Dawn Sandalcidi PT, RCMT, BCB-PMD is known as the go-to expert in the field of pediatric pelvic health. She has been practicing for 40 years this May and has concentrated on the pediatric pelvic floor for 29 of those. When it comes to pediatric pelvic floor issues, there is so much more than bedwetting, and often the practitioner needs to look beyond the pelvic floor.
Despite the growing number of pelvic rehab specialists treating men and women with PF dysfunction, children in this patient population remain woefully under-served. This can cause undue stress for the child and family, as well as the development of internalizing and externalizing psychological behaviors. Many of the techniques used in pediatric pelvic therapy can be translated to the adult population. The question is ‘who’s the driver?’ In pediatrics, it is typically a bowel issue.
The Standard American Diet involves food that is high in calories, saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. It is also lacking in the intake of essential nutrients for the body like fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. This lack of dietary fiber can cause issues with the digestive tract as well as the colon leading to constipation. Bowel dysfunction including constipation can contribute to urinary leakage and urgency (1). Constipation accounts for approximately 5% of visits to pediatric clinics (2) proving that there is a need for practitioners to know how to treat these pediatric issues.
Dawn focuses much of her pediatric knowledge on her two courses: Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PEDs) and Pediatric Gastrointestinal Disorders (PEDsG). Pediatric pelvic floor basics are covered in PEDs, including instruction in anatomy, physiology, development of normal voiding reflexes and urinary control, and learning how to talk with child patients. Biofeedback and ultrasound (which Dawn fondly calls jelly belly) are also covered and can be helpful as less invasive procedures for children.
PEDsG goes beyond the pelvic floor and opens up the door to look at the big picture of the whole child. Dawn shares that almost 80% of her kiddos with chronic constipation present with diastasis rectus abdominus. They can also have hyperextension in the thoracic spine, and the rib cage is postally rotated – where the kids don’t know how to bring it down.
Dawn is also on the threshold of writing a pediatric pelvic pain course that she expects to be ready later this year. Pediatric pelvic pain is becoming more prevalent, and it can’t be treated the same way as in adults. Dawn explains that “children don’t understand, so we’re actually creating a pediatric pain neuroscience protocol. It is a bio-psycho-social approach, and we use fun things.”
Research tells us that 15% of kids per year will outgrow bedwetting. Children who suffer from bedwetting can feel ashamed and embarrassed, have self-esteem issues, or even act out. There are 5 basics of where you start with a pediatric patient that are taught in PEDs. Dawn also shares 5 basics in her e-book, BEDWETTING BOOTCAMP(3):
Everything in Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction builds into Pediatric Gastrointestinal Disorders, and everything in PEDsG builds into Pediatric Pelvic Pain. The more practitioners who learn about the pediatric pelvic floor means that more kids get treated and the fewer adults that will have pelvic floor dysfunction. To learn more about treating pediatric pelvic health register for one of Dawn Sandalcidi’s upcoming courses:
This is the second installment in our 3 part pediatric blog series written by Amanda Moe DPT, PRPC treats women, men, and children with disorders of the pelvis and pelvic girdleAmanda enjoys assistant teaching with the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute in her free time as well as working out, practicing yoga, and spending time with her family. You can find Amanda online at www.pelvicphysicaltherapyandmore.com and on Instagram @amandampelvicpt.
Just as Mora from @PracticallyPerfectPT mentioned in the previous blog post, Big Issues for Tiny Humans, pelvic health specialists treat pelvic floor and pelvic girdles for all humans of all ages. This blog post aims to introduce why pre-teens and teenagers could need pelvic floor therapy for pee problems!
Pelvic girdle-related dysfunction in young children often manifests as bowel or bladder complaints such as constipation, poo leakage (fecal incontinence or encopresis), and day or nighttime pee leakage (incontinence or nocturnal enuresis). Young children can be potty-trained with NO pee or poo complaints for several years then suddenly develop these very same symptoms in the pre-teen or teenage years! Occasionally there is a cause for the change in pee or poo symptoms such as trauma, the birth of a sibling, moving to a new city, divorce, or other changes in family situation. However, oftentimes there isn’t a signifying event attributed to the onset of these symptoms—which is where assessment and treatment from a skilled Pelvic Physical Therapist (or Occupational Therapist) may be beneficial!
Pediatric Pelvic Physical/Occupational Therapy
Pelvic Physical and Occupational Therapy in pre-teens and teenagers focuses on a whole-body assessment and treatment. Specifically, the Pediatric Pelvic Therapists will look at pelvic girdle influences on bowel and bladder complaints such as:
Common Urinary Complaints in Pre-Teens and Teenagers
Potty-training regression can occur and is commonly seen in Pediatric Pelvic Therapy. Below is a list of other pee problems commonly seen in pre-teens and teenagers (often addressed in Pelvic Therapy).
Urinary leakage during sport or physical activity (SUI) can commonly arise in the pre-teen and teenage years. A recent systematic review determined that SUI occurs in 18-80% or an average of 48.58% of adolescent female athletes (7). While stress incontinence is common in women after childbirth, it doesn’t have to be considered “normal” for women OR children. This is where Pediatric Pelvic Therapy comes into play to determine the factors (such as those listed above) that are impacting a child's leakage during sport or activity!
The Lower Urinary Tract (LUT) symptoms listed above and specifically daytime pee leakage are prevalent in 10–17% of children (2, 4, 8). Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction such as constipation is commonly associated with these LUT dysfunctions in pre-teens and teenagers. Research has shown constipation in 22-37.5% of children with LUTS (3, 5) with an additional study reporting that greater than 50% of children with LUT symptoms had some type of functional defecation disorder (1). This is why Pediatric Pelvic Therapists often address the GI system when pre-teens and teenagers present with pee problems!
To learn more about the GI systems in adolescents and how these symptoms influence pee problems in Pediatric Pelvic Therapy, check out Dawn Scandalcidi's interview on Friday! Herman & Wallace also offers two pediatric courses featuring assessment and treatment of urinary and bowel functioning: