Since the passing of Title IX in 1972, which protects people from sex discrimination in education or activity programs receiving federal funding, the number of females participating in sports has greatly increased. The National Federation of State High School Associations states that in 2011 nearly 3.2 million girls are participating in high school sports.
Unfortunately, a consequence of this increased participation in sports is a higher prevalence in urinary incontinence (UI) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI) in female athletes. Borin et al looked at the ability of nulliparous female athletes to generate intracavity perineal pressure in comparison to nonathletic women. The study demonstrated that higher mean pressures were generated by nonathletic women in comparison to the athletic women group and that lower perineal pressures in the athletic women were also related to number of games per year and time spent on sport specific workouts and strength training workouts.
UI and SUI are underreported in the general population and also in the athletic population. As health care professionals it is important to screen for UI and SUI in our clients. Physical therapy interventions using pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation have shown to decrease the severity of UI and SUI (Rivalta et al, Hulme). Rivalta used internal methods to improve the function of the pelvic floor muscle. Hulme’s success was achieved through activation of the pelvic floor muscles’ extrinsic synergists.
Pilates is often used in physical therapy as a therapeutic tool to improve lumbar stability with studies showing increases in abdominal strength (Sekendiz), trunk extensor endurance (Sekendiz) and to improve posture (Kloubec). Pilates is often also used in pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation and can easily be modified for low level clients. For example the use of resistance can assist supporting the weight of the leg. Practical proof, while lying supine in neutral lumbar spine position, stretch an arm and a leg away from center, notice the difficulty to maintain neutral spine. Now hold a resistance strap, which is also attached to the foot, and notice how maintaining neutral lumbar spine is easier to maintain (pictured above).
Pilates can also be modified for the higher level client or more athletic client. The use of arc barrels, BOSUs or the Hooked on Pilates MINIMAX (pictured belowy) allow the athletic client to achieve an inverted position, unloading the pelvic floor muscles. In the inverted position, pelvic floor muscles may be activated as intrinsic and/or extrinsic synergists of the pelvic floor muscles are also activated. These types of exercises may be more appealing to the athletic client ensuring continuation of the exercise post discharge from physical therapy.
Borin LC, Nunes FR, Guirro EC. Assessment of pelvic floor muscle pressure in female athletes. PMR. 2013; 5(3):189-193.
Hulme, Janet. Beyond Kegels 3rd edition, 2012 Phoenix Publishing Co. Missoula, Montana
Kloubec JA. Pilates for improvement of muscle endurance, flexibility, balance and posture. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24:661-667.
Rivalta M, Sughunolfi MC, Micali S, De Stafani S, Torcasio F, Bianchi G, Urinary incontinence and sport. First and preliminary experience with a combined pelvic floor rehabilitation program in three female athletes. Health Care Women Int. 2010;31(5);330-334.
Sekendiz B, Altun O, Korkusuv F, Akin S, Effects of pilates exercise on trunk strength, endurance and flexibility in sedentary adult females. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2005;9:52-57.
Is there a consensus among physical therapists about the use and perceived effectiveness of Pilates exercise for low back pain? 30 Australian physiotherapists experienced with Pilates exercise were surveyed and asked about Pilates as an indication for low back pain. The results were published in Physical Therapy. Consensus at 100% was reached for benefits, indications, and precautions of Pilates exercise, and only 50-56% for risks and contraindications, respectively. Therapists agreed on indications such as maladaptive movement patterns, poor body awareness, poor flexibility, decreased lumbar spine mobility, poor breathing and postural control.
The contraindications that were agreed on (but not as strong an agreement as the indications) included pre-eclampsia and unstable fractures. Agreement was reached that participation in Pilates exercise requires caution in the presence of unstable spondylolisthesis or significant lower extremity radiculopathy. The contraindications that were no agreed upon included cancer, severe osteoporosis, significant hypertension, and yellow psychosocial flags.
The physiotherapists did all agree that Pilates may help patients who have chronic low back pain by increasing function and confidence with movement, exercise, and activities, and additionally, that body awareness, postural control, and movement patterns may improve. Potential adverse events that may occur following Pilates exercise (and that were agreed upon) included aggravation of low back pain, or increased muscle tension. In relation to other potential risks of participating in Pilates exercise, inadequate training of instructors and inappropriate exercise prescription was listed. If you would like to learn more about Pilates exercise prescription for specific women’s health issues such as pelvic floor dysfunction, peripartum issues, and perimenopausal issues such as osteoporosis, check out the Institute’s new course on Pilates.
Today we hear from Martina Hauptmann, PT, PMA-CPI, instructor of "Pilates for the Pelvic Floor: Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Osteoporosis and Peripartum". Join Martina this September 19-20 in Chicago, IL to learn how to incorporate Pilates into your treatment plans!
Because the cost of staying in business is increasing and the insurance reimbursement rates are dropping, many physical therapy clinics are looking for cash based supplemental services (medically-orientated gym memberships, Pilates classes, yoga classes, durable exercise supplies etc). Offering Pilates as part of the physical therapy clinic’s therapeutic interventions will differentiate your clinic and may be marketed to physicians and the community to increase your clinic’s market share. Post rehabilitation, the offering of cash based Pilates wellness classes can increase the clinic’s bottom line, allowing for further rehabilitation of the client beyond the time frame allowed by insurances and improve retention of clients.
Pilates is a system and philosophy of exercises based on the work of Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) that focuses on precision and optimal alignment. This approach requires the client to focus her mind on the exercise in order to increase motor control. Women are attracted to the Pilates method because of its gentle but effective nature. Offering Pilates as part of your therapeutic offerings is a great marketing tool to physicians and to the community as well as an effective method for instructing specific muscle re-training.
My course will focus on the application of the Pilates method to women’s health issues: incompetent pelvic floor, hyperactive pelvic floor, chronic pelvic floor pain, pre-natal, post-natal and osteoporosis with small props. The course will utilize equipment that you may have in the clinic already (physio balls, foam rollers, resistance bands, small balls BOSUs and introduction to the Hooked on Pilates MINIMAX and HANDIBANDs).
The course specifically will incorporate Pilates exercises that increase the function of the pelvic floor via the intrinsic and extrinsic synergists of the pelvic floor muscles. Rationale for modified Pilates exercises for clients that exhibit hyperactivity in the pelvic floor muscles (Carriere & Feldt, 2006), pre-natal (ACOG, 2002) and osteoporosis (Sinaki, 1984 and Sinaki, 2002) will be discussed and modified exercises performed. Finally discussion of post-natal issues of lumbo-pelvic pain and pubic symphysis pain will be incorporated and specific exercises for these issues performed (Richardson and Jull, 1995).
This course has a heavy emphasis on exercise. Participants in this course will be able to utilize all instructed exercises immediately following the course. I hope to see you there!
Carriere & Feldt (2006). The Pelvic Floor. Stuttgart, Germany: Georg Thieme Verlag.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2002).
Sinaki, Mikkelsen (1984). Post-menopausal spinal osteoporosis: Flexion versus extension exercises. Arch Phys Med Rehab. Vol 65, Oct, 593-596.
Sinaki et al. (2002). Stronger back muscles reduce the incidence of vertebral fractures: A prospective 10 year follow-up of postmenopausal women. Bone. 30(6); 836-841.
Richardson, Jull (1994). Muscle control-pain control. What exercises would you prescribe? Manual Therapy. 1, 2-10.
Today's post is written by faculty member Martina Hauptmann, who instructs the Pilates for Pelvic Dysfunction, Osteoporosis, and Peripartum course. Come learn how to apply Pilates in your practice this September 19-20 in Chicago, IL!
Treating the incompetent pelvic floor (urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse) is a staple of therapists who have specialized in this complex area.
Ever since Dr. Arnold Kegel published his research “A Non-surgical Method of Increasing the Tone of the Sphincters and Their Supporting Structures” back in 1942 women have been strengthening their pelvic floor by conscious contraction of their perineum by either squeezing or lifting.
Another method to strengthen the pelvic floor is through the muscles that are extrinsic synergists to the pelvic floor musculature. The hip abductors, adductors, extensors and lateral rotators are extrinsically linked to the pelvic floor musculature. Except for one of the hip lateral rotators, the obturator internus, which by its anatomical attachments is actually an intrinsic synergist of the pelvic floor.
Pilates is an exercise method that seeks to increase a client’s strength, posture, control, and body awareness through precise exercises. The Heel Squeeze exercise is an excellent exercise to indirectly strengthen the pelvic floor via isometric contraction of the hip lateral rotators and hip extensors.
To perform the Heel Squeeze exercise, have the client lie prone with their legs hip distance apart, knees bent. The heels are touching and the toes pointing away from center. Draw the client’s awareness to their abdominals and have them slightly lift their stomach away from the mat. Instruct the client that she should continue with this contraction of her abdominals. Then as she exhales, the client squeezes her heels together and presses her pubic bone down into the mat. The client should hold this contraction for 5 seconds and do 8-12 repetitions.