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What are the attributes and barriers to care for college-aged women who have pelvic pain? This is a question asked by researchers who published an original article on the topic in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. To complete the study, a random sample of 2000 female students at the University of Florida were sent an online questionnaire. Included in the questionnaire was basic demographic data, general health and health behavior questions, psychosocial factors, measures assessing different types of pelvic pain such as dyspareunia, dysmenorrhea, urinary, bowel, or vulvar pain, and information about barriers to care for pelvic pain and quality of life measures. A total of 390 women completed the survey, and the mean age was 23 years old. Most of the women in the sample identified as white, with 9.6% identifying as black or African-American. Most of the respondents had never been pregnant. The chart below lists some of the data.

Experienced pelvic pain over past 12 months 73%
Dysmenorrhea 80%
Deep dyspareunia 30%
Symptoms with bowel movements 38%
Vulvar pain (including superficial dyspareunia) 21.5%
Of women with pelvic pain, those lacking diagnosis 79%
Of women with pelvic pain, those who have not visited doctor 74%

Barriers to receiving care included difficulty with insurance coverage and providers’ “…lack of time and knowledge or interest in chronic pelvic pain conditions.” An interesting finding was that among the women who had pelvic pain, those who were sexually active reported lower scores on physical and mental health. Even among the women without pelvic pain, those who were sexually active reported lower mental health scores.

Over the past 28 years, my pelvic floor has endured at least 20,000 miles of running, including racing on the collegiate level and then completing 10 marathons. Add to the high-impact sport two 8.1 pound natural childbirth deliveries 26 months apart, and you can imagine why I accepted the invitation to blog for this well-respected institute. One of my elderly patients once told me my uterus was going to drop out from so much running (which, thankfully, has NOT happened); however, I have to admit, urinary stress incontinence and frequent urination were unwelcome enough consequences! On the positive side, it all initiated my journey to understanding the pelvic floor.

By Mike Baird [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2014, Poswiata et al used the Urogenital Distress Inventory (UDI-6) to assess how prevalent stress urinary incontinence may be among elite female skiers and runners. Of the 112 female athletes in the study, 50% reported leaking a small amount of urine. Coughing and sneezing provoked leakage for 45.54% of those women, indicating stress incontinence, and 58.04% of the women in the study reported frequent urination. Are those acceptable statistics? I would have to say no.

Today we hear from Martina Hauptmann, PT, PMA-CPI, instructor of "Pilates for the Pelvic Floor: Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Osteoporosis and Peripartum". Join Martina this September 19-20 in Chicago, IL to learn how to incorporate Pilates into your treatment plans!

Because the cost of staying in business is increasing and the insurance reimbursement rates are dropping, many physical therapy clinics are looking for cash based supplemental services (medically-orientated gym memberships, Pilates classes, yoga classes, durable exercise supplies etc). Offering Pilates as part of the physical therapy clinic’s therapeutic interventions will differentiate your clinic and may be marketed to physicians and the community to increase your clinic’s market share. Post rehabilitation, the offering of cash based Pilates wellness classes can increase the clinic’s bottom line, allowing for further rehabilitation of the client beyond the time frame allowed by insurances and improve retention of clients.

Pilates is a system and philosophy of exercises based on the work of Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) that focuses on precision and optimal alignment. This approach requires the client to focus her mind on the exercise in order to increase motor control. Women are attracted to the Pilates method because of its gentle but effective nature. Offering Pilates as part of your therapeutic offerings is a great marketing tool to physicians and to the community as well as an effective method for instructing specific muscle re-training.

Tagged in: Pilates

An article promoting the beneficial role of a thorough clinical assessment was published last year in the Scandinavian Journal of Urology, and although the article is directed to medical providers, serves as an excellent summary for pelvic rehabilitation providers. Doctors Quaghebeur and Wyndaele describe a “four-step plan” that can help direct treatment efficiently, and that emphasizes the muscular and neurologic systems as potential referral sources. While you may not be surprised about several of the steps, you may find this article to be a useful tool, particularly for the terrific chart about neuralgia-type pain that you can find in the linked article.

Step 1 should include history taking with attention to information about the following:

- urinary frequency, urgency, and nocturia
- bowel habits
- sexual complaints and quality-of-life impact
- pain description with significant detail
- use of questionnaires

Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS teaches the "Low-Level Laser Therapy for Female Pelvic Pain Conditions" course for Herman & Wallace. Join her on October 3-4 in New York, NY to learn about this new modality!

Physical therapists deal with chronic pain that can be problematic to treat and manage on a daily basis. There is an arsenal of tools, exercises and techniques at their disposal, but many times using a modality can help accelerate the pain-relieving process.

At my healing center in New York City, we treat an extremely difficult type of chronic pain loosely classified under the umbrella term "pelvic pain". Pelvic pain can express itself as sacroiliac pain, hip bursitis, symphysis pubic dysfunction, and vulvodynia. Chronic pelvic pain is sometimes perceived as a "woman's issue", but we treat both men and women who have suffered for years with their conditions. We are challenged to think outside the box to provide relief for these patients.

Reema Thakkar, PT, DPT has been a practicing Physical Therapist in Manhattan since 2011, specializing in orthopedics and vestibular rehabilitation. Reema has offered to share insights about her journey into pelvic rehabilitation.

Working as a physical therapist for 4+ years in Manhattan, I soon realized the need for pelvic floor rehabilitation within the pre- and post- natal community, as well as the geriatric community. Much of our population did not even know that this type of rehabilitation was effective or even available. Others, were simply embarrassed by the topic altogether. I decided - a complete novice in this field - to attend a Herman & Wallace PF course and see what was available as a resource for me, and my patients.

"I can happily report that as more and more patients catch wind of what I’m working on, their interest spurs."

The phrase “rectal prolapse” may be easily confused with the term “rectocele” yet they may be very distinct clinical presentations. A rectocele refers to a prolapse of the posterior wall of the vagina that allows the rectum to bulge forward towards the posterior vaginal wall. This condition occurs most often in women rather than men. A rectal prolapse is a protruding of the rectum itself outside of the anal verge or opening. An overview article published in 2013 in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery provides information about the condition that may assist the pelvic rehabilitation provider with valuable clinical concepts. Prior to becoming a full external prolapse, an internal intussusception may occur (and observed on defecography) and progress to include an external mucosal prolapse. Rectal prolapse may occur with or without other conditions of pelvic organ descent such as a cystocele or uterine prolapse. Although the prevalence of complete rectal prolapse is low, and occurs more often in women or in elderly patients, interference with quality of life may be significant.

Symptoms can include pain, difficulty emptying the bowels, bloody and or mucous discharge, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence or constipation. Patients may also complain of a lump or a bulge in the rectum that may or may not improve following a bowel movement. A complete rectal prolapse can be described as a full-thickness protrusion of the rectum through the anus. A more serious consequence of this condition is strangulation of the bowel. Features of a rectal prolapse often include a redundant sigmoid colon, levator ani muscle diastasis, and loss of the vertical position of the rectum, according to the article.

Tagged in: Bowel Health Prolapse

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Herman & Wallace faculty member Lila Abbate instructs several courses in pelvic rehabilitation, including "Coccyx Pain, Evaluation and Treatment". Join Lila this October in Bay Shore, NY in order to learn evaluation and treatment skills for patients with coccyx conditions.

Case studies are relevant reading for physical therapists. Reviewing case studies puts you into the writer’s brain allowing you to synthesize your current knowledge of a particular diagnosis taking you through some atypical twists and turns in treating this particular patient type. In JOSPT, August 2014, Marinko & Pecci presented a very well-written case study of two patients with coccyx pain. By then, I had already written my Coccyx course and couldn’t wait to see what the authors had written. I eagerly downloaded the article to see another’s perspective of coccyx pain and their treatment algorithms, if any, were presented in the article. How were the author’s patients different than mine? What exciting relevant information can I add to my Coccyx course?

Varicoceles are enlarged veins that occur in the scrotum. They can be common in adolescent boys and men, with an incidence rate of approximately 15%. Because up to 1/3 of men dealing with infertility have a varicocele, a repair of this venous herniation may be a first line treatment for male fertility. Varicoceles are sometimes referred to as feeling like a "bag of worms" due to the distended veins that coil through the area (the U.S. National Library of Medicine provides a useful illustration). Although varicoceles may be painless, they are thought to be symptomatic in up to 10% of men. Symptoms can be dull, aching, throbbing, and can worsen with physical activity. Conservative care includes scrotal support, limiting physical activity, and using anti-inflammatory medications.


Pelvic rehabilitation providers may work with a male patient who complains of scrotal pain, and who has a known diagnosis of a varicocele. If the patient is unsure of such a diagnosis, questioning the patient about prior discussions with his medical providers may reveal that he was told about “enlarged veins in the scrotum” or similar description. Visual inspection may reveal the tell-tale appearance of distended veins inside the scrotum, and palpation may reveal a significant difference among sides (unless both sides are involved of course.) Physical examination for a varicocele is usually completed in supine and standing positions and may be palpable with or without Valsalva maneuver. Keeping in mind that the differential diagnosis for pain in the scrotum can include medical conditions such as testicular torsion, epididymitis, inguinal hernia, testicular tumor, hydrocele, epididymal cyst, or sperm granuloma, patients who have complaints must see an appropriate medical provider to rule out such conditions. It is also possible for a patient’s condition to change or worsen if a period of time has passed, with communication with the referring provider recommended. Post-surgical complications that should also be considered are inguinal hernia repair for nerve entrapment or vasectomy.

Tagged in: Male Pelvic Floor

Guidelines for the management of 3rd and 4th degree tears were updated and published last month by The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. The purpose of the guidelines are to provide evidence-based guidelines on diagnosis, management and treatment of 3rd and 4th degree perineal tears. These types of tears are also referred to as obstetric anal sphincter injuries, or OASIS. The authors acknowledge an increased rate of reported anal sphincter injuries in England that may in part be due to increased awareness and detection of the issue. In terms of classification of anal sphincter injuries, the following is recommended (note the different levels at grade 3:


- 1st degree tear: injury to the perineal skin and/or the vaginal mucosa
- 2nd degree tear: injury to the perineum involving the perineal muscles but not involving the anal sphincter.
- 3rd degree tear: injury to the perineum involving the the anal sphincter complex
- Grade 3a tear: Less than 50% of the external anal sphincter (EAS) thickness is torn.
- Grade 3b tear: More than 50% of the EAS thickness is torn.
- Grade 3c tear: Both the EAS and the internal anal sphincter (OAS) are torn.
- 4th degree tear: Injury to the perineum involving the anal sphincter complex (EAS and IAS) and the anorectal mucosa.

Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

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