program.

In pelvic health rehabilitation, it's seen that osteoporosis-related kyphosis (curvature of the spine) can affect pelvic organ prolapse, breathing, and digestion. Patients who go through the osteoporosis management program with Frank and Deb, are shown that they reduce the likelihood of compression fracture by 80%.

This course, Osteoporosis Management, is not just for practitioners working with osteoporosis or osteopenia patients. Frank lists the types of patients he's been able to help. "I've used this on high school backpack syndrome, whiplash injuries, adhesive capsulitis, spinal stenosis, low back pain, lumbar strain, even some hip pathologies." He concludes with "We just need to get the word out to more individuals that this a program that can help them. Not only in the short term, but in the long term. This is a program for life."

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Short Interview Series - Episode 3 featuring Lauren Mansell

Holly Tanner Short Interview Series - Episode 3 featuring Lauren Mansell

Lauren Mansell shares, "We're never ready to do this work. We're never ready to be perfect." Her course, Trauma Awareness for the Pelvic Therapist, is for all practitioners, not just physical therapists. Anyone licensed who works with patients can benefit from this topic. However, it can be offputting to put ourselves into a vulnerable position by registering for a course on this topic. Lauren understands this and comes prepared to teach other practitioners about trauma-informed care in the gentlest way possible.

Lauren Mansell, DPT, CLT, PRPC, CYT curated and instructs this course. Lauren worked in counseling and advocacy for sexual assault survivors before becoming a physical therapist. She also brings her experience as a 2017 Fellow of the Chicago Trauma Collective to teach trauma-informed care to medical providers. Trauma-informed care is especially important as the field of pelvic rehabilitation becomes more inclusive.

Pelvic rehabilitation and pelvic therapists really do treat the whole patient. Patients can present with pain, long-term issues, and undisclosed trauma that can be compounded when it includes sex, bladder, or bowel issues. Trauma Awareness for the Pelvic Therapist addresses several topics under this umbrella and spends time on each of the following:

  • Explaining and describing compassion fatigue, trauma-informed care as well as anatomy, neurobiology, physiology of trauma, and the polyvagal autonomic nervous system
  • Identifying risk factors and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
  • Formulating techniques for reducing compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, and retraumatization

To learn more about trauma-informed care join H&W this weekend at Trauma Awareness for the Pelvic Therapist this September 25-26, 2021. The course will be offered again in 2022 if you are not available this weekend!

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Circumferential Electrodes – An Option for Penile Pelvic Pain

Circumferential Electrodes – An Option for Penile Pelvic Pain

Male Pelvic Floor

 Holly Tanner, PT, DPT, MA, OCS, WCS, PRPC, LMP, BCB-PMB, CCI is a faculty member and the Director of Education at Herman & Wallace. She owns a private practice that focuses on pelvic rehabilitation and on chronic myofascial pain. Along with H&W faculty member Stacey Futterman, she co-authored the Male Pelvic Floor course.

In the article by Schneider and colleagues (2013) “Refractory chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men: can transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation help?” the authors conclude that TENS can be effective and safe as a treatment for pelvic pain. What is interesting about the technique they utilize in the intervention is that the electrodes are circumferential, designed to be worn around the penis itself. While this particular treatment may not be of interest for or applicable to all patients with pelvic pain, it may indeed be a valuable tool to add to the list of a comprehensive treatment approach, particularly for the patients who have penile pain or involvement of nerves such as ilioinguinal or the dorsal branch of the pudendal nerve that supplies the penis.

The patients in the report are defined as having “refractory pain” meaning that they have been treated and failed to improve. (Although the definition of “treated” would likely not include a comprehensive pelvic rehabilitation approach.) Patients treated themselves at home for 30 minutes, twice per day at 80 Hz, 150 µs at the sensory threshold level. Outcomes tools included a pain diary using a visual analog scale (VAS) and NIH-CPSI quality of life item at baseline, at 3 months after TENS use, and at last known follow-up appointment. 60 men aged 21-82 years were

Results included successful treatment after 12 weeks in 48% of subjects, and a positive effect was maintained in 21 patients after a mean follow-up of over 43 months. Success meant a greater than 50% reduction in pain VAS and a VAS less than or equal to 3. Pain visual analog scale decreased from 6.6 to 3.9, and QOL improved significantly as well. Fortunately, no adverse events were reported.

While circumferential electrodes are not the only type of electrodes that can be used in pelvic pain TENS application, these electrodes that have a stretchy band to help increased comfort and approximation of the treating surface can allow easy re-use of the electrode and direct placement over the penile tissues. in the image below, one electrode has been placed around the body of the penis and the other is left off simply for viewing the surface of the treatment surface of the electrode. One of 2 leads and electrodes could be used depending on location and extent of pain, and depending on patient preference. Current Medical Technologies carries circumferential electrodes if you are interested in purchasing them.

Although there is no one best treatment pathway for chronic pelvic pain, we can rely on the fact that most patients need multidisciplinary and multimodal support. For conditions that involve overactive nerves or referred pain into the penis, or even for distal treatment for more proximal discomfort, TENS may serve as one “tool in the toolbox” for chronic pelvic, and in particular, chronic penile pain. Pain in the glans, or end of the penis, can be a debilitating and frustrating aspect of pelvic pain (see prior blog post on Pain in the Glans Penis here (link: https://hermanwallace.com/blog/dysfunction-in-glans-penis), and the annoying, distracting sensation of clothing touching the penis can be a source of near-constant irritation. Neuromodulation can be one pathway to assist in moving beyond pain patterns, and it’s a pathway that can be relatively affordable and portable. Because TENS can be applied independently by many patients, TENS can also be a way to improve self-efficacy and provide one strategy for self-care that can be an adjunct to clinical care.

If you’d like to learn more treatment strategies for pelvic pain, the next Men’s Pelvic Health is taking place November 6-7, 2021. Click here (https://hermanwallace.com/continuing-education-courses/male-pelvic-floor-function-dysfunction-and-treatment-satellite-lab-course) to sign up for this course that will sell out! If you are unable to attend a Satellite location, you can easily sign up on your own by scheduling your own lab partner!

If you would like to purchase electrodes, you can find them on the CMT site here: https://www.cmtmedical.com/product/circumferential-penile-electrodes-for-chronic-pelvic-pain/


 

Schneider, M. P., Tellenbach, M., Mordasini, L., Thalmann, G. N., & Kessler, T. M. (2013). Refractory chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men: can transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation help?BJU Internationa

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Post-Vasectomy Syndrome

Post-Vasectomy Syndrome

Holly Tanner, PT, DPT, MA, OCS, WCS, PRPC, LMP, BCB-PMB, CCI is a faculty member and the Director of Education at Herman & Wallace. She owns a private practice that focuses on pelvic rehabilitation and on chronic myofascial pain. Along with H&W faculty member Stacey Futterman, she co-authored the Male Pelvic Floor course.

 

In the US, vasectomy is one of the most common procedures performed, and it is often completed in an outpatient setting with a local anesthetic. Fortunately for most folks, it’s well-tolerated and the advice to rest and ice is enough to allow full recovery. Unfortunately, there are those who don’t recover with ease and are left with chronic pain complications. This is a population that is often left out of the clinical rehabilitation setting, and there is not yet robust literature to catch up with the positive clinical results pelvic rehab providers observe when treating post-vasectomy pain.

 

The Procedure

The goal of a vasectomy is typically contraception. The tube known as either the vas deferens or the ductus deferens is interrupted so that sperm does not travel to its typical destination outside the body via the urethra. This disruption in the tube takes place within the spermatic cord as it passes through the scrotum as this area is easily accessible. There are several techniques that can disrupt the tube where the sperm travels including, but not limited to, clamping, cauterization, or excision. The procedure leaves a small incision in the scrotal tissue.

Vasectomy 1

 

Post-vasectomy Complications

Complications of a vasectomy may include bleeding and hematoma, infection, sperm granuloma (discussed below), chronic scrotal pain, seminal vesicle abscess (rare), and early or late canalization. (Sihra et al., 2007) Interestingly, some patients report less pain after vasectomy. (Leslie et al., 2007) Theories about the cause of post-vasectomy pain include interstitial fibrosis in the epididymal duct and perineurial fibrosis. (Lee et al., 2012) When we consider the anatomy, within the canal there may also be nerve irritation from the genitofemoral nerve, for example, or other connective tissues. If a patient had pain prior to the procedure in the low back, lower abdomen, or groin, the patient’s system may have been vulnerable to complications due to a sensitized system.

Spermatic Cord

Examination & Rehab Efforts

When a patient presents with pain post-vasectomy, symptoms may worsen with prolonged sitting, with pressure from clothing, or in association with sexual or fitness activities. Because there has been a local insult to the tissues, it is logical to check the site of the procedure for any breakdown, signs of significant inflammation, swelling, and to examine for signs of infection such as fever. (Most patients have returned to their medical provider once pain develops, but if they haven’t, a referral is appropriate.) If the pain can be reproduced locally at the site of the procedure, the pain can often be managed by local treatment. You might find benefit in exam procedures such as a trunk or hip extension for the soft tissue tensioning as well as mechanical loading; palpation to the abdominal wall as well as within the spermatic cord. Treatment can address guarding of the area, general wellness (nutrition, movement, mental health), simple modalities such as heat, and gentle self-mobilization to the painful area.

 

Granulomas

Granulomas can form following a vasectomy, and while usually asymptomatic, a granuloma may be responsible for post-vasectomy pain. They are described as a “bag-like” structure with disintegrating spermatozoa that form at the cut ends of a vasectomy. (Chatterjee et al., 2001) If the granuloma is painful, very light manual mobilization of the thickened area may be done to alleviate pain (see image below). Mobilization of the spermatic cord itself via the testicle or more proximally may also prove helpful. Local modalities such as ultrasound or heat may improve symptoms as well, but clinically I have found that gentle manual therapy and movement exercises are enough to resolve the pain within a few weeks. Patients can be instructed to complete self-mobilization to the area of the granuloma, and as they often are scared to touch the area, helping alleviate this fear is useful in healing.

Image from iOS 6

 

Post-vasectomy syndrome is very challenging for patients to manage, as they are often dismissed once the procedure is completed. Patients will share that they have been told “everything looks healed” and that the pain should go away on its own. Most providers are unaware of the role of pelvic rehab clinicians, and many pelvic rehab providers are less knowledgeable about conditions related to the scrotum and spermatic cord. For patients who do not respond to conservative intervention, vasectomy reversals have been found to be significantly helpful in reducing pain, though it’s often undesired due to the goal of contraception that inspired the vasectomy. (Herrel et al., 2015; Polackwith et al., 2015). Ideally, patients will be provided with an early recommendation to pelvic rehab so that further procedures or undoing of the vasectomy is avoided.

 

If you’d like to learn more about post-vasectomy syndrome and many other conditions that can go unrecognized and under-treated, the next opportunity to take the Male Pelvic Floor course is coming up July 9-10,2021!


Chatterjee, S., Rahman, M. M., Laloraya, M., & Pradeep Kumar, G. (2001). Sperm disposal system in spermatic granuloma: a link with superoxide radicals. International journal of andrology, 24(5), 278-283.

Herrel, L. A., Goodman, M., Goldstein, M., & Hsiao, W. (2015). Outcomes of microsurgical vasovasostomy for vasectomy reversal: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Urology, 85(4), 819-825.

Lee, J. Y., Chang, J. S., Lee, S. H., Ham, W. S., Cho, H. J., Yoo, T. K., ... & Lee, S. W. (2012). Efficacy of vasectomy reversal according to patency for the surgical treatment of postvasectomy pain syndrome. International journal of impotence research, 24(5), 202-205.

Leslie, T.A., R.O. Illing, D.W. Cranston, J. Guillebaud (2007). “The incidence of chronic scrotal pain after vasectomy: a prospective audit.” BJU International 100: 1330-1333.

Polackwich, A. S., Tadros, N. N., Ostrowski, K. A., Kent, J., Conlin, M. J., Hedges, J. C., & Fuchs, E. F. (2015). Vasectomy reversal for postvasectomy pain syndrome: a study and literature review. Urology, 86(2), 269-272.

 

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Organic Food vs. Conventional: Is There Any Difference?

640px-USDA_organic_seal.svg The question about organic vs. conventional might just be the most important one deserving a thoughtful discussion to unravel the complexities around the topic of food.

Megan Pribyl, PT, CMPT is a practicing physical therapist at the Olathe Medical Center in Olathe, KS treating a diverse outpatient population in orthopedics including pelvic rehabilitation. Megan’s longstanding passion for both nutritional sciences and manual therapy has culminated in the creation of her remote course, Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist, designed to propel understanding of human physiology as it relates to pelvic conditions, pain, healing, and therapeutic response. She harnesses her passion to continually update this course with cutting-edge discoveries creating a unique experience sure to elevate your level of appreciation for the complex and fascinating nature of clinical presentations in orthopedic manual therapy and pelvic rehabilitation.

 

As a course developer and instructor for the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute, it is a privilege to continue sharing my passion for nutrition and pelvic rehabilitation with professionals nationwide. Interest in the topic continues to grow, and many pelvic rehab providers have identified nutrition as the “missing link” in their clinical practice. Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist has helped hundreds of pelvic rehab professionals integrate nutrition-related information into their clinical practice since 2015.

In the realm of nutrition, few questions provoke discussion with the same fervor as our title question: Organic Food vs. Conventional: Is There Any Difference? This question deserves a multi-dimensional answer - not unlike many topics in nutrition - including accessibility concerns, ethical factors for farmers, socio-economic factors, and our unique agricultural construct here in the United States. But the question about organic vs. conventional might just be the most important one deserving a thoughtful discussion to unravel the complexities around the topic of food.

You see, the answer to this question has profound implications for us. As we expand our ability to identify potential root contributors to conditions commonly encountered in pelvic rehabilitation, we must factor in nutrition. At first glance, it might be a stretch to see how one might link organic foods and potential effects on conditions such as constipation, inflammatory bowel diseases, IBS, PBS, and endometriosis for example. However, looking at food in a functional way, we acknowledge there may be under-appreciated qualitative differences between foods grown organically or produced conventionally.

Take, for example, the recent article by Kesse-Guyot et.al., 2020. which discusses the prospective association between organic food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes. In this study of over 30,000 participants, those with the highest quintile of organic food consumption compared to those with the lowest quintile had a 35% lower risk of having type 2 diabetes. The conclusion made by the authors was that organic food consumption was inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Said a different way, the study described a phenomenon where, for example, you might eat an organic bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and I might eat the same serving size conventional bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. If we extrapolate the comparison over our entire dietary intake pattern, you would have a 35% lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared to me…..despite you and I “eating the same foods”. How can this be possible? And might this begin to explain the sheer exasperation and frustration that can evolve in persons trying to make positive dietary changes - only to find they have no notable effect? How many times do you hear someone say “I am trying to eat healthily but it doesn’t seem to make a difference”.

Keeping in the context of type 2 diabetes, it is very well established that reductions in the richness and diversity of healthy microbes inhabiting the large intestine (gut dysbiosis) are correlative to metabolic syndrome. In those with type 2 diabetes, microbiomes showed a decrease in anti-inflammatory, probiotic, and other [beneficial] bacteria that could be pathogenic. (Das et al, 2021) Appreciating the differences between organic vs conventional - it is also well established that organic foods do carry less residue of herbicides and pesticides. These residues - which are found in higher concentration in conventionally produced foods - have been implicated in the same reduction in richness and diversity of microorganisms in the gut - which is contributory to dysbiosis. (Rueda-Ruzafa et all, 2019) Therefore it now seems not just plausible - but probable that there is a distinguishable difference between organic and conventional diets - to a degree at which all health care providers would do well to take notice.

In a report on the history of organic agriculture, author George Kuepper points out that:

Pioneers of the organic movement believed that healthy food produced healthy people and that healthy people were the basis for a healthy society.

And if organic foods can be a part of that, our patients deserve to know that these scientifically documented differences exist.

As our awareness of the connection between nutrition and health grows, so does the need to follow the science to share evidence-based and evidence-informed information. It is now more important than ever to have a working knowledge of nutrition basics as a pelvic rehabilitation professional. Plan to join us at one of our upcoming remote offerings of “Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist”: June 19-20 where we will explore this and many additional - and fascinating facets of the nutrition discussion.


Das, T., Jayasudha, R., Chakravarthy, S., Prashanthi, G. S., Bhargava, A., Tyagi, M., . . . Shivaji, S. (2021). Alterations in the gut bacterial microbiome in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus and diabetic retinopathy. Sci Rep, 11(1), 2738. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-82538-0

Kesse-Guyot, E., Rebouillat, P., Payrastre, L., Alles, B., Fezeu, L. K., Druesne-Pecollo, N., . . . Baudry, J. (2020). Prospective association between organic food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: findings from the NutriNet-Sante cohort study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 17(1), 136. doi:10.1186/s12966-020-01038-y

Kuepper, George. (2010) A Brief Overview of the History and Philosophy of Organic Agriculture. Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture. http://kerrcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/organic-philosophy-report.pdf Accessed May 14, 2021.

Rueda-Ruzafa, L., Cruz, F., Roman, P., & Cardona, D. (2019). Gut microbiota and neurological effects of glyphosate. Neurotoxicology, 75, 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2019.08.006

Images:
Par, Cecilia for Unsplash.
USDA organic seal.svg. Public Domain.
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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Bowel Pathology and Function - Remote Course

May 15, 2022 - May 16, 2022
Location: Remote Course

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Orthopedic Topics - Self-Hosted

May 20, 2022 - May 21, 2022
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Women's Health and Orthopedic Topics - West Fargo, ND Satellite Location

May 20, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Apex Physical Therapy & Wellness Center

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Orthopedic Topics - West Fargo, ND Satellite Location

May 20, 2022 - May 21, 2022
Location: Apex Physical Therapy & Wellness Center

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Orthopedic Topics - San Diego, CA Satellite Location

May 20, 2022 - May 21, 2022
Location: FunctionSmart Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Self-Hosted

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Pain Science for the Chronic Pelvic Pain Population - Remote Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Grand Haven, MI Satellite Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Charlottesville, VA Satellite Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Ivy Rehab (Virginia Beach, VA)

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Marietta, GA Satellite Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Southern Pelvic Health

Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists - Remote Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Remote Course

Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Remote Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Springfield, MO Satellite Course

May 21, 2022 - May 22, 2022
Location: Mercy Therapy Services - Seminole-Fremont

Working with Physiatry for Pelvic Pain - Remote Course

May 24, 2022
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Self-Hosted

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Self-Hosted

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Self-Hosted Course

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Torrance, CA Satellite Location

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Women's Advantage Inc

Inclusive Care for Gender and Sexual Minorities - Remote Course

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Cranford, NJ Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy (Cranford, NJ)

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Virginia Beach, VA Satellite Location (SOLD OUT)

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Ivy Rehab (Virginia Beach, VA)

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Tampa, FL Satellite Location

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Bloom Pelvic Therapy

Pelvic Floor Capstone - Asheville, NC Satellite Location

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Cornerstone Physical Therapy of North Carolina

Fertility Considerations for the Pelvic Therapist - Remote Course

Jun 4, 2022
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Decatur, GA Satellite Location

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: Emory Healthcare

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Woodbury, NY Satellite Location

Jun 4, 2022 - Jun 5, 2022
Location: STARS Rehabilitation - Woodbury