As pelvic rehabilitation providers, it may be safe to assume a lot of us are treating adults with bladder and bowel dysfunction. Often we get questions from these patients about treatment for children with voiding dysfunction. How comfortable are we treating children for these problems and what would we do? Pediatric voiding dysfunction and bowel problems are common and can have significant consequences to quality of life for the child and the family, as well as negative health consequences to the lower urinary tract if left untreated. No clear gold standard of treatment for pediatric voiding dysfunction has been established and treatments range from behavioral therapy to medication and surgery.
A randomized controlled trial in 2013 that was published in European Journal of Pediatrics, explores treatment options for pediatric voiding dysfunction. Pediatric voiding dysfunction is defined as involuntary and intermittent contraction or failure to relax the urethral striated sphincter during voluntary voiding. The dysfunctional voiding can present with variable symptoms including urinary urgency, urinary frequency, incontinence, urinary tract infections, and abnormal flow of urine from bladder back up the ureters (vesicoureteral reflux).
The 2013 study compared 60 children over one year who were diagnosed with dysfunctional voiding into two treatment groups. One group received behavioral urotherapy combined with PFM (pelvic floor muscle) exercises while the other group received just behavioral urotherapy. The behavioral urotherapy consisted of hydration, scheduled voiding, toilet training, and high fiber diet. Voiding pattern, EMG (electromyography) activity during voids, urinary urgency, daytime wetting, and PVR (post-void residue) were assessed at the beginning and end of the one year study with parents completing a voiding and bowel habit chart as well as uroflowmetry with pelvic floor muscle sEMG (surface electromyography) was administered to the child for voiding metrics.
All parents and children in both groups received education about urinary and gastrointestinal tract function as well as healthy bladder habits, effects of high fiber diet, scheduled voiding, and normal mechanics of toilet training. For the group that completed PFM exercises and education, they participated in 12 sessions (2x/week for 30 minutes) to learn the PFM exercises under the guidance of a single physical therapist. There was bimonthly follow up for both groups throughout the 12 months to ensure retention and application of the behavioral urotherapy.
The goal of the PFM exercises for the children was too restore the normal function of the PFM’s and their coordination with abdominal muscles. The exercises that the children completed, included exercises with and without a swiss ball. The exercises without a swiss ball included breathing with the diaphragm, Transversus Abdominus muscle isolation, hip adductor squeeze (isolation), bridging with PFM relaxation, and cat/camel to improve lumbopelvic coordination. Swiss ball exercises included seated PFM contraction and relaxation exercise with a seated lift and relax, supine bridge with roll out on the ball with PFM contraction, and supine swiss ball lift with the legs and pelvic contraction. (Pictures and more details about how the exercises were carried out in the article itself.)
The conclusion of the study was that the functional PFM exercises with swiss ball combined with behavioral urotherapy reduced the frequency of urinary incontinence, PVR (post void residue), and the severity of constipation in children with voiding dysfunction. The children in the combined group showed improvements with voiding pattern, reduced EMG activity during voids, reduced urgency, reduced daytime wetting, and improvements with more complete emptying with voids (reduced PVR).
The Functional PFM exercises are easy to teach and easy for children to complete. They are a safe, inexpensive, and effective treatment option for children with dysfunctional voiding. PFM exercises combined with behavioral urotherapy seems to be a logical treatment option for treating pediatric voiding dysfunction.
To learn more about pediatric bowel and bladder dysfunction and treatment for it consider attending Dawn Sandalcidi's Pediatric and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction course. The three opportunities in 2016 are Pediatric Incontinence - Augusta, GA April 16-18, Pediatric Incontinence - Torrance, CA June 11-12, and Pediatric Incontinence - Waterford, CT on September 17-18.
Seyedian, S. S. L., Sharifi-Rad, L., Ebadi, M., & Kajbafzadeh, A. M. (2014). Combined functional pelvic floor muscle exercises with Swiss ball and urotherapy for management of dysfunctional voiding in children: a randomized clinical trial. European Journal of Pediatrics, 173(10), 1347-1353.
The following post comes to us from long-time faculty member Dawn Sandalcidi PT, RCMT, BCB-PMD! Dawn is a figurehead in the world of pediatric pelvic floor, she teaches Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (available three times in 2016) and she just completed the 2nd edition of the Pediatric Pelvic Floor Manual!! Today Dawn is sharing her insights an urotherapy for pediatric patients.
If you read any papers on pediatric bowel and bladder dysfunction you will often come across the word "urotherapy". It is by definition a conservative based management based program used to treat lower urinary tract (LUT) dysfunction using a variety of health care professionals including the physician, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Registered Nurses.
Basic urotherapy includes education on the anatomy and function of the LUT, behavior modifications including fluid intake, timed or scheduled voids, toilet postures and avoidance of holding maneuvers, diet, bladder irritants and constipation. This needs to be tailored to the patients’ needs. For example a child with an underactive bladder needs to learn how to sense urge and listen to their body and a child who postpones a void needs to be on a voiding schedule. Urotherapy alone can be helpful however a recent study demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in uroflow, pelvic floor muscle electromyography activity during a void, urinary urgency, daytime wetting and reduced post void residual (PVR) in those patients who received pelvic floor muscle training as compared to Urotherapy alone. This is great news for all of us who are qualified to teach pelvic floor muscle exercise!
The International Children’s Continence Society (ICCS) has now expanded the definition of Urotherapy to include Specific Urotherapy. This includes biofeedback of the pelvic floor muscles by a trained therapist who is able to teach the child how to alter pelvic floor muscle activity specifically to void. It also includes neuromodulation for many types of lower urinary tract dysfunction but most commonly with overactive bladder and neurogenic bladder. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are always important to assess (see blog post on psychological effects of bowel and bladder dysfunction).
It truly does take a village to help this kiddos and I am honored to be a team player!
To learn more about pediatric incontinence and pelvic floor rehabilitation, join Dawn Sandalcidi at one of her courses this year! Details at the following links:
Pediatric Incontinence - Augusta, GA - Apr 16, 2016 - Apr 17, 2016
Pediatric Incontinence - Torrance, CA - Jun 11, 2016 - Jun 12, 2016
Pediatric Incontinence - Waterford, CT - Sep 17, 2016 - Sep 18, 2016
Chang SJ, Laecke EV, Bauer, SB, von Gontard A, Bagli,D, Bower WF,Renson C, Kawauchi A, Yang SS-D. Treatment of daytime urinary incontinence: a standardization document from the international children's continence society. Neurourol Urodyn 2015;Oct 16. doi:10.1002/nau.22911
Ladi Seyedian SS, Sharifi-Rad L, Ebadi M, Kajbafzadeh AM. Combined functional pelvic floor muscle exercise with swiss ball and Urotherapy for management of dysfunctional voiding in children: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Pediatr.2014 Oct;173(10):1347-53. I.J.N. Koppen, A. von Gontard, J. Chase, C.S. Cooper, C.S. Rittig, S.B. Bauer, Y. Homsy, S.S. Yang, M.A. Benninga. Management of functional nonretentive fecal incontinence in children: recommendations from the International Children’s Continence Society. J of Ped Urol (2015)
Koppen IJ, Di Lorenzo C, Saps M, Dinning PG, Yacob D, Levitt MA, Benninga MA. .Childhood constipation: finally something is moving! Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015 Oct 14:1-15.
The day my son was born, my daughter had not defecated for 5 days, and her pain was getting pretty intense. My husband and his mom took her to Seattle Children’s Hospital for help, and they suggested using Miralax and sent them away. When they got back to my hospital room, my daughter was straining so hard it looked like she was about to give birth! Being physical therapists, my husband and I massaged her little muscles and told her to take deep breaths, and eventually she did the deed, yet not without a heart-breaking struggle. Little did I know then there is actually research to back up our emergency, instinctual technique.
Zivkovic et al (2012) performed a study regarding the use of diaphragmatic breathing exercises and retraining of the pelvic floor in children with dysfunctional voiding. They defined dysfunctional voiding as urinary incontinence, straining, weakened stream, feeling the bladder has not emptied, and increased EMG activity during the discharge of urine. Although this study focuses primarily on urinary issues, it also includes constipation in the treatment and outcomes. Forty-three patients between the ages of 5 and 13 with no neurological disorders were included in the study. The subjects underwent standard urotherapy (education on normal voiding habits, appropriate fluid intake, keeping a voiding chart, and posture while voiding) in addition to pelvic floor muscle retraining and diaphragmatic breathing exercises. The results showed 100% of patients were cured of their constipation, 83% were cured of urinary incontinence, and 66% were cured of nocturnal enuresis.
More recently, Farahmand et al (2015) researched the effect of pelvic floor muscle exercise for functional constipation in the pediatric population. Stool withholding and delayed colonic transit are most often the causes for children having difficulty with bowel movements. Behavioral modifications combined with laxatives still left 30% of children symptomatic. Forty children between the ages of 4 and 18 performed pelvic floor muscle exercise sessions at home, two times per day for 8 weeks. The children walked for 5 minutes in a semi-sitting (squatting) position while being supervised by parents. The patients increased the exercise duration 5 minutes per week for the first two weeks and stayed the same over the next six weeks. The results showed 90% of patients reported overall improvement of symptoms. Defecation frequency, fecal consistency and decrease in fecal diameter were all found to be significantly improved. Although not statistically significant, the number of patients with stool withholding, fecal impaction, fecal incontinence, and painful defecation decreased as well.
Parents may not be as aware of their children’s voiding habits once they are cleared from diaper duty after successful potty training occurs. To help prevent issues, keep the basics covered, such as making sure children are exercising regularly or being active, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating a diet that includes plenty of fiber. My daughter was only 26 months old when her constipation became a problem, so the stool softener was ultimately the way to go at that time, and everything worked out naturally over the next year. If she were still experiencing functional constipation, I would be delighted to know teaching her pelvic floor exercises (relaxation being the key aspect) and diaphragmatic breathing could be effective for keeping my crazy little girl regular in at least that area of her life!
Zivkovic V, Lazovic M, Vlajkovic M, Slavkovic A, Dimitrijevic L, Stankovic I, Vacic N. (2012). Diaphragmatic breathing exercises and pelvic floor retraining in children with dysfunctional voiding. European J ournal of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine. 48(3):413-21. Epub 2012 Jun 5.
Farahmand, F., Abedi, A., Esmaeili-dooki, M. R., Jalilian, R., & Tabari, S. M. (2015). Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise for Paediatric Functional Constipation.Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, 9(6), SC16–SC17. http://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2015/12726.6036
Therapists are increasingly learning about and treating pediatric patients who have pelvic floor dysfunction, yet there are still not enough of them to meet the demand. Many therapists I have spoken to are understandably concerned about how to transfer what they have done for adult patients to a younger population. Here are some of the more common concerns therapists express or questions they ask in relation to the pediatric population:
Although each question deserves a longer answer, we can start with biofeedback, and the answer is a resounding “yes”. There is abundant research affirming the potential benefit of biofeedback training for children with pelvic floor dysfunction. And no, we do not typically complete an internal pelvic muscle assessment on children, as that would not be appropriate. Considering that pediatrics can refer to young adults up to age 18-21, there may be a reasonable clinical goal in mind for utilizing internal assessment or treatment. The words we use when we speak to children become very important. Herman & Wallace faculty member Dawn Sandalcidi (known as “Miss Dawn” to her younger patients) gives ample strategies for adapting our language in her continuing education course Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. For example, Dawn emphasizes the importance of describing an episode of incontinence as a “bladder leak” and of pointing out to a child that his or her bladder leaked, rather than the child leaking. She also likes to encourage parents and school personnel to drop the term “accident” from vocabulary. In her 2-day course, Dawn also teaches therapists how to train children to become a “Bladder Boss”, and how to teach young patients about relevant anatomy.
The way we teach anatomy to kids is really important in making sure they “get” it. One study published in 2012Equit 2013 describes the results when children are asked to draw a urinary tract in a body diagram. Only half of the children drew a bladder and other organs, and nearly 43% of the children drew “anatomically incorrect pictures.” The authors point out that older children and the ones who had gone through group training for bowel and bladder were more likely to draw correct images. For the last question about teaching contract/relax exercises to children, I had an opportunity to ask Dawn this question recently when she was filming a pediatrics course for MedBridge Education. Her answer emphasized the importance of getting children to develop awareness of the pelvic muscles, and to improve their coordination as well as strength- concepts that participating in an exercise program can work toward.
If you would like to learn more about working with children, the next opportunity to take Dawn’s course is in Boston later this month.
Equit, Monika et al. "Children's concepts of the urinary tract". Journal of Pediatric Urology , Volume 9 , Issue 5 , 648 - 652
The Pelvic Rehab Report had an opportunity to interview Dawn Sandalcidi, the creator and instructor of "Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction". Dawn has developed a pediatric dysfunctional voiding treatment program in which she lectures on nationally. Dawn has published articles in the Journal of Urologic Nursing, the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, and the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy. Let's hear more from Dawn about her Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction course!
What essential skill does your course add to a practitioner’s toolkit?
Adding pediatrics to your practice truly allows you to treat the pelvic floor through the lifespan. If you are a pediatric therapist adding this most important specialty will complete the picture of your entire patient.
Will your course allow practitioners to see new/more patients?
There are so many therapists who tell me that while treating a parent they share a story about their child being a bed wetter or having incontinence. That has opened up many doors for including this population into my practice. Be careful though! Once the pediatricians, school nurses, pediatric urologists and GI docs know there is someone out there that can take care of kids you will be flooded with patients!!
Why did you develop this course?
I began treating pediatrics after having success with adult patients in a large urology practice over 25 years ago. One of the urologists called me and asked me to take care of this little girl who had already been operated on twice and was headed toward kidney transplants. My reply was "what is wrong with kids?????" So my journey began- observing surgery and learning how children developed pelvic floor dysfunction. This kiddo had vesicoureteral reflux or a back flow of urine form the bladder to the kidneys causing frequent infections and kidney damage. My goal in this course is to take the basic knowledge we have as therapists and apply it to a population of children who suffer terribly with urinary and fecal incontinence. The psychological side effects from incontinence are significant and we now have the tools to help!!
Recent research in The Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology points to the alarming number of young women who present with pelvic pain who in fact also have endometriosis. Dr. Opoku-Anane and Dr. Laufer report that prevalence rates of endometriosis in an adolescent gynecology population have likely been underestimated (reported range of 25-47%) and that with advanced surgical methods the rates have been estimated to be as high as 73% in those who have pelvic pain. In their retrospective study, 117 subjects ages 12-21 completed laparoscopic examination for endometriosis. These subjects did not previously respond to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or to oral contraceptives, and they were all referred for evaluation of chronic pelvic pain. In addition to collecting data about patient symptoms, the stage and descriptions of any endometrial lesions were documented.
A remarkable 115 of the 117 subjects (98%) presented with Stage I or II endometriosis as defined by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines. (Click here for the link to a detailed patient education document from the ASRM that describes endometriosis as well as staging.) The median age for onset of menarche in this population was 12 years old, and the median age of first symptoms reported occurred at age 13. Nearly 16% of the subjects also reported gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual irregularity in nearly 8%, and 76% of the participants reported a family history that included endometriosis, severe dysmenorrhea, and/or infertility. The authors of this research point out that advances made in surgical technique, both from a technological standpoint and a physician skill level, may be contributing factors in the increased rates of diagnosis of endometriosis.The authors also point out that it is yet unknown if early diagnosis and treatment will lead to improved outcomes in this population.
If you are interested in learning more about endometriosis in general, click here to follow the link to a free, full text article in PubMed Central. The article was first published in 2008, and even though advances in surgical diagnosis have been made, most of the information related to symptoms, medical treatment, and related risks remain significantly unchanged. In relation to etiology of endometriosis, one study that has set forth an environmental risk for endometriosis can be accessed here. Dr. C. Matthew Peterson, one of the researchers involved with the ENDO study, presented at the 2011 International Pelvic Pain Society meeting, and he encouraged all present to consider implementing strategies to minimize risks from chemicals in our daily lives. The Environmental Protection Agency offers advice towards protecting our health that can be accessed here. If environmental hazards are influencing the onset or progression of conditions such as endometriosis, it is in our best interest to reduce these risks. Consider not only the product exposure at home, but also at the workplace, and request less toxic products including cleaners when able.
In relation to pelvic rehabilitation, patients who present with pelvic pain or other pelvic health issues due to endometriosis often find relief when working with pelvic rehab providers. While surgery may be critical in reducing severe adhesions, maximizing tissue health and patient mobility and function is a job in which we can all actively participate. The evaluation and treatment of pelvic pain is instructed at various levels of depth in all of the main series courses as well as in many other courses offered at the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute.