Congratulations to Dr. Mia Fine (they/she) for achieving their Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology and on their book titled 'From Unwanted Pain to Sexual Pleasure: Clinical Strategies for Inclusive Care for Patients with Pelvic Floor Pain' for their dissertation doctoral project.
Dr. Fine was gracious enough to share a draft of their dissertation with Herman & Wallace and to answer a couple of questions about how this impacts their practice and what they hope other practitioners will take away from their book and course Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists.
Mia's course is for the pelvic rehab therapist and others in the medical profession who work with patients experiencing pelvic pain, pelvic floor hypertonicity, and other pelvic floor concerns and would like to learn applicable skills from the sex therapist's clinical toolkit. The next course date for Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists is August 13-14,
How does Trauma-Informed Care apply to the skills that you teach in your Sexual Interviewing course?
When I utilize the term ‘trauma-informed’ I am referring to therapeutic work that communicates expectations clearly (including prioritizing people’s access needs with this communication), invites clients awareness of their own agency, and is upfront about my scope of practice and my therapeutic approach, offers mutuality in inviting of questions and ongoing conversation about our work together, awareness that an individual can end therapy at any time, and share information at any time in our therapeutic space.
The modalities I utilize when working with clients who have experienced trauma include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Polyvagal Theory, Somatics, and Developmental Theory. While I integrate various theories and modalities into my work with clients, the methods above are empirical in their data to support healing from trauma wounds.
Trauma-informed means humility regarding cultural, racial, gender, sexual, and other minority experiences. I will not know all of the things but I will do my best to self-educate and not leave that responsibility to my clients. When I make a mistake I will appropriately, directly, and compassionately apologize for the harm I caused and invite opportunity for repair should the client be interested. Trauma-informed means collaboration in exploring therapy together, co-creating a space that feels safer to the client and checking in with them when I notice non-verbal cues that indicate activation, honoring a client’s pacing, and bringing awareness to the reality that as a therapist I hold power and while I don’t know a person’s full story there is always the potential for me to unintentionally activate a client so to share this possibility with clients and continuously check in about how our therapy is working for them. I keep my client’s well-being at the forefront of our work and I center their needs at all times while maintaining boundaries that keep everyone as safe and secure as possible.
It is up to us as trauma-informed and inclusive providers to explore a person’s experience of pain by asking questions about onset, process, location, and impact, in addition to offering psychoeducation about anatomy, physiology (arousal, interest, desire), and self-regulation. This must be done alongside commitment to our patient’s co-regulation, normalization, and informed consent concerning the therapeutic process—all of which are needed for comprehensive trauma-informed care.
Can you explain how expanding what 'normal' is to practitioners can impact the patients and clients that they work with?
Sex is not supposed to be painful. How many people have come to me having had painful sexual intercourse for years and reported “pushing through”? The first time having intercourse does not necessarily have to be painful, but when our cultural narratives tell us “the first time having sex is painful for everyone” we end up ignoring the signals our bodies are offering because we have convinced ourselves that the pain is both okay and normal. The “pushing through” is a reflection of misogyny: people assume the first experiences people have with penetration are supposed to be painful. How is this misogynistic? Well, who benefits from a person “pushing through” pain? The partner with the penis. Important to note here as well is that enthusiastic consent is ableist and ignores the mind-body connection because it does not take into account masking or fawning which are common experiences for many.
A quarter of people who experience sexual health concerns share this with their providers. Why such a small fraction? Fear. Fear of embarrassment and shame. Fear that there is something “abnormal” about them that mutates into the shame humans tend to experience in response. Fear that the concern won’t be held or taken seriously by their provider. Fear that, if it is addressed, will be at such a high financial cost that the treatment will be unaffordable. Fear that there’s not enough time or that they won’t be taken seriously. Fear of exclusivity, feeling othered, or misunderstood by their provider. Fear of the unknown because the reality is that people are afraid of what we don’t understand.
One of the major cultural issues we have in the US is the perpetuation of sexual stigma which is largely associated with a lack of comprehensive sex education. People don’t have access to basic information about their own bodies which influences our beliefs about sex, pleasure, agency, communication, and self-awareness. Sex education should be a birthright, and yet we are so far behind the curve that it sometimes feels impossible to break down the barriers.
When I first started in this career it would often take clients months of working with me to feel comfortable enough to talk about where they felt pain during sex, but in developing the tools to co-create safety in our therapeutic relationship and the skills to ask the important questions with compassion and patience, I learned how to better hold space for healing.
Patients don’t often know what information is important for them to share with us (which is why offering visuals of where the pain is located is important). How could they know what information is important to offer when mental and sexual health are so deeply stigmatized? The stress of shame and embarrassment that people feel about their bodies is emotional pain that further exacerbates the physical pain that they came to therapy to address in the first place. It’s a terrible and self-perpetuating cycle.
I teach people the difference between a vulva and a vagina one thousand times a year. If a client does not know the terminology for labia, vulva, vagina, and clitoris, how are they supposed to know when their sexual health is of concern? If a person enters sex therapy with “sexual pain” but is unable to distinguish the difference between their labia and vagina (that they are different body parts, where they are located, and what their functions are) we cannot expect them to accurately articulate the location of pain or comprehend potential solutions. “What is your hygiene process when cleaning your vulva?” may activate the fight or flight response in clients if they do not know what their vulva is or that there could be a good hygiene process, in addition to the shame of not knowing. How are they supposed to know where or to whom they may ask for help?
An online search for “anatomical vulva”, “pelvic floor pain”, “vaginismus treatment” and 99% of the images and figures you will see are those of hairless, slender bodies with white/light skin and small labia. Racism and white supremacy are present everywhere. The anatomical depictions of vulvas are of white bodies, the people modeling in vaginismus treatment advertisements are white, and the language is geared toward and written for white people. I was intentional about not featuring white vulvas in this book because white bodies should not be the default of what is mainstream. This lack of diversity in skin tone and variation of body type is another reflection of racism called “colorism”. White and light skin bodies are viewed as more ‘normal’ and when we continue to center white bodies in visuals “because that is what is available” we perpetuate white supremacy. One goal is to disrupt the idea and practice of whiteness as the default. This is what it means to practice anti-racism and attempt to divorce ourselves from white supremacy.
The impact of shame shows up in the pervasive erotophobia rampant in our society. Erotophobia can be broadly defined as a “fear of sex” or more specifically a “fear of intercourse”. When erotophobia is judgment as a result of societal shame and stigma, we can navigate it by deconstructing the etiology and impact of messages received; when it is a result of a mental health condition such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we do deep trauma and/or anxiety/exposure work. Because of the vast impact of shame, people fear sharing sensitive information about themselves with others, including therapists who are trained to help them. Often, therapists are untrained in sexual health which also can contribute to erotophobia and shame. When therapists have not done their own work on sexuality, and remain untrained in these areas, they may be afraid to discuss sex with their clients which reinforces the belief that topics regarding sex are shameful.
When people do not have the language to articulate what is happening in their body, as significant as the pain or discomfort might be, talking about sex with a provider is often the last item on a long list of concerns they bring to a medical appointment. Symptoms of sexual pain may be hidden by other “more pressing” concerns such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or sleep issues. While these are of course vital for a medical provider to know, having 20 minute appointments with a physician who will prioritize the “presenting concern” that they came in to seek treatment for leaves very little time to discuss unwanted sexual pain. After 15-20 minutes of a medical appointment (if it goes well), a patient might feel comfortable enough to bring up their sexual concern, but this might leave 1 minute for it to be acknowledged and no time to conduct a comprehensive assessment or develop an intentional plan. We call these last-minute oh-by-the-way’s “door-knobbing” for a reason. This is a call for medical clinics to have training in sexual health so they can create intake documentation that explores clients’ sexual health and ask the questions that are vital to gather necessary information ahead of time.
In the same way that people lack language and anatomic understanding, people also lack awareness of the mind-body relationship. Due to the ableist sex-negative culture in which we live, people are often not taught to have knowledge of or listen to our own body. We’re not taught that pain is a signal from the body telling us that something’s wrong.
This week Ramona Horton sat down with Holly Tanner to discuss manual therapy and her course Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity. The following is an excerpt from her interview.
What do we really know about manual therapy? We have decent evidence that shows that asymmetry matters. The tenet of the myofascial course is an osteopathic tenet called ARTS:
The whole myofascial course is designed around looking for ARTS. When you find the asymmetry within the myofascial system then that’s where you direct your efforts and energy.
Often patients have already tried breathing, yoga, medication, etcetera – and it’s the manual therapy piece that they often have not had. It’s not that uncommon for me to be someone’s second or third therapist. Some patients may have tried some type of manual therapy but it was more things like ischemic compression where the problem was that the manual therapy was triggering nociception.
So in the myofascial course, we start with ARTS but we also have an idea where we flip ARTS on its head and we go to STAR. In STAR, you take sensitivity and put it at the top of your list. That becomes the highest portion in your paradigm. Then we use simple techniques that are not non-nociceptive. Indirect technique versus direct technique, such as something as simple as positional inhibition.
The whole idea of the myofascial course is to teach people to think and problem solve. Then have a very broad spectrum way of you find an inner articular issue where this joint is moving and this one is not. Learn to not chase the booboo. Just because it hurts on the right doesn’t mean that you’re going to treat the right. It might hurt on the right because there is a hypo-mobility on the left. Let’s treat where the brain is protecting the tissue, and holding, and guarding the tissue. Trust in the belief that the body is a self-righting mechanism. The body will then normalize itself.
In manual therapy, our job is to get the body moving like it's supposed to. It’s not to fix the ‘booboo.’ The issue is not in the tissue. If the tissue is tight, it’s tight because the brain is keeping it that way. The way I teach manual therapy is the fascial system gives us access to the nervous system. By utilizing the fascial system in a non-nociceptive manner, what we’re really doing is just having a conversation with the brain. We’re not fixing the tissue. That’s the whole premise of the course - to get people to understand and change their thinking and their paradigm to ask what the brain is protecting and utilizing the fascial system.
Herman & Wallace is committed to providing courses on pelvic rehabilitation for all people across the spectrum. This week the featured courses are those focused on women's health!
Take a look and see if there is one that is a good fit for you.
Breastfeeding Conditions Remote Course - Remote Course
July 16 and November 19
This course provides a thorough introduction to the physiology of the lactating breast, dysfunction and treatment interventions, the therapist's role in breastfeeding and pumping support, as well as when to refer to other health professionals.
Lectures will include the anatomy and physiology of lactation, blocked ducts and mastitis, and breast pain through a biopsychosocial lens. During labs, participants will have the opportunity to systematically assess the breast and practice therapeutic breast massage and manual milk expression. Participants will learn to assess and treat breast inflammation and pain such as mastitis, blocked ducts, milk blebs, and cracked nipples.
Menstruation and Pelvic Health - Remote Course
July 16-17, 2022
Menstruation and Pelvic Health is a two-day remote course is designed for clinicians who want to obtain advanced knowledge and skills to educate patients on non-hormonal, non-surgical, and non-prescription interventions for improving the Menstrual Experience. Developed by Nicholas Gaffga, MD, MPH, FAAFP, and presented together with Amy Meehan, PT, DPT, MTC, this course is geared toward the pelvic rehab provider looking to impart Menstrual Interventions that:
Postpartum Rehabilitation - Remote Course
offered monthly through November
The client who is postpartum may be one of the most overlooked clients in health care. Knowing the specific rehabilitation needs to help with common problems and prevent future problems is the goal of this beginner-level course. For the orthopedic-based practitioner, this course will solidify awareness of the common orthopedic needs of the postpartum client. For the non-orthopedic practitioner, this course will provide a foundation for working with clients experiencing common postpartum-related musculoskeletal conditions.
This course will cover examination considerations and modifications specific to postpartum, as well as specific questions to ask during history taking and methods for identifying red flags in postpartum. More comfortable positions during the examination/treatment and common posture/gait/balance changes during postpartum are covered. The participant in this course will understand necessary biomechanics training for daily activities, child care, and breastfeeding. As an expansion from the pregnancy rehabilitation course, participants will be taken through progression in diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) assessment and rehabilitation, including DRA exercises in lecture and lab.
Doula Services and Pelvic Rehab Therapy - Remote Course
August 6 and December 10
A growing number of pelvic health therapists are recognizing the importance of preparing their clients for the physical and mental challenges of labor and delivery. In some cases, this is extending to a desire to be present during labor for support as a Doula. The purpose of this course is to present the unique challenges of merging a rehab practice with Doula services in order to help the participant better discern whether or not this is a journey worth taking.
Fertility Considerations for the Pelvic Therapist - Remote Course
This course is for practicing pelvic rehabilitation therapists and covers the role of rehabilitation therapists in optimizing female fertility. This course was written and will be instructed by Dr. Yeni Abraham, who is a Dallas-Ft.Worth-based Pelvic Physical Therapists specializing in the treatment of Gynecologic and Fertility related conditions. Lecture topics include medical infertility labs, pertinent information on charting cycles, assisted reproductive technologies and their impact on treatment, hormone regulation, the relationship between inflammation and infertility, amongst other topics. Lab activities/break-out sessions will include manual techniques to influence uterine and ovarian Mal-positions.
*This course will require that each student have a live model that will allow participants to practice the lab techniques on a human body. Due to the nature of labs, please be sure your model partner is not pregnant and does not have an IUD for safety. Additionally, those with hydrosalpinx will not be able to participate in uterine mobility techniques but can still attend the course.
Menopause Transitions and Pelvic Rehab - Remote Course
August 27-28th and November 12-13th
Menopause Transitions and Pelvic Rehab is a two-day course is designed for the clinician that wants to understand the multitude of changes that are experienced in the menopause transition and how they affect the aging process. Upon completion of this course, participants will have a basic understanding of the hormonal changes during menopause, the impact on various health systems, and interventions that can assist with improving this transition.
This is an excellent opportunity to understand the physiological consequences to the body as hormones decline, in order to assist our patients in lifestyle habits for successful aging. Topics will include cardiovascular changes, metabolic syndrome, bone loss and sarcopenia, neurological changes (headache, brain fog, sleeplessness), Alzheimer’s risk, and urogenital changes. Symptoms and treatment options will also be discussed, including hormone replacement, non-hormonal options, dietary choices, and exercise considerations.
Medical Perspective in Peripartum Care - Remote Course
Medical Perspective in Peripartum Care is a two-day course instructed by Dina Gordon, MD, FACOG, a practicing OB/GYN in the Seattle area, and will discuss common conditions encountered in the peripartum period from the medical perspective. Topics include medical screening; medical management of high-risk patients (bed rest, activity limitations, medications, surveillance); and interventions common in the peripartum period
The course is built from the medical perspective, the design of the course aims to share knowledge so that rehabilitation care planning is optimized.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations for High Intensity Athletics
The main focus of this course will be to learn how exercising throughout pregnancy, or returning to exercise postpartum may look different for a high-intensity athlete versus a non-HIIT athlete. Participants will discuss how anatomical and hormonal changes affect training for the pregnant and postpartum athlete, review various modifications for this population, learn how various stresses placed on the body during these activities may affect pelvic floor muscle function, and review various pressure management strategies that can be utilized during high-intensity interval training. This one-day remote continuing education course is designed to educate practitioners on the unique considerations of pregnant and postpartum athletes engaging in high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
During the pregnancy lab, we will review specific exercise modifications for pregnancy, utilization of breathwork to properly support the pelvic floor during pregnancy and review how to assess for and tape for diastasis recti. In the postpartum lab, we will review how to determine proper activity modification based on the ability to manage pressure, review specific activity modifications and breathwork, review accessory work for return to activity, and discuss how to assess pelvic organ prolapse in standing.
Perinatal Mental Health: The Role of the Pelvic Rehab Therapist
This one-day continuing education course covers mental health considerations during pregnancy and postpartum and is targeted to the pelvic rehab clinician treating patients in the peripartum period. Topics include common mental health concerns in the postpartum period including depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD, as well as the connectedness between mental health and physical dysfunction.
The course will introduce useful screening tools and how to connect patients to resources and diagnosing professionals. Labs will include partnered breakout sessions to practice listening and dialogue skills. The course also includes a review of coping techniques to support mental health and physical symptoms.
Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Remote Course
October 29-30 and November 5-6
Learn how to safely examine and treat the pregnant patient in this beginner-to-intermediate course.
Lectures cover terminology, fertilization, trimesters, medical testing/interventions, imaging, and medications. Participants will learn to differentiate between false labor, progressive labor, and other musculoskeletal pain as well as learn to understand typical hormonal and systemic changes during pregnancy. Examination, evaluation, and treatment of common lumbopelvic conditions will be provided with an introduction to diastasis rectus abdominis, pelvic floor dysfunction, breathing, and deep core assessment/treatment.
Discussions also include general examination considerations and modifications specific to pregnancy, including a discussion of modalities and manual therapy techniques considered safe or precautioned during pregnancy, with further lectures on pelvic girdle examination, diagnosis, and treatment strategies. Finally, to prepare the pregnant client for labor and birth, instruction in perineal stretching, hip and trunk flexibility activities and TENS for labor will be discussed. Lab practice will include labor and birthing positions, with a focus on consideration for positional strategies for women with pre-existing musculoskeletal problems.
The following is an excerpt from the short interview between Holly Tanner and Tara Sullivan discussing her course Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab. Watch the full video on the Herman & Wallace YouTube Channel.
Hi Tara, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?
Sure! So I’m Tara. I’ve been a pelvic health rehab therapist for about 10 years now. I started right out of PT school and I got a job at a local hospital where they were looking to grow and build the pelvic rehab program. So of course, I found Herman & Wallace and started taking all of the classes there that I could and just kept learning over the years. Now the program is expanded across the valley, we have nine different locations, and it’s been very successful and fulfilling. It’s my passion.
Recently, I would say the past four to five years of my career, I’ve started getting more into sexual dysfunctions. I was always into pelvic floor dysfunction in general - bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pelvic pain, but I didn’t get specifically into the sexual medicine side of it until recently. I did the fellowship with ISSWSH that really pulled all of that information together with what I’ve learned through the years.
Can you explain what ISSWSH is and how that combined with the knowledge base that you already had?
I feel like ISSWSH for me, where I came full circle. I finally was like “I get it.” ISSWSH is the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and it’s all the gurus like Dr. Goldstein, Rachel Rubin, and Susan Kellogg that have been around forever doing the research on sexual medicine. I started attending their conferences, became a faculty member, and presented at their annual fall meeting here in Scottsdale. Then I ended up doing their fellowship. Every year I would attend the conference, but it took a couple of years for all of that knowledge to soak in and for me to be able to really apply it. For example, that patient with that sticky discharge, maybe that is lichen planus – that’s the kind of medical side that you don’t necessarily learn in physical therapy school.
That for me just really helped my differential diagnosis which means that you can get the patient’s care faster. Get them to that resolution faster because you are working with a team of people and we all have our roles. As PTs and rehab practitioners, we have the time to sit with our patients. We are so blessed to have an hour, and the medical doctors don’t, for us to really take that time to figure out the patient’s history and what they’ve been through, and what could be the cause of it. We have the time to be the detective and help them get the care they need. Whether it’s with us, or in conjunction with something else. My goal is to never tell someone that I can’t help them because it’s not muscular.
How has this knowledge helped you in your collaboration with other practitioners in your practice?
I feel like this knowledge was the missing link for me. It brings it all together for the patient. So the patients come here and the urologist says “that’s not my area,” and then the gynecologist says “that’s not my area.” Then they come to you and you’re like “it’s kind of my area, but I can’t prescribe the medication that you need.”
My practice got so much better, just in the sense of the overall quality of care, when I was able to develop those relationships with the doctors. I could pick up the phone and say “Hey, that patient that you sent me – I think they have vestibulodynia, and I think it’s from their long-term use of oral contraceptive pills. I think that they might benefit from some local estrogen testosterone cream.” They would say, I don’t know about that, and I’d respond “let me send you some articles. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.”
Now I can just pick up the phone or send them a text asking them to prescribe so and so. It really helped bridge that gap. The doctors now will say “Ok. I know something’s going on, but I don’t know if it’s muscular or tissue. I don’t have that training, what do you think?” So it’s just been such a collaboration, it’s been so great. Then I’ll go the reverse of that and watch them do a surgery, watch them do a procedure.
For our patients, we need to take that time and work with the physicians and develop that relationship with them, because it’s easy to pass it off as “that’s not my job.” Especially the vestibule! The gynecologist goes right through it and looks into the vaginal canal and then the urologist is like I’m going to look at the urethra but I’m not looking around it, let me just stick that scope in. This knowledge and ability to use differential diagnosis, for me just brings it all together.
Does your course have an online, pre-recorded portion as well as a live component?
Yes. There are about nine lab videos on manual techniques because everyone wants to know what to do. For me, it’s more about what you know. What can you identify and differentiate with the differential diagnosis. Then we have about two hours of just the basic lectures on general pain and overactivity of the pelvic floor so that we can spend our time in the live lecture getting into the very specific conditions that we as PTs are, not necessarily diagnosing, but recognizing and sending for further care. That’s really where I wanted this class to fill the gap between the urologist, the gynecologist, and the PT.
Is your course primarily vulvo-vaginal conditions or are there some penile, scrotal, or other conditions?
It is both male and female dysfunctions, and I have a few transgender cases. I don’t personally treat the transgender population very often so I only have a couple of examples of that. I have a lot of examples where I’m trying to get practitioners to recognize the problem by what the patient is saying and their history, and how to funnel this into their differential diagnosis. Case studies include different types of vestibulodynia and causes, all the different skin conditions…and it’s not necessarily something that they didn’t learn in one of the Pelvic Floor Series courses, but I wanted one class where they could just talk about all the sexual dysfunctions and get into some of the ones that we don’t see as often but are present.
We also talk about PGAD (persistent genital arousal disorder), and with male dysfunctions, we talk about spontaneous ejaculation and urethral discharge, post vasectomy syndrome. All of these things that you might not see every day, but when you see them you’ll recognize them so that you can help patients talk to the doctor and get the proper care. There are a lot of random, not as obvious, conditions that are not as prevalent. Then there are the common conditions that we see every single day like lichens.
What is the biggest takeaway that practitioners have who come into your class?
It is really being able to access and effectively use differential diagnosis. A lot of practitioners in the course are like “I always wondered what that was.” I have a ton of pictures that I share, and I’m like, I know you guys have seen this before. I think a lot of it is the differential diagnosis. The feedback that I get from every class is “I feel like I can go to the clinic on Monday and apply what I learned.” “I’m going to go buy a q-tip and start doing a q-tip test because now I know what to do with that information.” They feel that confidence of really being able to apply it, talk to the patient, talk to the doctors, and figure out that meaningfulness.
Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab is designed for pelvic rehab specialists who want to expand their knowledge, experience, and treatment in sexual health and dysfunction. This course provides a thorough introduction to pelvic floor sexual function, dysfunction, and treatment interventions for all people and 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, as well as multiple approaches for the treatment of sexual dysfunction including understanding medical diagnosis and management.
Lecture topics include hymen myths, female squirting, G-spot, prostate gland, female and male sexual response cycles, hormone influence on sexual function, anatomy and physiology of pelvic floor muscles in sexual arousal, orgasm, and function and specific dysfunction treated by physical therapy in detail including vaginismus, dyspareunia, erectile dysfunction, hard flaccid, prostatitis, post-prostatectomy, as well as recognizing medical conditions such as persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) and dermatological conditions such as lichen sclerosis and lichen planus. Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to confidently treat sexual dysfunction related to the pelvic floor as well as refer to medical providers as needed and instruct patients in the proper application of self-treatment and diet/lifestyle modifications.
This continuing education course is appropriate for physical therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapist assistants, registered nurses, nurse midwives, and other rehabilitation professionals of all levels and experience. Content is not intended for use outside the scope of the learner's license or regulation. Physical therapy continuing education courses should not be taken by individuals who are not licensed or otherwise regulated, except, as they are involved in a specific plan of care.
The following is an excerpt from an interview between Niko Gaffga, MD, FAAFP, MPH (NG) and Holly Tanner (HT) about why he is interested in women’s health and the menstrual experience. Niko and Amy Meehan, PT, DPT, MTC have co-authored a specialty course for H&W all about Menstruation and Pelvic Health – to learn more join us in the upcoming remote course on July 16th-17th, 2022. You can watch the full video interview below, or on the Herman & Wallace YouTube Channel.
HT – So menstruation as a topic, what is it that got you so passionate about this particular topic?
NG -Throughout my career and my training, women’s health and OB have been one of my favorite parts of my job. In recent years there was a patient who really inspired me. I came into the room, and she was sitting in the corner in the exam room of the clinic where I worked and she was crying. I came in and I asked, she only spoke Spanish…and I asked her “ How are you doing? What’s happening?” and she was very reluctant to say anything.
I found out through a little bit of discussion that she was feeling pain, and she couldn’t make the pain go away. That she had seen many doctors about it and no one had been able to help her. She was reluctant to show me where on her body – maybe it’s because I’m a man, or maybe it was because she was from a different country – she didn’t feel secure. So I drew a little picture on a piece of paper, and I said “Just point to me on this paper where you feel the pain.” After a while of pointing, talking, and smiling I got to a point where she could explain to me what was happening.
It turns out that she had painful bladder syndrome, or interstitial cystitis, and we worked over the months to get that better. And I have to say, that the next time that I walked into that the next time that I walked into that same room and she was there – she was smiling. She stood up and she gave me a hug – and I said to myself, “This is why I do medicine.”
I think really the breakthrough came when I met her where she was. I took the time to talk to her in her language, show her a piece of paper, and wait for her to say what she felt. Cause many doctors, you know how they only have two or three minutes to talk with their patients. When I met her halfway, she was able to talk to me about the pain she was feeling, about her menstrual cycles – which I don’t think she had ever discussed with any doctors before.
So that started me down the road in being interested in what can I do – what more can I do to help women. When I see women in the clinic a lot of them don’t want to say anything about their menstrual cycle, and again maybe it’s because I’m a man. Maybe it’s because it’s just a difficult topic to discuss, but I realize that in society we don’t have a lot of chance as men or women to talk about the menstrual cycle.
I feel that it is a disservice to women that they don’t have a chance to talk about things that genuinely interest them, are concerning to them, or have questions and are curious about. I feel that there is a stigma, and I think that this course will begin to address it within a small group. But I think eventually, training and working with healthcare providers is one step in making that message available to other people, and to other patients all around the country. So that is how it evolved for me.
One of the most important things for me is that talking about the menstrual experience and women’s health, in general, allows me to change, to give people information, to make decisions in their life that are in alignment with the way that they see the world. I think that not many professions can say that. You know medical professions, physical therapists, doctors, and many other professions - we help people do what they want to do for themselves, and that’s powerful. That’s very powerful.
I think that the most important thing is that I can make a difference in someone else’s life. I’ve seen it when talking to women in the clinic who I’ve seen before. Discussing their menstrual cycle and having them tell me this is the first I’ve spoken about to anyone, much less to a female or a male provider. Hearing someone say that is meaningful. It is a lot of trust that they place in someone to tell them these kinds of things because they are difficult topics. Seeing that you can make a difference in someone else’s life...it means a lot to me, and this is the reason why [I’m so passionate about women’s health and the menstrual experience].
The Menstrual cycle is one of the most natural of all human processes and is experienced by half of the population of the world. At any given time, 800 million individuals are menstruating. The Menstrual cycle occurs roughly once a month for roughly 35 to 40 years in a lifetime. That ends up being almost 3000 days, or about 8 years of menses. Many menstruators experience “period shaming” and other forms of socialized stigma around the menstrual experience. It is therefore important to become familiar with this experience and provide care to patients that takes into account their Menstrual Experience.
This two-day remote continuing education course is designed for clinicians who want to obtain advanced knowledge and skills to educate patients on non-hormonal, non-surgical, and non-prescription interventions for improving the Menstrual Experience. Developed by Nicholas Gaffga, MD, MPH, FAAFP, and presented together with Amy Meehan, PT, DPT, MTC, this course is geared toward the pelvic rehab provider looking to impart Menstrual Interventions that:
This week for the Pelvic Rehab Report, Holly Tanner sat down to interview faculty member Erica Vitek, MOT, OTR, BCB-PMD, PRPC on her specialty course Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation. If you would like to learn more about working with this patient population join Erica on June 24th-25th for the next course date!
This is Holly Tanner with the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute and I'm here with Erica Vitek who's going to tell us about of course that she has created for Herman and Wallace. Erica, will you tell us a little bit about your background?
Yes. Absolutely. Thanks for chatting with me today about my course! So my course is Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation. I'm just so excited to be part of the team and to be sharing all this great information. How I got the idea for the course is that there was a need for more neuro-type topics related to pelvic health, and individuals were reaching out to me because my specialty is in both Parkinson disease, rehabilitation, as well as pelvic health, and I always talked about the connections and wanting to bring that information to more people. So I wanted to plate all that information together in this great course.
I got started specializing in Parkinson's back in the early 2000s. I was hired at a hospital as an occupational therapist working with people with Parkinson disease. But when I was in college my real interest was pelvic health. So I kind of got thrown into learning a whole lot about Parkinson disease at that time and I got really interested in how it all related to what I really wanted to do, which was pelvic health. I was able to connect that all, really right from the beginning of my career. Even though I started more on the physical rehabilitation side of Parkinson disease, which I continue to this day. I am able to combine those two passions of mine.
I also am an instructor with LSVT Global(1)and so we do LSVT BIG®(2) course training and certification workshops and I work with them a lot. I also have still a physical rehab background, as well as my connection to the public health background, and I bring that all together in my course Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation. We have two packed-full days of information and I think really it does translate well to the virtual environment.
What are the connections between neuro and pelvic health? Can you talk about what some of the big cornerstone pieces are that you get to dive into with your class?
The beginning of the course on the first day is going back to the basics of neuro in general. Really getting our neuro brains on and thinking about terminology, topics related to neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system. Individuals with Parkinson’s specifically, their motor system is affected but also their non-motor systems. This includes autonomic function, the limbic system, and all of the different motor functions that also affect the pelvic floor in addition to all of the other muscles in the body.
We have all of this interplay of things going on that affect the bladder, bowel, and sexual health systems in individuals with Parkinson's that is a little bit different than your general population. There are a multitude of bladder issues that are very specific to the PD population, for example, overactive bladder.
This is just one example of the depths we go into right in the beginning on day one where we get into the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of why that is actually happening. This then helps us go into day two where we talk about the practicality of what you do in the clinic about the things that are happening neurologically which is causing all of these bladder, bowel, and sexual health issues.
What kind of tools do you give to people to help practitioners understand and implement a treatment program?
People with PD are on very complex medication regimens and many of them are elderly, so the medication complexity is much more challenging in this population. At the end of day one, the last lecture, we go through the pharmacology very specifically for people with Parkinson’s in order to have a base of understanding of how that is interplaying with the pelvic health conditions.
We set the baseline of getting that information from your patient off the bat, then discuss what you want to be looking for when you start off with that patient and the importance of finding out what kind of bladder and bowel medications they have taken thus far and how that can potentially interplay with their Parkinson’s. Individuals with PD can have potentially worse side effects from some of those medications that are used for bladder issues specifically. We dig into what to look for, we talk a lot about practical behavioral modifications using bladder and bowel diaries and things like that to weed out some things in addition to using our other skills as pelvic health practitioners.
How can people prepare themselves to come to Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation, are there required readings or things that would be helpful for people to catch up a little bit on the pelvic health or neuro side?
I feel like, and I hope, that I did a really good job at the basic review right at the beginning so we can talk through these topics together. I prefer to take a course and not have to spend a lot of extra time on the pre-recordings because sometimes that can be overwhelming with busy lifestyles. When I put together this course I really wanted us to focus together as a group as we start the class to dig into those basics at the beginning and not have a lot of required things to do prior.
So what I did at the beginning of the course is to make a lot of tables, a lot of charts, and a lot of drawings, that we can reference (we don’t have to memorize it) and look at as needed. We can look at a chart and a drawing right next to it in the manual. I spent a lot of time just putting it all down in words, what I’m saying, so you don’t have to take a lot of notes. I think this has really helped practitioners as we get into the course and learn about the details of Parkinson’s and pelvic health.
What is it that makes you so passionate about working with these patients and continuing to learn and share your knowledge?
It is so heartwarming and feels so good to help these individuals. The motor symptoms of PD are really the ones recognized by physicians or even outwardly noticed even by other individuals. These private conditions of pelvic health that we are helping with are things that they might not even mention to their physician. Maybe we find out when we are doing other physical rehab or when colleagues refer them to us because they know what we do, and to help them with something of this magnitude that affects their everyday life - when they have trouble just walking, or moving or transferring.
Their caregiver burden for these individuals is so high because their loved one - now turned caregiver - is helping them do everything. We can make such an impact on these individuals. I mean, we do on other people too, but when you have a progressive neurologic condition and we can make an effect on shaping techniques they can use to improve their day-to-day. It’s just so great to be able to help them.
Sometimes these patients with PD can have cognitive impairments, they can have difficulties learning, and that can be helpful for the care partner. It can be a significant reduction in their burdon. I do talk a lot in the course about cognitive impairment and I give a lot of tips about how we can train and some ideas. People with Parkinson’s muscles and minds are a little different so there are some great tips that I can provide and lots of clinical experience.
I’ve been an occupational therapist for over 20 years, so I have a ton of clinical experience with this population. It’s been the population I’ve worked with my entire career. I hope I can provide the passion that I have for working with these individuals as well as the individuals who take my class.
I’m sure you would agree that we need more folks knowledgeable about Parkinson’s and combine that with pelvic health knowledge as well.
There are over a million people in the United States alone that have Parkinson disease. It’s the second most common neuro-degenerative disorder just behind Alzheimer’s disease. So there are so many individuals dealing with this and I think we can really expand our practices. I don’t think a lot of individuals that work in pelvic health market themselves to neurologists. There is an opening there for additional referrals and more people that we can help.
Rachna Mehta PT, DPT, CIMT, OCS, PRPC, RYT 200 has a personal interest in various eastern holistic healing traditions, and she noticed that many of her chronic pain patients were using complementary health care approaches including acupuncture and yoga. Her course Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health brings a unique evidence-based approach and explores complementary medicine as a powerful tool for holistic management of the individual as a whole focusing on the physical, emotional, and energy body.
There is worldwide concern over the increasing rates of pharmacologically induced labor, opioid use, and operative birth. Women are seeking holistic non-pharmacologic options to avoid medical and surgical interventions in childbirth which has led to the popularity of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies. Despite CAM existing outside of conventional heath systems, a substantial number of women have been found to use CAM to manage their health during pregnancy1.
Among CAM therapies, Acupuncture and Acupressure have been found to be helpful for pregnancy-related symptoms such as nausea, breech presentation, and labor induction with post-partum recovery considerations as well. Acupressure has roots in Acupuncture and is based on more than 3000 years of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM supports Meridian theory and meridians are believed to be energy channels that are connected to the function of the visceral organs. Acupoints located along these meridians transmit Qi or the bio-electric energy through a vast network of interstitial connective tissue connecting the peripheral nervous system to the central viscera.
A systematic review published by Smith et al2 looked at the use of Acupuncture or Acupressure for pain management during labor. They noted that the pain women experience during labor can be intense, with body tension, anxiety, and fear making it worse. The data included a total of 3960 women and found that Acupressure may reduce pain intensity in women experiencing labor pain.
Another RCT published by Levett et al included 176 nulliparous women with low-risk pregnancies, attending hospital-based antenatal clinics. They incorporated six evidence-based complementary medicine techniques: Acupressure, visualization and relaxation, breathing, massage, yoga techniques, and facilitated partner support. Randomization occurred at 24–36 weeks’ gestation, and participants attended a 2-day antenatal education program plus standard care, or standard care alone.
The study found a significant difference between the two groups with the study group having decreased epidural use (23.9%) compared to the standard care group (68.7%). The study group participants also reported a reduced rate of cesarean section and length of the second stage among other measures.
An article published by Debra Betts3 discusses several key considerations for promoting physiological Labor with Acupuncture. Multiple studies have cited the effectiveness of Acupressure by stimulating these powerful Acupoints as well. The author states that the suggestion of Acupoints cited below are based on both her clinical practice and midwifery feedback and are by no means an exhaustive list. The practitioner is encouraged to explore Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote efficient physiological labor in women.
Key considerations for promoting natural physiological labor include:
Is the baby in an optimal anterior position? The author states “Women can become involved in their own treatment by learning proactive positioning. This involves a woman keeping her knees lower than her hips when sitting, in order to assist gravity in moving her baby into the best possible position. Bucket‑type seats such as car seats and comfy sofas, therefore, need to be abandoned in favor of birthing balls, sitting astride chairs (with the arms resting on the back).” Key acupuncture points that can be stimulated include Bladder 60 ( BL 60), Spleen 6 (Sp 6), and Bladder 67 (BL 67). Bladder 60 (BL 60) is considered an empirical induction point. Midwifery feedback suggests that this is a useful point for promoting an optimal position of the baby for birth. Bladder 67 (BL 67) is considered an extremely important point if the baby is not in an anterior position.
Is the woman emotionally prepared for labor? While most women have some level of underlying anxiety or fear about the approaching birth, it is essential to address any significant emotional disharmony. The hormone oxytocin is released several weeks prior to labor, initially stimulating uterine contractions at night, with increasing production then aiding the transition into labor. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline have a direct inhibiting effect on natural oxytocin release, and therefore play a very significant role in inhibiting contractions2. Key acupuncture points that can be stimulated include Kidney 1 (KD 1), Liver 3 (Liv 3), and Pericardium 6 (P6) among others. Kidney 1 (K1) is useful for women who are experiencing fear of induction or childbirth itself. Liver 3 (Lv 3) is helps in improving Liver chi. Pericardium 6 (P6) is helpful for nausea, regulating the heart and calming.
Is the woman physically prepared for labor? Women may be physically exhausted or have pre-existing physical conditions that, once addressed, will help to promote physiological labor2. Key acupuncture points that can be stimulated include Bladder 43 (BL 43) and Stomach 36 (St 36). Bladder 43 ( BL 43) is A point that tonifies and nourishes the Lung, Heart, Kidneys, Spleen, and Stomach. Stomach 36 (ST 36) is a useful point to reinforce if the woman is exhausted, due to its qi-tonifying and blood-nourishing properties.
Stimulating contractions: Debra Betts also notes that key points of the Bladder meridian that are located on the sacrum are crucial in initiating contractions. While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does consider some Acupuncture points like Large Intestine 4 (LI 4), Gall Bladder 21 (GB 21), and Spleen 6 (Sp 6) should not be stimulated in pregnant women, the opposite is true when we want to initiate labor and these points can be additionally used to assist in stimulating contractions.
Acupressure can also be used in the post-partum period for overall generalized well-being, promoting a sense of bonding with the baby, calm, and relaxation.
Acupressure can be used to stimulate key energy points also known as Acupoints in various meridians and as hands-on musculoskeletal specialists, we can use and teach this modality to our patients. Acupressure requires no equipment, is easy for clinicians to teach and for patients to self-administer when taught correctly, and is an empowering self-care tool to promote optimal health outcomes.
The course Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health focuses on powerful Acupressure points in key Meridians including the Kidney, Bladder, Spleen, and Stomach meridians. It also explores Yin Yoga as an integrative intervention with Acupressure. Yin Yoga, a derivative of Hath Yoga is a wonderful complimentary practice to Acupressure. Yin Yoga is a slow and calm meditative practice that uses seated and supine poses that are held for three to five minutes with deep breathing. It stimulates the energy flow through the meridian channels by creating tension along specific meridian lines.
This course is curated and taught by Rachna Mehta. To learn how to integrate Acupressure into your clinical practice, join the next scheduled remote course on June 25- 26, 2022.
Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health
Instructor: Rachna Mehta PT, DPT, CIMT, OCS, PRPC, RYT 200
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 12.5
This continuing education course is a two-day seminar that offers participants an evidence-based perspective on the application of Acupressure for evaluating and treating a host of pelvic health conditions including bowel, bladder, and pelvic pain issues. The course explores a brief history of Acupressure, its roots in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and presents current evidence that supports the use of complementary and alternative medicine as an adjunct to western medicine. TCM concepts of Meridian theory and energy channels are presented with scientific evidence of Acupoints transmitting energy through interstitial connective tissue with potentially powerful integrative applications through multiple systems.
Lectures will present evidence on the use of potent Acupressure points and combinations of points for treating a variety of pelvic health conditions including chronic pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, constipation, digestive disturbances, and urinary dysfunctions to name a few. Key acupoints for decreasing anxiety, and stress and bringing the body back to a state of physiological balance are integrated throughout the course.
Participants will be instructed through live lectures and demonstrations on the anatomic location and mapping of acupressure points along five major meridians including the spleen, stomach, kidney, urinary bladder, and gall bladder meridians. Key associated points in the pericardium, large intestine, small intestine, lung and liver meridians as well as the governing and conception vessels will also be introduced. The course offers a brief introduction to Yin yoga and explores Yin poses within each meridian to channel energy through neurodynamic pathways to promote healing across multiple systems. Participants will learn how to create home programs and exercise sequences and will be able to integrate acupressure and Yin yoga into their orthopedic and pelvic health interventions.
Special Considerations and Lab materials
The labs for this course will involve external whole-body palpation and mapping of acupressure points. Please wear fitted t-shirt and leggings or yoga pants for acupressure point mapping. Participants should buy a pack of 1-inch diameter white circle stickers to be used in Labs for mapping acupressure points.
Participants are encouraged to use a Yoga mat if available and any other props they may have at home including yoga blocks, small blankets, towels and pillows to be used in the guided Yin Yoga Lab portion of the course.
Recommended resources: It is recommended that participants purchase an Acupressure Point Chart for ease of following the course work and labs in this course. Since the accuracy of points and content may vary on different charts, it is recommended to buy a copy at https://acupressure.com/products/acupressure-charts/
This continuing education seminar is targeted to rehabilitation professionals who use manual therapy as a treatment modality. Knowledge of acupressure points with specific anatomical landmarks will enable clinicians to add to their toolbox skills for treating a variety of pelvic health conditions related to the bowel, and bladder and treatment of pelvic pain.
It is recommended that the participants have a working knowledge of the functional anatomy of pelvic floor muscles as well as various associated pelvic health conditions. Pelvic Floor 1 through Herman & Wallace is strongly recommended.
Amanda Davis, PT, DPT, PRPC can be found online at https://www.makeandmanifest.com/. She has generously shared her recent blog with The Pelvic Rehab Report. "Got 30 Minutes? 4 Underestimated Daily Practices to Make Your Lunch Break More Life-Giving" can be found in its original post on her website here: http://www.makeandmanifest.com/blog-lunchbreak/.
Hey there, I'm Amanda. Pelvic rehab therapist, endo warrior, girl mama (despite that whole endo thing), and creator of this space where I'm sharing the story of practicing what I preach and the wins and losses I gather along the way. I love early morning espresso, podcast binging, yoga pants, and scrolling Pinterest for my next obsession (heyyyy fellow libras!). My mission is to help women see the difference between "common" and "normal" and to take their physical, mental, and emotional health beyond the "that's just the way it is" mentality.
Hats off to my fellow 9-5ers who head home after a long day to jump right into their 5-9. If you’re like me, that second “career” includes (but definitely is not limited to) caregiver, dog walker, master gardener, professional organizer, chef, and housekeeper to name a few. Add in friendships that need energy, relationships that need time, those hobbies you swore you’d keep alive, and self-care you promised yourself you’d do…aaaaand the whole multi-passionate, multi-talented, multi-hyphenate thing can get overwhelming quick.
After a glorious five-month maternity leave, I’ve officially been a working mom for a year. I love my job and I love my girl, and while trying to fit both in a 24 day is challenging and exhausting, it’s what’s right for me in the season I’m in. Plus there’s something about pursuing my calling outside of the home and knowing Sloan’s watching me do it.
We’ve all chased that ultimate goal of a *perfect* balance and ~seamless~ blend between work and home, but in full disclosure, I’ve gotta tell ya— it’s hard for me to do. I’ve found myself coming home drained, dying for a break, wishing I could just lock myself in a quiet room, and feeling guilty for all of the above. Being with my daughter is the best part of my day, but I’m often just too depleted to enjoy it.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe you’re also trying to work to live but find those words flipping themselves around more than you care to admit.
I recently took an online course called Boundaries, Self-Care, and Meditation for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist, Part 1 (part 2 is on June 12). As a PT I’m required to take continuing education to keep my skillset relevant and knowledge fresh, but the pending burnout I shared with you above led me to [this] course instead. To put it simply, it was [insert explosion sound here] mind-blowing; and call me dramatic, but I consider my practice, my patients, and myself as a person and professional forever changed because of it.
While I could write at least ten posts on all the things I learned in this class, the concept that’s been most life-altering for me was how I spend my lunchtime. Yep!…just a few tweaks to those 30 minutes mid-day and not only are my afternoons more pleasant and productive, but I’m going home refreshed, renewed, and ready to spend my time and energy on alllllllllll the other people and things that mean the most to me.
What you’ll find next is how I structure my lunchtime for life-giving success— a strategy that serves me most. We all have different work environments, different physical and mental needs, and different priorities. As long as your cup feels full(er) at the end of your break, I can confirm you’re doin’ it right.
SHUT YOUR DOOR
I fully realize that not everyone has an office door they can shut during lunchtime, but as long as you can get somewhere semi-quiet and remotely alone, that should do the trick (heck…I’ve been known to go out to my car in a pinch). Creating a calm and centered environment has proven paramount to taking a true “break” from the day and will make all of my recommendations to follow that much more enjoyable.
If you’re worried about appearing “selfish” or “standoffish”…I was too. But after a week’s worth of lunches behind a closed door, I realize the positives of this practice far outweigh the negatives I was creating in my head. I’m still a team player. My coworkers still know where I am if they need me. But I’m a better colleague the other eight hours of the day when I take these 30 minutes to myself, and to my knowledge, there have been no complaints so far.
STOP TO EAT
To my fellow multi-tasking queens— if you only read one part of this post, let [this] be it as I believe this one change has made the biggest difference.
I used to spend my lunch catching up on paperwork, tending to emails, paying bills, online shopping, and then resort to scrolling social media if all of that was done. But I was eating during all of it and realized that not only was it taking me twice as long to complete tasks, but I wasn’t tasting, appreciating, or ultimately enjoying my food, all huge components of appetite, digestion, and ultimately nutrition and health.
My lunches aren’t anything fancy; in fact, 99% of the time they’re leftovers from earlier in the week (helloooooooo my trusty 3-day-old grilled chicken). But stopping to eat with intention and nothing other than a little music or podcast playing in the background has surprisingly, but positively, affected how much I consume, how my gut feels afterward, and the amount of energy I have for the rest of the day.
PS- What you eat can make a huge impact here too. I aim for whole, quality foods full of healthy fats and filling proteins to set me up for success. I’m someone who can eat the same thing again and again, so you’ll typically find my lunchbox full of that good ol’ grilled chicken, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, and rice noodles if I’m feelin’ feisty.
On top of that podcast I have playing while I eat, I’ve started spending ten to fifteen minutes learning during lunch. I literally set a timer, pull out a book, and read about something that fuels my brain.
In order to make these minutes a 10/10, here’s a few tips to uplevel the experience:
When I became a mom I went from devouring a few books a month to being able to count my yearly reads on one hand. Reading on my lunch break has made me excited to learn again and reminded me of who I am outside of motherhood too (in turn making me a better mama). Even if reading isn’t your “thing”, at least give this one a try. Bonus if you utilize your local library because their books just smell better and we’re going for indulgent here…remember?
Eat…ten minutes. Learn…ten minutes. If you’re like me and have ten more minutes to spare, then I encourage you to move your body with that time. While the options are endless, I try to avoid sweating too much in the middle of the work day, so walking, stretching, and even deep breathing exercises are more my speed. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have the shoes, yoga mat, or whatever it is you need ready to go.
Not only does research show that movement improves your mood and elevates your energy, but there are also the physical benefits (duh!) and mental resilience that comes with knowing you’re taking care of yourself when you could be doing something else. Once fearful of wasting precious energy, I now consider my mid-day movement the boost I need to ensure I’m ready to go when I get home because let me tell ya…one year olds don’t quit.
One look at my Pinterest boards and you’ll see I’m a girl who has a lot she wants to accomplish (I see you dream house, list of must-reads, vacation itineraries, and yummy recipes just dyyyyyying to be made). But with a 24-hour day divided in thirds between work, sleep, and “other”, I have to use my time wisely to see success in a life where I’m more often than not choosing the option of (D) ALL OF THE ABOVE.
I don’t mean to be dramatic, but hacking my 30-minute lunch has ~literally~ changed my life and I’m a better physical therapist, caregiver, dog walker, master gardener, professional organizer, chef, and housekeeper (to name a few) because of it. There’s a saying that if you can’t go big, go home, but this is an instance where you can’t underestimate the power of a few minutes spent intentionally where it counts.
I’d love to hear in the comments what you do for work, if these strategies work for you, and ways you’ve made them your own. And don’t hesitate to share this one with a coworker who could use these strategies too! Nothing makes me happier than picturing us all spending half an hour in that 11-2 time frame-filling our cups for full-day success. I have a feeling you’ll be surprised at the impact this can have, and I can’t wait to watch you grow one lunchtime at a time.
This course focuses on personal and professional growth for the participant, with a deeper dive into meditation and self-care practices. Yoga is introduced as a means of mindful movement and energy balance. Participants will learn to identify unhealthy relational patterns in patients and others, and skills on how to use language and boundaries to create shifts that keep the clinician grounded and prevent excessive energic and emotional disruptions. There is a lecture on using essential oils for self-care and possibly patient care. Learning new strategies to preserve energy, wellness, and passion while practicing appropriate self-care and boundaries will lead to helpful relationships with complex patients. This course also includes a discussion of energetic relationships with others as well as the concept of a "Higher Power". The discussion will also include refining life purpose, mission, and joy potential, unique to the individual participant. The goal is that the participating clinician will walk away from this experience equipped with strategies to address both oneself and one's patients with a mind, body, and spirit approach.
Mora Pluchino, PT, DPT, PRPC sat down this week with Holly Tanner in an interview to discuss her new courses, Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals and Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens. She is a pelvic therapist who works in an outpatient clinic, has her own side company (Practically Perfect PT), has written 2 books available on Amazon, and is a senior TA and faculty member with Herman & Wallace. Mora joins the Herman & Wallace faculty with her new course series in ethics: Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals and Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens.
What are your core values as a pelvic health practitioner? Depending on your practitioner license these may include (1):
Annual CEU requirements for license renewals don’t just look at hands-on skills. Many states also require a number of ethics credits including California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Utah (2). In her interview, Mora Pluchino explains that one day she and her colleague were at lunch talking about course options for their ethics CEU requirement. They had taken the same course over and over at Stockton University and wanted to do something different this time. This led to Mora reaching out to Herman & Wallace and Holly Tanner who helped her start writing the course. Mora’s new courses focus on this ethics requirement, provide 6 contact hours, and registration is $175.00 for each:
What should you expect from an ethics course? Mora breaks down the Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals course and shares that there is about an hour of pre-course video lectures to watch, then the live course involves “a little bit of lecture in relation to pelvic health and ethics, and then there will be some case studies and group work. After this, an ethical expert will come in and do live question/answers with us.”
These courses are to really make practitioners comfortable with these ethical and moral issues. Mora explains, “I really want practitioners who take this course to understand and know where to find information about those issues that come up with their boss, their organization, their patients, or themselves. A lot of times, ethical situations just make us just know instinctively that something doesn’t feel right.” Holly follows up with “Sometimes these situations can make us feel embarrassed, and maybe we contributed or didn’t contribute in the right way to a scenario. We don’t always bring them up to other people out of this embarrassment, or we just don’t know which pathway to take.”
A lot of common questions have an ethical component such as “How do I bill for this,” “How do I tell my boss I can’t do this,” or even “Can I reuse a biofeedback sensor?” Mora shares, “Sometimes, as a practitioner you can feel pressured to do (or not do) something, and you don’t know how to say no. With these courses, you will be able to give clear reasons such as it’s in my guidelines, in my practice act, and core values as being a PT or OT.” She further expands on this, “We have all of these people working for us in the APTA and AOTA that are creating all of these ethical guidelines and all of this information to give us the support.”
The ethics topics are broken down into two courses, with the first course Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals focused specifically on people who treat pelvises scheduled for June 18, 2022. The second course, Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens, is scheduled for December 10, 2022, and deals with the legalities and rights of health care providers. Some questions that are touched on during lectures include abandonment of care and discrimination. Mora also shares that a lot of the ethics courses she has taken are “from the perspective of therapists that are abusing their patients, but when you work in pelvic health world you realize it can go the other way too, or it can be a back and forth kind of thing.”
To learn more, and fulfill that ethics CEU requirement, join H&W and Mora Pluchino this summer in Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals on June 18th or this winter in Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens scheduled for December 10th.
Kelly Sammis, PT, OCS, CLT, AFDN-S is a physical therapist, educator of dry needling and all things pelvic, Pilates instructor, wife, and mama living and working in Parker, Colorado. She specializes in the treatment of male and female pelvic floor dysfunction, athletic injury/return to sport, sports performance, and persistent pain. Her formal education took place at Ohio University (2007) and The University of St Augustine for Health Sciences (2010). Kelly serves as the lead faculty developing and teaching dry needling and pelvic health courses nationwide. Kelly co-instructs the Herman & Wallace Dry Needling courses along with site fellow faculty member Tina Anderson, MS PT.
Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a common and relevant condition that affects many patients worldwide. According to our evidence, PFD can affect approximately 20-25% of women and men in the United States1, contributing to decreased participation in preferred daily, work and recreational activities due to high incidences of lumbopelvic pain, abdominopelvic pain, incontinence, prolapse, and/or other urologic and urogynecologic symptoms.2 These symptoms have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and mental health status.2
While PFD is common, the general public has not been fully educated that these dysfunctions are not normal. As clinicians, we have a duty to educate our patient population that PFD is not a normal, nor acceptable, part of the postpartum experience or aging process. These dysfunctions are very debilitating but are also very treatable.
Common, not normal. Common, but treatable.
Pelvic floor pathology comes to us as clinicians in a variety of diagnoses, etiologies, and presentations2. Patients are often referred to physical therapy with medical diagnoses such as chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS), interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, dyspareunia, pudendal neuralgia, bowel and urinary incontinence, and chronic prostatitis.3-5 Symptom presentation is quite varied but often will include bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunctions. That being said, a multidisciplinary approach is crucial to tailor treatment specific to each patient’s pathology, symptomatology, and clinical presentation.6 Many of these patients have seen a variety of gynecologists, urologists, and gastroenterologists without successful symptom mitigation and are being referred to pelvic health practitioners as a last resort. This is unfortunate, as a primary contributor to these symptoms is the neuromusculoskeletal system…and who better to treat the neuromusculoskeletal system than rehabilitative clinicians?!
Multimodal practice is key.
A well-rounded, multimodal treatment approach that is tailored to meet the patient’s specific goals is an important step in successfully treating PFD. Patient education can be a very powerful modality, which many clinicians tend to overlook. Research suggests education may help to address central nervous system upregulation and may help to retrain the brain in how it is processing input.7,8 While it is incredibly powerful to be able to influence pain processing, it doesn't stop with education. As clinicians, we also need to provide non-threatening, nourishing input to the tissues.
Manual therapies may help to desensitize the peripheral nervous system and surrounding soft tissues by providing neural input to alter the source of the pain and disruption.9,10 These techniques, including joint mobilization, soft tissue release, myofascial techniques, tool-assisted therapies, or any other manual approach, are likely addressing local tissue issues that may be perpetuating chronic pain or tissue dysfunction.
Dry needling is another effective and efficient technique that pelvic health practitioners can utilize to modulate the central nervous system, peripheral nervous systems and local tissues, including the pelvic floor directly.10 Dry needling encompasses the insertion of solid filament, non-injectate needles into, alongside or around muscles, nerves or connective tissues with or without mechanical and/or electrical stimulation for the management of pain and dysfunction in neuromusculoskeletal conditions.
While the detailed mechanisms of dry needling are not well known, we have seen more and more evidence that has provided us with an understanding on how to best utilize this technique in our clinical practice. Overall, it is thought that dry needling may address hypersensitive neural structures and spinal segments5, enhance treatment of myofascial pain and trigger points in the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature, and assist in the facilitation and/or inhibition of abnormal muscle tone and motor recruitment patterns.10-23 Dry needling has the ability to assist in addressing bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction alongside addressing pain syndromes in our patient population that is impacted by PFD.
Dry needling is one of the most effective tools we have as rehabilitative practitioners to reset dysfunctional tissue, providing effective and efficient functional changes for our patients. Ultimately, we are able to facilitate a more balanced resting tone, healthy motor recruitment patterns, and optimal neuromuscular utility to re-establish ideal function in our patients. The power of the tissue reset that dry needling provides has changed my clinical outcomes for the better and has also positively impacted and changed the lives of many of my clients. Want to add this tool to your clinical practice? Check out our course offerings with Herman & Wallace: