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You went through Herman and Wallace’s Pelvic Floor 1 course and were ready to treat your clients with incontinence and prolapse……….then you started getting referrals for clients with pelvic pain.

You have 45-60 minutes (or longer if you are lucky) to create a safe and comfortable environment, skillfully establish trust and rapport and gather objective and subjective data to get to the bottom of their pain. You want to give them the summary of your findings, their rehab road map and something to work on at home. By the end of the visit, you need to have completed their problem list and plan of care. Where do you start?

No pressure, right?

Research published in a Nursing journal highlights the need for pelvic rehab providers to assess for sexual dysfunction in women before, during, and after pregnancy. 200 women were interviewed about their return to sexual activity after pregnancy and childbirth, and the results demonstrate that women can (and do) have limitations in their sexual function around the entire peripartum period.

By Nina Matthews (Flickr: head to head) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe results of the survey concluded that before pregnancy 33.5% of the women reported sexual dysfunction, and this number increased to 76% during pregnancy, and to 43.5% following delivery. The types of sexual dysfunction included dyspareunia, vaginismus, and decreased desire and orgasm. The authors of the study correlated dysfunctions with Catholic religion, vaginal delivery without suture, dyspareunia during pregnancy, vaginismus before pregnancy, and with working more than 8 hours per day.

The information collected in this study raise important points with a variety of topics related to sexual function. How we as providers aim to address these topics with women can have a critical impact on the health of a woman and her family. Let’s look at some action items this research can lead us to:

How often do we hear of patients trying to explain their sexual pain to a partner, only to be doubted, not believed, or guilt tripped into having sex because of the lack of understanding of the condition? I’d say about as often as we hear of the other unfortunate misunderstandings about the nature of painful sexual function, such as people not wanting to be in a relationship for fear of sexual dysfunction limiting their participation, or believing that healthy sex is gone for good. Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “not tonight- I’ve got a headache” yet how often is the truth really that a person has a “pelvic ache?” And do headaches and pelvic pain go together? That is the question posed in research published in the journal Headache.

For 72 women who were being treated for chronic headache, a survey was administered to assess for associations between sexual pain and libido, a history of abuse, and to determine the number of women being treated for sexual pain. Nearly 71% of the women were diagnosed on the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD)-III criteria with chronic migraines, nearly 17% with medication overuse headache, 10% with both chronic overuse headache and migraine. Below are some of the statistics from the survey.

Symptom % Respondents who Experienced Symptom
Pelvic region pain brought on by sexual activity 44%
Pelvic region pain preventing from engaging in sexual activity 18%
Among women who had pain:
Reported pain for < 1 year 3%
Reported pain for 1-5 years 35%
Reported pain for 6-10 years 29%
Reported pain for > 10 years 32%

Although the next statistics should not be so surprising based on prior literature and on our work in the clinics, 50% of the women had not discussed their pelvic pain with a provider. Of the women who had discussed their pelvic pain with a provider, 37.5% were currently receiving treatment, 31% had not received any treatment, 31% had received care in the past, and 1% did not provide an answer. Reasons for not receiving treatment included that no treatment was offered, pain was not severe enough to warrant care, or fear of pursuing treatment due to embarrassment. Unfortunately, rehabilitation was not a significant part of the treatment plan, even though all but one of the women said they would want to pursue care if available.

Today, September 28th, marks the ten year anniversary of the founding of Herman & Wallace! The Institute was founded on this day in 2005 by Holly Herman, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, WCS, BCB-PMD, PRPC and Kathe Wallace, PT, BCB-PMD with a mission of providing the very best evidence-based continuing education related to pelvic floor and pelvic girdle dysfunction in men and women throughout the life cycle.

By Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsSince our founding, it’s been our privilege to spread this mission through an ever-increasing number of course offerings, products, resources and certification so that therapists can meet their goals and patients can access trained practitioners who can address their needs.

To celebrate with us, use the discount code HappyBirthday for $10 off your next downloadable Herman & Wallace product!

In the past ten years, we’ve significantly expanded our course offerings. Currently-offered courses cover pediatrics and geriatrics, sexual health, yoga and Pilates, oncology, meditation and mindfulness, and a number of other topics instructed by some of the foremost experts in the field, with whom we are thrilled to work and provide a platform to spread their knowledge. In addition to our flagship Pelvic Floor series courses which were the first offered by the Institute, H&W now offers 46 live courses and 14 online courses on topics related to pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as related women’s health, men’s health and orthopedic topics.

Tagged in: Institute News

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The following is a contribution from Elisa Marchand, PTA, PRPC. Elisa is the first PTA to become a Certified Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner! Elisa started a Pelvic Floor program with a locally-owned rehab company where she mentored 3 different PT's through the years. In that time, Elisa also taught as an adjunct with the local PTA program. Elisa works at McKenna Physical Therapy in Peoria, IL.

As a physical therapist assistant, the following should cause me to rethink my passion for and practice within women's health PT. "The SOWH is opposed to the teaching of internal pelvic assessment and treatment to all supportive personnel including physical therapist assistants." (Position Statement on Internal Pelvic Floor Assessment and Treatment: Section on Women's Health, APTA; Feb 2014) It should have stopped me from sitting for and becoming the first-ever PTA certified as a PRPC. Fortunately, this is not the case.

I want to be clear from the start; I understand the need for clear boundaries with regards to the scope of practice of PTAs. However, the interpretation of these rules can get quite muddy. In the APTA's "Guide for Conduct of the PTA", the following clarifications are made, including their interpretations:

Tagged in: Clinical Practice PRPC

Peyronie’s disease is a condition in which there are fibrotic plaques (sometimes calcified) that can cause a curvature in the penis, most notable during erection. Pain as well as urinary and sexual dysfunction may occur with Peyronie's disease. Increased attention has been given in recent years to the relationship between male hormones, erectile dysfunction, and Peyronie's disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone, the predominant hormone affecting male physical characteristics, peaks during adolescence and early adulthood. Testosterone gradually decreases about 1% per year once a man reaches age 30-40. Some men experience symptoms from the decline in testosterone and these symptoms can include decreased sexual function, sleep disturbances changes in bone density and muscle bulk, as well as changes in cognition and depression. Because other factors and conditions can cause similar symptoms, patients with any of these changes should talk to their medical provider to rule out diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, depression, sleep apnea, and medication side effects, according to Mayo.

In an article published in 2012, Iacono and colleagues studied the correlation between age, low testosterone, fibrosis of the cavernosal tissues, and erectile dysfunction. 47 patients diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED) were included, with 55% of the 47 men being older than age 65. Having increased fibrosis corresponded to having a positive Rigiscan test- meaning that a nocturnal test of penile rigidity demonstrated abnormal nighttime erections. Low levels of testosterone also corresponded to erectile dysfunction. (This is an open access article with full text available) Another published article agreed with the above in that low testosterone is associated with Peyronie’s disease and/or erectile dysfunction. The authors are cautious, however, in describing the association between the variables, as causation towards plaque formation characteristic of Peyronie’s is not known.

The larger question about Peyronie’s disease is what a patient can do to improve the symptoms of the condition. Therapists who treat male patients are increasingly interested in this question, and many are working with their patients to address the known soft tissue dysfunction. Interventions may include teaching patients to perform soft tissue mobilizations and stretches to the restricted tissue, and educating the patient in what the available literature tells us about rehabilitation of this condition. Hopefully, as male pelvic rehabilitation continues to grow in popularity, more therapists will contribute case studies and participate in higher levels of research so that more men can add conservative care of Peyronie’s to their list of treatment options.

With ICD-10 changes right around the corner, we thought it would be helpful to put together a bit of a cheat sheet for our pelvic health providers. Keep in mind that this is only a guide, and that you and your facility should rely upon your own knowledge and skills. We hope this list makes getting to coding proficiency a little easier!

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service have a website called “Road to 10” that is very helpful for learning about all the changes that are coming up very soon, starting with “ICD-10 Basics” (they even have a countdown clock, with seconds included- no pressure!) The site has some documents for physicians, which therapists might find somewhat useful, including ones called “Common Codes for OB/GYN" or "Common Codes for Orthopedics". The Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute has created for you the Common Codes for the Pelvic Rehab Provider, For those of us in pelvic rehabilitation, the more tools that we have to make the transition easier, the better.

ICD-10 Codes are on the Incoming!There are 3 main things that are going to help with this transition: 1) knowing how ICD-10 is different than ICD-9, so that you are aware of the additional choices you may need to make, 2) having a comprehensive list of all the codes to choose from, and 3) having a shorter list of codes so you don’t have to move through the entire list!

Tagged in: Clinical Practice

If you are familiar with the work of Diane Lee, you may have noticed the term “driver” used throughout descriptions of patient assessment techniques. One definition of “driver” is “a factor that causes a particular phenomenon to happen or develop.” When it comes to a patient’s pelvic dysfunction, we know that there may be a dramatic number of factors driving the symptom, so what is the value of trying to determine the level of significance of various factors?

Let’s imagine that we meet a female patient who presents with pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, and difficulty holding back gas. In addition to providing a thorough subjective interview, screening for underlying medical conditions requiring attention, examining her neuromusculoskeletal system, and learning more about her daily habits, we need to figure out the best place to start with her care. What if, even though this particular patient has only experienced one major episode of leakage (after which all other symptoms started) you complete the exam to find that she is holding her pelvic muscles tense continuously? Perhaps you share this observation with the patient, only to hear her say that she is “so afraid of leaking again that she keeps her muscles tight to prevent it.” This type of rehabilitation sleuthing can help us get to the heart of the matter with our patients, regardless of the presenting complaints. For example, if we can educate this patient about the potential negative consequences of her fear of having another embarrassing episode (fear leads to muscle guarding which leads to pelvic pain and potentially dysfunctional voiding) then her thoughts can positively contribute to the other therapeutic recommendations we make.

Other examples may include meeting a patient with pelvic dysfunction whose true “driver” is a kyphotic thoracic spine that compresses the abdominal organs, or a habit of wearing pants with a waistband so tight that bowel function is compromised (true story), foot pain that creates increased loading on the now painful side of the pelvis, or even emotions and thoughts such as fear and shame. I’m sure you can think of many other examples based on your own clinical experience. If you are a newer therapist, or perhaps wish to work through further examples of not only how to evaluate but to treat for finding the primary contributors to a patient’s dysfunction, check out Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute faculty member Elizabeth Hampton’s continuing education course that focuses on this Finding the Driver in Pelvic Pain.

Have you ever tried to make a fitted sheet reach all corners of a mattress when there is a small, defective seam stitched into the middle of the fabric? No matter how much you pull or tug, the sheet won’t hug the last corner just right. If you get it to stay, the opposite corner flips off from the extra tension. Unless you release the snag the stitching created, you won’t ever get the sheet to fit smoothly. This is like the myofascial system in the body, where a snag in one area can affect another proximally or distally when normal movement tries to occur.

Even the pelvic floor can get myofascial restrictions and trigger points; however, this area is often ignored and seemingly insignificant when not fully understood. Pelvic floor fascial restrictions and trigger points can have paramount implications for the pelvic, abdominal, hip, and lumbar regions. This why pelvic rehabilitation practitioners should be equipped to evaluate and treat myofascial snags.

Pastore and Katzman (2012) published an article stating that 14%-23% of women with chronic pelvic pain have myofascial pelvic pain, and up to 78% of women with interstitial cystitis have myofascial trigger points. Once a trigger point in pelvic floor musculature is identified through palpation, it can refer pain to the perineum, vagina, urethra, and rectum, which seems obvious; however, pain may also refer to the abdomen, back, trunk, hip, buttocks, and lower leg. If palpation can provoke a referral pattern of pain, stretching and/or contraction of the musculature with that myofascial restriction will surely provoke a cascade of symptoms. How can we as clinicians just let statistics like this slide and figure “someone else should do that examination and fix it?” To demonstrate the efficacy in treating myofascial trigger points in pelvic musculature, consider the following study. Anderson et al (2015) had 374 patients follow a protocol of pelvic floor myofascial release of trigger points with an internal trigger point wand along with paradoxical relaxation therapy for 6 months. The goal was to see if patients with chronic pelvic pain syndrome could reduce their medication after following the protocol. At 6 months, a 36.9% reduction in medication use was noted in a complete case analysis, and a 22.7% reduction was revealed in the modified intention to treat (mITT) analysis. Patients no longer needing to take medication significantly correlated with the reduction of overall symptoms from following the protocol.

The concept of patient compliance, or adherence (a more preferred term), has been the subject of many medical studies, and adherence in pelvic rehabilitation is an aspect of rehab of critical interest. Recently published results of a survey questioning providers and the public about adherence in pelvic floor muscle training offers an insightful perspective. Researchers Frawley, Dumoulin, and McClurg conducted a web-based survey which was published in published in Neurourology and Urodynamics. The survey was completed by 515 health professionals and by 51 individuals from the public. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, health professionals and public respondents placed different value on which factors related to rehabilitation contributed the most to adherence.

Data collected in the study included topics such as barriers to adherence in pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT), perception of potential benefit of PFMT, therapy-related factors including therapeutic relationship, socioeconomic factors, and issues surrounding short-term versus long-term adherence, for example. For the providers, poor motivation was rated high as a barrier to short-term adherence, whereas the patients rated perception of minimal benefit from PFMT as the most important barrier. Facilitators of pelvic muscle training included aspects of access such as having appointments outside of the typical workday, or having childcare available, transportation, and not being bored by the exercise program or feeling that the therapist has adequate training and skills.

As suggested by the authors, perhaps that most important variable agreed upon by both providers and public is that of perceived benefit. In other words, patients need to believe that the exercise program can alleviate symptoms and that what they are doing in their particular program is going to achieve positive results rather than wasting time on a home program that will not be effective. This issue is one that can be easily remedied through appropriate patient education, communication with the patient about whether or not they understand the potential value and expected recovery through program participation, and adequate training of the therapist that allows for proper diagnosis and treatment planning. The study concludes by emphasizing that health providers “need to be aware of the importance of long-term patient perception of PFMT…”

Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Dec 4, 2015 - Dec 6, 2015
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