I work at University of Chicago and we are in the throes of preparing for a (big T) Trauma Center. But I am physical therapist who works with (little t) traumatized patients- as I treat only pelvic or oncology patients (and usually both).
From the online dictionary: Trauma is 1. A deeply distressing or disturbing experience (little t trauma) or 2. Physical injury (injury, damage, wound) yes- big T Trauma. In my experience, the Trauma creates the trauma and the body responds in characteristically uncharacteristic ways (more on this later).
People in distress/trauma-affected do not respond rationally or characteristically, so I have learned to respond to distress/trauma in a rational, ethical, legal and caring manner. Always. Every time. To the best of my ability, and without shame or blame.
UjjayiUjjayi is known as the Ocean breath. It sounds like you have one ear to a giant seashell. Raise one hand in front of the mouth and pretend to fog a mirror with an inhalation and exhalation. Recreate the same action at the back of the throat, but now with the mouth closed. This breath should sound similar to the signature sound of the Star Wars villain Darth Vader. Perform this breath with any warm-up or asana while layer this breath onto Dirgha.
Letting Go Breath
Speaking with a runner friend the other day, I mentioned I was writing a blog on yoga for pelvic pain. She had the same reaction many runners do, stating she has doesn’t care for yoga, she never feels like she is tight, and she would hate being in one position for so long. Ironically, neither of us has taken a yoga class, so any preconceived ideas about it are null and void. I told her yoga is being researched for beneficial health effects, and one day we just might find ourselves in a class together!
Saxena et al.2017 published a study on the effects of yoga on pain and quality of life in women with chronic pelvic pain. The randomized case controlled study involved 60 female patients, ages 18-45, who presented with chronic pelvic pain. They were randomly divided into two groups of 30 women. Group I received 8 weeks of treatment only with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS). Group II received 1 hour, 5 days per week, for 8 weeks of yoga therapy (asanas, pranayama, and relaxation) in addition to NSAIDS (as needed). Table 1 in the article outlines the exact protocol of yoga in which Group II participated. The subjects were assessed pre- and post-treatment with pain scores via visual analog scale score and quality of life with the World Health Organization quality of life-BREF questionnaire. In the final analysis, Group II showed a statistically significant positive difference pre and post treatment as well as in comparison to Group I in both categories. The authors concluded yoga to be an effective adjunct therapy for patients with chronic pelvic pain and an effective option over NSAIDS for pain.
In the Pain Medicine journal, Huang et al.2017 presented a single-arm trial attempting to study the effects of a group-based therapeutic yoga program for women with chronic pelvic pain (CPP), focusing on severity of pain, sexual function, and overall well-being. The comprehensive program was created by a group of women’s health researchers, gynecological and obstetrical medical practitioners, yoga consultants, and integrative medicine clinicians. Sixteen women with severe pelvic pain of at least 6 months’ duration were recruited. The group yoga classes focused on lyengar-based techniques, and the subjects participated in group classes twice a week and home practice 1 hour per week for 6 weeks. The Impact of Pelvic Pain (IPP) questionnaire assessed how the participants’ pain affected their daily life activities, emotional well-being, and sexual function. Sexual Health Outcomes in Women Questionairre (SHOW-Q) offered insight to sexual function. Daily logs recorded the women’s self-rated pelvic pain severity. The results showed the average pain severity improved 32% after the 6 weeks, and IPP scores improved for daily living (from 1.8 to 0.9), emotional well-being (from 1.7 to 0.9), and sexual function (from 1.9 to 1.0). The SHOW-Q "pelvic problem interference" scale also improved from 53 to 23. The multidisciplinary panel concluded they found preliminary evidence that teaching yoga to women with CPP is feasible for pain management and improvement of quality of life and sexual function.
During labor, I had no problem breathing out. My hang up came when I had to inhale - actually oxygenate my blood and maintain a healthy heart rate for my almost newborn baby. When extra staff filled the delivery room, and an oxygen mask was placed over my face, my husband remained calm but later told me how freaked out he was. He was watching the monitors that showed a drop in my vitals as well as our baby’s. In retrospect, I wonder if practicing yoga, particularly the breathing techniques involved with pranayama practice, could have prevented that moment.
A research article by Critchley et al., (2015) broke down breathing to a very scientific level, determining the consequences of slow breathing (6 breaths/minute) versus induced hypoxic challenges (13% inspired O2) on the cardiac and respiratory systems and their central neural substrates. Functional magnetic resonance imaging measured the 20 healthy subjects’ specific brain activity during the slow and normal rate breathing. The authors mentioned the controlled slow breathing of 6 breaths/minute is the rate encouraged during yoga practice. This rate decreases sympathetic activity, lessening vasoconstriction associated with hypertension, and it prevents physiological stress from affecting the cardiovascular system. Each part of the brain showed responses to the 2 conditions, and the general conclusion was modifying breathing rate impacted autonomic activity and improved both cardiovascular and psychological health.
Vinay, Venkatesh, and Ambarish (2016) presented a study on the effect of 1 month of yoga practice on heart rate variability in 32 males who completed the protocol. The authors reported yoga is supposed to alter the autonomic system and promote improvements in cardiovascular health. Not just the breathing but also the movements and meditation positively affect mental health and general well-being. The subjects participated in 1 hour of yoga daily for 1 month, and at the end of the study, the 1 bpm improvement in heart rate was not statistically significant. However, heart rate variability measures indicated a positive shift of the autonomic system from sympathetic activity to parasympathetic, which reduces cortisol levels, improves blood pressure, and increases circulation to the intestines.
Urinary incontinence (UI) can be problematic for both men and women, however, is more prevalent in women. Incontinence can contribute to poor quality of life for multiple reasons including psychological distress from stigma, isolation, and failure to seek treatment. Patients enduring incontinence often have chronic fear of leakage in public and anxiety about their condition. There are two main types of urinary leakage, stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge urinary incontinence (UUI).
SUI is involuntary loss of urine with physical exertion such as coughing, sneezing, and laughing. UUI is a form of incontinence in which there is a sudden and strong need to urinate, and leakage occurs, commonly referred to as “overactive bladder”. Currently, SUI is treated effectively with physical therapy and/or surgery. Due to underlying etiology, UUI however, can be more difficult to treat than SUI. Often, physical therapy consisting of pelvic floor muscle training can help, however, women with UUI may require behavioral retraining and techniques to relax and suppress bladder urgency symptoms. Commonly, UUI is treated with medication. Unfortunately, medications can have multiple adverse effects and tend to have decreasing efficacy over time. Therefore, there is a need for additional modes of treatment for patients suffering from UUI other than mainstream medications.
An interesting article published in The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine reviews the potential benefits of yoga to improve the quality of life in women with UUI. The article details proposed concepts to support yoga as a biobehavioral approach for self-management and stress reduction for patients suffering with UUI. The article proposes that inflammation contributes to UUI symptoms and that yoga can help to reduce inflammation.
In the 16th century, a theory called Preformationism claimed that sperm contained a preformed, exceedingly minute body referred to as a homunculus, which eventually became a person. This idea of a tiny man had staying power, as today the homunculus is a “body map” based on how much of the cerebral cortex is devoted to sensing each part of the body. Although the idea of a 16th alchemist placing little bodies into a flask conjures a variety of tantalizing images, our program focuses on the mundane, contemporary version of the homunculus. So…what does this have to do with a course that addresses pelvic floor dysfunction? Everything.
Emerging evidence indicates that therapies that include work to enhance body awareness/kinesthetic sense are potent and effective. Our professional training unfortunately, tends to over-emphasize a structural approach. The good news is that manual therapy, to some degree, enhances a client’s body awareness; but when we have more “tools” to capitalize on this synergy between manual therapy and improved body awareness, we have a potent “elixir” to promote change. To quote Deane Juhan, “touching hands are not like pharmaceuticals or scalpels…they are like flashlights in a darkened room.” By using the “flashlight”, we not only contribute to structural change, but neurological change – meaning the more we pay attention to a particular part of our body, the more “real estate” the brain devotes to that part of the body. Increasing the pelvic floor’s “footprint” on the brain can enhance function of the pelvic floor dramatically and quickly. Therefore, rehabilitation to address pelvic floor dysfunction benefits from weaving orthopedic, neurologic and mindfulness practices together.
This program is designed to add a new dimension for the skilled pelvic floor practitioner and to also serve practitioners new to this area of practice. There is no internal manual work; rather we draw from our deep knowledge of Yoga, Tai Chi, along with other Chinese internal martial arts (that put lots of emphasis on the pelvic floor for performance) and Feldenkrais to address pelvic floor dysfunction. Some lessons focus directly on the pelvic region and others on integrating the pelvic floor with full body movement. Ultimately, our goal is to help you connect the dots between structural, functional movement and mindfulness practices, as this powerful triad offers practitioners a comprehensive, approach for treating pelvic floor dysfunction.
In manual therapy training, we do not learn just one position to mobilize a joint, so why should pelvic floor muscle training be limited by the standard training methods? There is almost always at least one patient in the clinic that fails to respond to the “normal” treatment and requires a twist on conventional therapy to get over a dysfunction. Thankfully, classes like “Integrative Techniques for Pelvic Floor and Core Function” provide clinicians with the extra tools that might help even just one patient with lingering symptoms.
In 2014, Tenfelde and Janusek considered yoga as a treatment for urge urinary incontinence in women, referring to it as a “biobehavioral approach.” The article reviews the benefits of yoga as it relates to improving the quality of life of women with urge urinary incontinence. Yoga may improve sympatho-vagal balance, which would lower inflammation and possibly psychological stress; therefore, the authors suggested yoga can reduce the severity and distress of urge UI symptoms and their effect on daily living. Since patho-physiologic inflammation within the bladder is commonly found, being able to minimize that inflammation through yoga techniques that activate the efferent vagus nerve (which releases acetylcholine) could help decrease urge UI symptoms. The breathing aspect of yoga can reduce UI symptoms as it modulates neuro-endocrine stress response symptoms, thus reducing activation of psychological and physiologic stress and inflammation associated with stress. The authors concluded the mind-body approach of yoga still requires systematic evaluation regarding its effect on pelvic floor dysfunction but offers a promising method for affecting inflammatory pathways.
Pang and Ali (2015) focused on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for interstitial cystitis (IC) and bladder pain syndrome (BPS). Since conventional therapy has not been definitely determined for the IC/BPS population, CAM has been increasingly used as an optional treatment. Two of the treatments under the CAM umbrella include yoga (mind-body therapy) and Qigong (an energy therapy). Yoga can contribute to IC/BPS symptom relief via mechanisms that relax the pelvic floor muscle. Actual yoga poses of benefit include frog pose, fish pose, half-shoulder stand and alternate nostril breathing. According to a systematic review, Qigong and Tai Chi can improve function, immunity, stress, and quality of life. Qigong has been effective in managing chronic pain, although not specifically evidenced with IC/BPS groups. Qigong has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and activate the brain region that suppresses pain. The CAM gives a multimodal approach for treating IC/BPS, and this has been recommended by the International Consultation on Incontinence Research Society.
Yoga offers a compelling mind-body approach to maternal care that is forward thinking and aligns with the World Health Organization and Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for patient-centered care. But let’s take a look at WHY postpartum care MUST change in order to establish need for the entry of yoga into postpartum care. Maternal Health Track Record The United States and similarly developed countries have a very poor track record for postpartum care. The record is so poor that the problem in the US has been labeled a “human rights failure.”1 On its own, the US has the worst track record for not only postpartum care, but for maternal and infant mortality and first-day infant death rate in the developed world (Save the Children 2013). Between 1999-2008, global mortality rates decreased by 34% while the US’s rates doubled for mothers.1 Patient satisfaction also suffers under the current model of care, with many more mothers experiencing postpartum depression, a significant risk factor for both mother and baby during and after pregnancy. The increase in mortality and poor outcomes can, in part, be attributed not to underuse, but overuse of medical intervention during pregnancy and birth. 2,3,4 Countries that have “access to woman-centered care have fewer deaths and lower health care costs”; and, hospital system reviews in the US show that reducing medical interventions are both reducing cost and improving outcomes.1,4,5 The notorious lack of accountability (reporting system) in maternal health care also plagues the US and suggests that maternal deaths are even higher than currently reported, leading to Coeytaux’s conclusion that the “United States is backsliding.”1 Improving Postpartum Outcomes with Integrated Physical Therapy Care In After the Baby’s Birth, maternal health advocate Robin Lim writes, "All too often, the only postpartum care an American woman can count on is one fifteen minute appointment with her doctor, six weeks after she has given birth. This six-week marker ends an arbitrary period within which she is supposed to have worked out most postpartum questions for herself. This neglect of postpartum women is not just poor healthcare, it is abusive, particularly to women suffering from painful physical and/or psychological disorders following childbirth." Physical therapists can be instrumental change agents in improving current postpartum care, especially through the integration of contemplative sciences like yoga. Yoga can be the cornerstone of holistically-driven, person-centered care, especially in comorbid conditions such as pelvic pain and depression, where pharmacological side effects, stigma, can severely diminish adherence to biomedical interventions.6 Coeytaux, as well as other authors, clearly correlate the reduction of maternal mortality with improved postpartum care. The World Health Organization recommends that postpartum checkups should include screening for:Back painIncontinence (stress)HemorrhoidsConstipationFatigueBreast painPerineal painDepressionPainful or difficult intercourseHeadachesBowel problemsDizziness or fainting
A physical therapist is a vital team member in not only screening for many of the listed problems above, but in managing them. It is important to note that other countries, like France, deliver high quality postpartum rehab care plus in-home visits, all while spending far less than the US on maternal care. The World Health Organization, however, clarifies the vital importance of postpartum care delivery by making a significant recommendation for a paradigm shift in biomedical care.7 Yoga as a “Best Care Practice” for Postpartum Care The WHO recommends the use of a biopsychosocial model of care, which yoga is ideally suited to provide via its ancient, multi-faceted person-centered philosophy. Medical Therapeutic Yoga is a unique method of combining evidence-based rehabilitation with yoga to emerge with a new paradigm of practice. MTY:Addresses the mother as a person, not as a condition or diagnosis.Empowers mothers with self-care strategies for systems-based, not just musculoskeletal or neuromuscular, change.Addresses all domains of biopsychosocial impairment.Teaches interdisciplinary partnership-based theory, which is integral to creative collaborative discourse and innovation in postpartum care.Equips clinicians with business service, website development, practice paradigm, and social media campaign tools to fully develop the new clinical niche of Professional Yoga Therapy practice. Promotes patient advocacy, health promotion, and public health education via mainstreaming yoga into rehabilitative and medical services.Provides the gender context for prescription that traditional yoga is lacking.Evolves yoga for use in prenatal and postpartum care.
Physical therapy screening and intervention in the postpartum is vital, but the addition of yoga can optimize postpartum care and has enormous potential to be a “Best Care Practice” for postpartum care in rehabilitation. As a mind-body intervention, yoga during pregnancy can increase birth weight, shorten labor, decrease pre-term birth, decrease instrument-assisted birth, reduce perceived pain, stress, anxiety sleep disturbances, and general pregnancy-related discomfort and quality of life physical domains.8-9 In addition to the typical physical therapy intervention for postpartum physical therapy, the MTY paradigm provides:
I lived in Seattle during my pregnancies, where practicing yoga is almost as common as drinking coffee. I never accepted my friends’ invitations to partake in a perinatal yoga classes, mostly because I do not know how to do it, and I simply ran instead. My friends reaped the benefits of the meditation and strengthening involved when it came to delivering their babies. Researchers have been trying to measure the physical benefits from performing yoga during pregnancy, both for the mother and the fetus, and scientifically support the efficacy of participating in peripartum yoga.
In a systematic review of studies regarding yoga for pregnant women, Curtis, Weinrib, and Katz (2012) explored the literature on yoga for pregnancy. Six studies were included in the review, only 3 of which were randomized controlled trials. The aspects of yoga included in the trials were postures, breathing practices, meditation, deep relaxation, counseling on lifestyle change, and chanting and anatomy information. The programs in the trials began either between 18-20 weeks gestation or between 26-28 weeks. The yoga was practiced either 3 times per week for 30-60 minutes or 60 minutes daily. Control groups included walking, standard prenatal exercise, or general nursing care. The literature review suggested improvements were noted regarding quality of life and self-efficacy, discomfort and pain during labor, and birth weight and preterm births. Due to the limited number of trials, only a general positive commendation of yoga during pregnancy could be made from this research.
In 2015, Jiang et al. looked at 10 randomized controlled trials from 2004 to 2014 regarding yoga and pregnancy. The authors found consistent evidence showing a positive correlation between yoga intervention and lower incidence of prenatal disorders and small gestational age. Lower levels of stress and pain as well as higher relationship scores were noted with yoga. The studies showed yoga to be a safe and effective means of exercise during pregnancy, but the authors agreed further randomized controlled studies still need to be performed.
Faculty member, Ginger Garner PT, L/ATC, PYT will be giving 2 lectures at this year’s annual Montreal International Symposium for Therapeutic Yoga, or MISTY for short, in Montreal, Quebec. The first is a 2-hour lecture titled, Vocal Liberation, and the second is a 4-hour lecture titled, Hip Preservation: Yoga Reconsidered, Visit http://www.homyogaevents.com to learn more.
Yoga is, unarguably, a popular contemplative science, enjoying 36.7 million practitioners in the US alone, up from 20.4 million in 2012.1 A 16 billion dollar industry, yoga is one of the most widely utilized methods of complementary and integrative medicine in America today. In 2008, the editor of Yoga Journal declared “yoga as medicine” as the next great wave. That was right in the middle of the Great Recession, when the last thing on the collective healthcare industry’s mind was yoga.
What happened during the same time frame as the interest in yoga surged?