Pelvic Anatomy and Physiology – A Starting Point for Children

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Eliza Etter PT, DPT, CLT

Sometimes, we all have a little bit of trouble talking about what is going on “down there”. But it is paramount that even from a young age, we learn the proper words for our parts in order to make them more familiar and less embarrassing to talk about. Even though it may be weird to talk about at first, we do this so we can tell the caretakers in our lives when something doesn’t feel right in those particular parts. We are first going to take a dive into our pelvis ( a part of our body) to learn where everything is located and then we will learn about what each part does.

  • Your pelvis is made of two bones that come together and form a bowl shape. If you put your hands on your hips you are touching the top of your pelvis! Now place your hands under your bottom to feel your sit bones, you are touching the bottom of your pelvis! If you were to look at a skeleton, you might notice that the pelvis looks kind of like a bowl. The top of the bowl is open and your organs sit inside of it. The bottom of the bowl has muscles that run across it like a hammock to hold up your organs. These muscles are called pelvic floor muscles.
  • Your pelvic floor muscles work just like any other muscle in your body, they tighten and relax. They are special muscles though because they give extra help to your organs which we will get back to later.
  • Your bladder is like a thick balloon. It stretches as it fills with pee, also called urine, and shrinks when you go to the bathroom. Your bladder sits at the front of your pelvis.
  • Your urethra is like a little tube that comes out of your bladder so the urine can exit your body. From the outside, it looks like a very small hole and it is where the pee comes out! If you have male anatomy your urethra runs through your penis. If you have female anatomy, you can see the urethra right between the clitoris and the vagina.
  • Your clitoris is the little bump that lives at the very top of your private parts ( we call that the vulva at Beyond Basics). The clitoris is only present on people with female anatomy.
  • Your uterus is behind your bladder if you have female anatomy. We can’t see either our bladder, or uterus, because they live inside our pelvis. The uterus is a hollow muscular organ. If you’ve ever seen a pregnant person, the baby itself is living inside the uterus! If you have male anatomy you do not have a vagina or uterus. It is also important to note that people with female anatomy may not have a uterus and that’s okay too!
  • Your vagina is behind, or in the back of,your urethra if you have female anatomy. If you have male anatomy you do not have a vagina. From the outside it looks like just a hole. But it is a tube that connects into your uterus and when a baby is born, most of the time the baby will exit out of the uterus, through the vagina and into the world! Hello, baby!
  • Your ovaries (you have two if you have female anatomy and none if you have male anatomy) sit next to your uterus on either side of it. These are where your egg cells are which we will talk about more below.
  • Your fallopian tubes (you have two if you have female anatomy and none if you have male anatomy) are attached on either side of the uterus and pick up the egg cell from your ovaries and eventually bring it into the uterus.
  • Your penis people with male anatomy have a penis. Inside of it is the urethra (remember that tube that brings the pee out).
  • Foreskin: some people with male anatomy will have foreskin and others won’t. Depending on your culture or religion you may not have foreskin in which case, we describe that person as having been circumcised. If someone still has foreskin, we say that they are uncircumcised. Someone who has foreskin will notice the head of the penis is covered by it. It is important to remember to clean carefully around it. As you might guess it’s pretty personal, but whether or not you are uncircumcised you are normal.
  • Your testicles live inside your scrotum, the testicles are two round balls and your scrotum is the sack that contains them. When you get older, the testicles will begin to make sperm, which along with an egg from someone with female anatomy, is required to make a baby. Testicles and the scrotum are only found on individuals with male anatomy.
  • Your colon is located behind your bladder (and behind your uterus if you have female anatomy). Your colon is like a thick long and skinny balloon, that holds your poop, also called stool.
  • Peeing
    • Your kidneys are located higher up in your body outside your pelvis. Your kidneys filter your blood, and whatever your body does not need becomes urine which flows through tubes from the kidneys into your bladder.
    • Your bladder holds the urine until you are ready to go to the bathroom. The bladder is like a balloon that stretches as more urine enters it. When it stretches to a certain point it talks to your brain and your brain then lets you know that it’s time to go to the bathroom soon. If we ignore what our brain is telling us, the feeling that we need to pee is going to get stronger and stronger.
    • When you are ready to go to the bathroom and let the pee come out of a tube-like structure called the urethra, which is in the penis for individuals with male anatomy. The water balloon that is your bladder squeezes at the top and opens at the bottom, and the hammock which is the pelvic floor muscles relax. If your bladder squeezes and the pelvic floor muscles squeeze at the same time it might be hard to pee, or your pee may start and stop. This can confuse your bladder. If your bladder is confused it may tell you that you have to pee when you don’t actually need to, or forgot to tell you that you need to go when it is full. If this happens to you, physical therapy can help
  • Pooping
    • Your food moves from your stomach into your intestines and eventually into the end of your colon which lives in the back of the pelvis. The food has now been digested, with the good parts used by your body, and the things it doesn’t need are ready to come out as poop.
    • Like your bladder, your colon stretches as poop accumulates and when it is full, your colon talks to your brain and your brain tells you that it’s time to go to the bathroom. However, unlike the bladder, if we ignore what our brain tells us then eventually it will be quiet. This is ok sometimes, but if we ignore our brain all the time, it may not want to tell us it’s time to poop at all anymore. If this happens, the poop sits inside the colon and the balloon gets bigger, the size of the poop gets bigger and harder and it can be really hard to get the poop out. But if this does happen to you, never fear! There is a lot that we can do to get the colon and the brain communicating better in physical therapy.
  • Beyond Basics remains open and is also offering telehealth, both in our Midtown and Downtown location and provides top notch pelvic rehab to both adults and children alike. If you are interested in learning more, please call 212-354-2626

Pelvic Pain Awareness Month Part 1: What is Pelvic Pain

Beyond Basics remains open and is offering both in person and telehealth appointments. Call 212-354-2622 for our midtown office and 212-267-0240 for our downtown office to learn more

Mayis PelvicPainAwarenessmonth

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

I don’t need to write it out. You’ve already heard it. But I will write it anyway. These are uncertain times. This May, much like March and April, is shaping up to be a May that is very different than ones we’ve ever experienced before. That said, life still marches on. May is Pelvic Pain Awareness month and it seems appropriate to take some time to recognize those who are dealing with pelvic pain as well as spread awareness to what it is and how we can make it better… even in these uncertain times.

What is Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic pain can sound really simple, it’s pain in your pelvis, but let’s explore what that really means. The pelvis is a bowl shaped set of bones, the innominate (literally meaning no name), the sacrum, and the ischium, that connect your abdomen to your legs. Within this bowl lives your reproductive organs, your bladder, and rectum. Surrounding these bones and organs you have this nifty stuff called fascia. Fascia is the organ of shape and helps to both give structures within our body form as well as help them to slide and glide past each other. Like I said, nifty. Also within the pelvis we have muscles, nerves, and blood vessels! It gets really busy down there!

Because there is so much going on in the pelvis, pelvic pain can feel a lot of different ways depending on what structures are involved and even individual differences in how the body feels pain. Pelvic pain can have the feel of a dull ache, which you can feel in your pelvic bones, genitals, and or abdomen. It could also feel sharp and “stabby”, hot and burning, itching,and/or like a bunch of pressure. It can come and go or be a constant sensation. It can be what we call provoked, meaning certain triggers elicit it, or it could come and go seemingly without any obvious cause.

Pelvic pain can come in a lot of different varieties and it can affect everyone, regardless of gender or age. Many people who hear that I am a pelvic floor physical therapist, assume that I only treat postpartum women. The truth is postpartum women are not the only ones who can experience pelvic pain.

People with male anatomy can experience pelvic pain. They may feel burning with urination or climax, pain in the tip of the penis, in the testicles, or in their rectum. Sometimes this pain limits the ability of its sufferer to sit, wear tight clothing, or have pain free sexual experiences Often these symptoms get confused as a bladder, prostate or yeast infection. Although infections can certainly cause these symptoms, many times tight and spasmed muscles within the pelvis can be the culprit. We will discuss this further in part two of this blog.

People with female genitalia can experience many of the same symptoms listed above with obvious anatomical differences. Instead of the tip of the penis, a person with female anatomy may feel pain in their clitoris, or labia. They also may have pain with sexual penetration or arousal. Patients may also experience burning urination similar to the sensation of having a bladder infection. For people who menstruate, the cramps may be so debilitating that they are unable to work or go to school through the pain. All of these different presentations fall into the category of pelvic pain.

Children can also experience pelvic pain. Oftentimes this is caused because of prolonged constipation, but it can also be caused by muscle tightness, and gynecological conditions like endometriosis or lichens planus/ sclerosis.

People with pelvic pain, regardless of age or gender may also experience pain with voiding, either urine or feces, abdominal bloating, and or difficulty sitting.

What Causes Pelvic Pain?

So now that you know what pelvic pain is, what causes it? Many, many, many different things can cause pelvic pain. As we spoke about earlier in the blog, infections can cause pelvic pain. That is why it is important to get yourself in to see a doctor if you are experiencing this type of pain. She will be able to rule out or rule in infections or other medical causes for your pain. Often the problem causing your pain may be musculoskeletal. People with this cause of pelvic pain may not feel relief with traditional medical intervention. The muscles of your pelvis include the muscles of your abdominal wall, your bottom, and the muscles that live between your pubic bone in front and your tail bone in the back, also known as your pelvic floor. These muscles may be in spasm causing the types of pain I described earlier, (yes even the burning urination pain). It may also be that a muscle group in the pelvis itself or supporting the pelvis may be too weak to do its job properly. When this is the case, it is important to get yourself in to see a pelvic floor physical therapist, who can figure out exactly why your muscles are causing your pain.

Although pelvic pain can seem really bleak, there is a lot that can be done to treat it. It’s all about finding the right qualified professional to treat it. At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy we are the experts in pelvic pain and we treat patients from all over the world. We not only treat musculoskeletal causes of pelvic pain, but also work to connect our patients with other professionals who can help to holistically treat pelvic pain. If you have pelvic pain, please remember that there is hope for you.

Alright readers, that’s the basics on what pelvic pain is and what it looks like in different people. Next week we will go Beyond the Basics (see what I did there?) and discuss how to treat pelvic pain, especially pelvic pain caused by muscle dysfunction, in the clinic and even at home.

For more reading on pelvic floor dysfunction please check out these blogs as well as Amy’s books books on pelvic pain

Treatment

How to Deal with Pelvic Floor Pain From Home

What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

What is Myofascial Release and Why do We Always Talk About it So Much?!

For People with Female Anatomy

Endo Awareness Month: How Endo can Affect your Tummy

Endo Awareness Month: Understanding Endo

Endo Awareness Month ( Part 2 of 4) : How Endo can Affect your Bladder

When it Feels Impossible to Have Sex

For people with male anatomy

All About Testicles

What’s Neater Than Your Peter? Burning Urination

Prostatitis What it is and What to do About it

Bladder Health

Pelvic Floor MythBusters! Don’t eat lemon to avoid bladder pain, true or false?

How to Improve Bladder Health

Books By Dr. Amy Stein PT DPT

Heal Pelvic Pain : available here

Beating Endo: available here

The International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS) is a multidisciplinary group working to promote awareness and education of pelvic pain, if you care to donate, click here

How to Deal with Pelvic Floor Pain From Home

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Dear reader, 

As I sit down to write this, New York City is on PAUSE, many other cities around the world are on various forms of lock-down. As a planet, we are working to slow the spread of COVID-19, the condition caused by the novel coronavirus. Those of you who are working from and staying at home, your efforts are noble and life saving. We thank you. For those of you in pain, we see you and feel for how tough it can be to feel like you have to wait to get help. Hopefully in a short period of time this virus will have passed . Follow these simple tricks to get started on tackling your pelvic pain. 

 

Check In With Your Seat

Work from home setups can leave a lot to be desired. Designed for portability, but not ergonomics, our laptop computers can leave us curled up like little cashews or “c’s”. This position tucks our pelvis underneath us and can cause us to put extra pressure and compression through our pelvic floors, not to mention putting extra pressure on our spinal discs. Even if you only have a laptop, you can remedy this c position by imagining you are a puppy dog with a tail. You want to sit so you could wag your tail like a happy puppy. Now for some people this may actually feel a little worse, if it does, this is not the trick for you. Don’t worry I have more. 

If you can, use a portable mouse and keyboard to discourage your cashew sitting tendencies. Arrange your setup so your eye line falls just about in the middle of the monitor by elevating it on some books.  You should be able to access your keyboard with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.

Now it’s time to think about what you are sitting on. I recognize that those of us living in teeny tiny NYC apartments may not have a lot of options to think about. But keep in mind that pelvic floor pain can be counterintuitive and an overstuffed couch, may not be the best thing if your pelvic floor is overworking to stabilize your body while you are sitting. Likewise, your kitchen chair may be too firm. Play around, how does the couch cushion feel on the chair? Is a firmer seat better or worse? You may have to trial and error your way into a solution.

Move

This one is so important. Depending on where you are geographically, you may be allowed different degrees of movement. If you are currently allowed to leave your home for exercise, go for a walk. Besides breaking up the day, walking can decrease the pressure from all the sitting you have been doing, as well as increase blood flow to the pelvic floor. While the requirements for social distancing remain, ensure that you maintain a distance of 6 feet (about 2 meters) between yourself and other people and wear a homemade mask.

If you cannot walk outside, and even if you can, get up periodically throughout the day. Stretch out, do some gentle air squats if they feel good. Look for some free restorative virtual yoga classes. Movement is medicine. 

Just be Happy… Like a Happy Baby

I love this pose so much that I could write a love song to it. Honestly. It works to stretch not only your pelvic floor, but your entire posterior chain  (back of the body). 

The most traditional way to do it, is to lie on your back, bend at your hips and knees, so that your feet are in the air, and grab the outside of your feet. As you stretch bring your knees towards your armpits. Hold this pose for 10 deep, beautiful breaths.

Feel free to modify this pose. Grab on the back of your calves or behind your knees if you have tight hammies. Put a pillow between your abdomen and thighs to prevent any pinching in your hip. It’s honestly all good.

Breathe

Another super important tool in your toolbox. Deep slow breathing can calm your nervous system, which can help to decrease pelvic floor spasm and guarding. In fact, in a study by Van der Velde, it was found that stressful stimuli do cause an increase in pelvic floor tightening. Try 10 deep slow breaths throughout the day and note how you feel from both a pain and stress perspective.

We are OPEN and also offering Telehealth

For those of you who are ready to get started NOW. You can. We are currently offering office evaluations and treatments, and telehealth services. Both Corey Hazama PT, DPT and Amy Stein PT, DPT are doing in person visits and telehealth visits are available with Sarah Paplanus PT, DPT.  For more information contact Beyond Basics Physical Therapy at 212- 354-2622 or check out our website: http://www.beyondbasicspt.com

 

Van der Velde J, Laan E, Everaerd W. Vaginismus, a component of a general defensive reaction. An investigation of pelvic floor muscle activity during exposure to emotion- inducing film excerpts in women with and without vaginismus. Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. 2001; 12 (5) 328-31

 

Pelvic Health 101 is back!

Pelvis Drawing

***In light of current events, and in an effort to keep our community as healthy as possible, we have moved our Pelvic Health 101 (PH 101) seminars from in person to online.  Although we regret not being able to meet everyone in person, we are excited for the opportunity to broadcast information about pelvic floor disorders and how to treat them fair and wide. Please keep an eye on our social media as well as the blog to find out how you can learn more about the pelvic floor.****

Warmly,

The Team at Beyond Basics

 

On March 19th, at 7pm we will be kicking off our spring semester of pelvic health education class, we call Pelvic Health 101 (PH101). In our first class we will be introducing you to the pelvic floor muscles, where they are, what they do, and how they relate to the health and function of your bowel, bladder, and sexual functioning. We will also be covering how things such as alignment, posture, muscle tone and nerves can affect your symptoms. This course is a great starting point to help you understand your pelvic floor and pelvic floor symptoms.

 

New York, NY 10017
Register at: pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

Here is our line up of this and future classes

ph101 sp 20

 

 

Endo Awareness Month: Understanding Endo

Amy Stein and Fiona McMahon

Beating Endo Cover

March Is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Treating endometriosis and improving the lives of people with endometriosis, has long been a passion of Dr. Amy Stein, founder of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, so much so, that she teamed up with Dr. Iris Orbuch and wrote a book about it! This month we are reviewing some of the major talking points in their book, Beating Endo. Available here.  For more on endometriosis, check out our past blogs as well as Beating Endo.

Endometriosis is a condition that affects people born with female anatomy. It occurs when a tissue similar to that of lining of the uterus (known as the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. Seems like a pretty simple definition, but it can cause a whole host of symptoms.

When something that doesn’t “belong” in the body is detected by the body, inflammation will occur. It is this inflammation that is believed to cause the myriad symptoms someone with endometriosis may experience. These symptoms can include

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Painful bladder syndrome
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction

One of the confusing things is, you don’t have to have all of these symptoms to have endo and the severity can range. This is Fiona writing, and I’m sure Amy would agree, no two endo patients are alike, and your pain is valid even if your symptoms do not necessarily look like someone else’s’ who is suffering with endo. It is this variability in presentation along with poor awareness within the medical field and public, leading to an average of 7 to 12 years to get a diagnosis.

Endometriosis can only be diagnosed by analyzing the suspected endometrial lesions removed during an excision surgery. There is no other test to confirm it, which can make diagnosis obviously, very difficult.

There is another condition that is called Adenomyosis. Similar to endo, adeno occurs when cells similar to the lining of the uterus occur within the muscular wall of the uterus. Most people with adeno have endo, but it is not always true that most people with endo have adeno. Adeno can show up as heavy periods, low back pain, and pelvic pressure.

Endometriosis is a chronic illness that affects millions of people. There is still a lot to figure out about endo and because of that fact there are many truths, half-truths, and myths floating around out there about endo. Check out some of the myths Amy and Iris busted together in Beating Endo.

Common Endo Myths

The abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are rarely affected by endometriosis.

False: Constipation, frequent urination or retention, pain with vaginal penetration from endometriosis causes tightening of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles; So too does assuming the fetal position which is our go to pose when we are in pain. Both contribute to tight abdominal and pelvic floor muscles which causes pain.

The pelvic floor and abdominal muscles do not cause bladder, bowel, sexual dysfunction or abdominal-pelvic pain in patients with endometriosis.

False: Tight pelvic floor muscles caused by years of straining or reflexive tightening due to pain, often cause a severe amount of pain which results in further tightening and shortening of the pelvic floor muscles. Good news is that pelvic floor physical therapy benefits most people who have been experiencing abdomino-pelvic or sexual pain and/or are straining due to ongoing bladder and bowel symptoms.

Hysterectomy is a cure for endometriosis.

False: Hysterectomy is neither a treatment nor a cure. By definition endometriosis consists of cells similar to those in the lining of the uterus but found outside the uterus. Only surgical ‘excision’ removes endometriosis cells.

Medical menopause is a cure for endometriosis.

False: Just because your medicines give you hot flashes doesn’t mean your endometriosis is going away. The best treatment approach is to meet with an endo specialist to discuss options, and in most cases PT management. As well surgical excision has much better results than ablation of Endometriosis.

There is no correlation between quantity of endometriosis and severity of disease.

Truth: Even if you have a minimal amount of endometriosis, you can be in debilitating pain with lots of symptoms and in most cases dietary changes, physical therapy and mindfulness practices can help manage a lot of your symptoms.

Teenagers are too young to have endometriosis.

False: Teenagers can have endometriosis and their endometriosis can cause debilitating symptoms.

Pregnancy is a cure for endometriosis.

False: Just plain no. Pregnancy does not cure endometriosis.

Ablation surgery is the same as excision surgery.

False: Not even close. Excision surgery is the proper treatment for endometriosis. Ablation surgery, burns the surface of the endometriosis lesion but leaves the bulk of endometrial implants behind.

Surprising Endo Facts:

Fact: Physical therapy (pelvic PT) can help many suffering from the many pains and symptoms of Endo, including back, abdominal and pelvic pain, bladder, bowel and sexual function.

Fact: The majority of patients with Endometriosis require pelvic floor physical therapy. Pelvic floor PT can be instrumental in the healing process and can help abdominal-pelvic pain, bladder and bowel urgency, frequency, retention, incomplete emptying, and any sexual pain related to the musculoskeletal system.

Truth: Painful bowel movements, constipation, diarrhea and bloating are symptoms of endometriosis as well as symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction .

Truth: Painful sex is a symptom of endometriosis as well as a symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Truth: 40 to 50% of women with unexplained infertility is caused by Endometriosis.

Truth: Teens with endometriosis often have acyclic pain, that is, pain at other times of the month rather than only during their period, in addition to cyclic pain.

Truth: Back pain is a symptom of endometriosis.

Truth: If your ultrasound is normal you can still have endometriosis.

Truth: roughly 10% of women have endometriosis. That’s close to 200 million women worldwide. Endometriosis is much more than just bad period pain. 1 in 4 women have pelvic floor dysfunction.

Truth: Endometriosis commonly affects the musculoskeletal system, and in many cases can be a primary contributor to one’s pain and symptoms.

 

Orbuch I, Stein A. Beating Endo. New York. Harper Collins. 2019

What’s Neater Than Your Peter? Burning Urination

#3MalePelvicFloor_Nolabel_copyright
 copyright Amy Stein 2008

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

It’s been a while since we’ve done a “What’s Neater than Your Peter” series so it’s definitely time for another addition! Today we will cover urethral burning. For people with penises, this can be an alarming symptom. By itself it can be a pretty non- specific symptom. Thus, for anyone experiencing urethral burning, it is important to visit your healthcare provider right away, to find out what is causing your symptoms. In this blog we review potential causes of urethral burning, which is by no means an exhaustive list, and discuss what can be done for urethral burning caused by musculoskeletal conditions as well as some food items that can irritate the urethra.

If you are saying “ureth- what?” you are not alone. Both people with male and female anatomy have a urethra. The urethra, or the “pee hole” as it is colloquially known, the passageway from the bladder to the outside of the body. In people with male anatomy, the urethra also transports ejaculate out during ejaculation. Nifty. For people with penises, your urethra is longer than those of us with female anatomy, which is somewhat protective against urinary tract infections(UTIs), you lucky duck, you.

Pain and stinging in your urethra could indicate a lot of things. Things that you definitely don’t want to wait on treating include; sexually transmitted infection (i.e herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea), bladder infection, which untreated can progress to kidney infection, reaction to personal care products, prostatitis, and pelvic floor dysfunction, which can cause non- bacterial prostatitis), amongst other conditions.

The thought of potentially having an STI can keep people away from the doctor secondary to embarrassment, cost barriers, etc. According to an up to date article cited in the sources, more than half of the United States population who is eligible for screening fails to do so. Don’t let it be you. The complications of untreated STIs can be much worse than the initial infection, not to mention the risk of harming your future partners. Also know that STI’s are fairly common and having one does not make you a “dirty” or “bad” person. It’s so common! Nearly 1 in 2 people will acquire an STI in their lifetime, so if you do have one, you aren’t alone and you deserve to feel better.

So what happens if you’ve ruled out STI, bladder infection, prostate infection, and reactions to personal care products? What in the actual heck could be causing your urethral discomfort? At this point it is important to look at your pelvic floor and your diet.

Let’s talk about diet first. There are some substances that can irritate the bladder and urethra, and give the feeling of burning in the urethra as well as increased urinary frequency and urgency. I write about bladder irritants in my recent blog and you can check out a list of bladder irritants here. (INSERT BOTH BLOG AND bladder irritant list). But if you are too busy to read the whole blog, the long and short of it is, not every irritant on this list will bother your symptoms. Be mindful when eating foods with these irritants. If your symptoms flare 2-3 hours following eating an irritant, consider eliminating it from your diet and see how you do. The most common irritants we see at BBPT are caffeine, citrus, alcohol and spicy food.

Now let’s talk about urethral burning and its relationship to the pelvic floor, shall we? The pelvic floor is the area of muscles that live between the pubic bone in front and the tailbone in back. Like an onion, the pelvic floor has layers: three to be precise. The outermost layer contains a muscle called the bulbospongiosus (bulbo), along with its buddy the ischiocavernosus, and the superficial transverse perineum. The bulbo surrounds the urethra and is at the base of the penis. If it is tight, it can make it harder to pee and also cause urethral burning with urination and ejaculation. In addition, the layer below: the urogenital diaphragm and the layer below that, which consist of a whole bunch of muscles called the levator ani, can contribute to these symptoms as well. In fact, dysfunction in these muscles causes almost 95% of non bacterial prostatitis cases. Wowzah, no? I discuss prostatitis in much more detail in this blog (INSERT). How can you tell if your muscles are tight? The best way to tell is getting yourself to a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist, who can accurately diagnose issues with the pelvic floor as well as provide you with a plan to start feeling better.

Sources:

American Sexual Health Association. Statistics. http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/statistics/ [ Accessed January 14, 2020]

Ghanem K, Tuddenham S. Screening for sexually transmitted infections. Up to Date. October 11, 2019

Mayo Clinic. Painful urination (dysuria). https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/painful-urination/basics/causes/sym-20050772. [Accessed January 14, 2020]

Publications. Harvard Medical School. 2007. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/chronic-nonbacterial-prostatitis-chronic-pelvic-pain-syndrome. Accessed December 11, 2016

Pelvic Floor MythBusters! Don’t eat lemon to avoid bladder pain, true or false?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Hey guys!  If you have bladder pain, you probably have done some reading about bladder irritants. Lemon, dairy, spicy foods have all been rumored to spike bladder pain. But is this really the case? With everyone? Before you put down your lemon water, let’s dissect the truths, and kinda truths about bladder irritants in this month’s Pelvic Floor Mythbuster’s.

Truth be told there are a lot of different ways the bladder can go sideways. You can experience an urge to urinate that is so frequent it disrupts your everyday tasks. You can experience strong urge that feels impossible to repress. You may experience leaking. You may experience pain in your bladder while it fills, while you empty it, or immediately after emptying it. Can diet cure all these ills? In some cases, maybe. But in many cases, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Read on as I run through why we consider diet with bladder issues, what else may be at play, and some practical advice on how to manage an unruly bladder.

Common Bladder Conditions

Before we go over bladder irritants, lets go over some of the most common bladder ailments we see here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy.

Urgency: Urgency can best be described as having a sudden need to urinate which is either extremely difficult or impossible to delay

Frequency: In most people, going to the bathroom every 2-3 hours is normal going more frequently is considered frequency. But keep in mind, you may experience more frequency after drinking a lot of water all at once or after having caffeine, alcoholic and carbonated beverages.

Hesitancy: Hesitancy is difficulty starting the stream of urine.

Pain: Pain seems pretty simple, but if you visit us at BBPT we usually will ask you more questions than “do you have pain? Yes or no?” We will ask where the pain is, and if you have pain with bladder filling, emptying, or urgency which can tell us a lot about what to do about the problem. We will ask what makes the pain better or worse?

Nocturia (nighttime bathroom trips): Unless you have had a ton of water right before bed, it is generally accepted that getting up 1 or more times a night to pee if you are under 65 and more than 1 time a night to pee if you are over 65 is considered nocturia.

Stress incontinence: Stress incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine usually associated with activity, like running, lifting, coughing, laughing and sneezing.

Urge Incontinence: Urge incontinence is the loss of urine with a strong urge to pee.

Mixed Incontinence: As the name would imply, mixed incontinence is a combination of both urge and stress incontinence.

How Can What We Eat Affect our Bladders?

The science community isn’t really sure yet what causes certain foods to irritate certain people’s bladders, but they have some good hypotheses. In the case of pain, some scientists have proposed that people who are affected by food may have linings of the bladder that are less protective from the irritating material found in pee, especially pee that contains irritants from certain foods. Some evidence supports “cross talk” between different organs in that things that irritate the bowel, may irritate the bladder. Also it is believed in cases where the nerves are more sensitive, which can happen in cases of chronic pain, diet can more easily cause symptoms to spike.

So What to do About Irritants?

There is a saying I say a lot. Everybody is different and every body is different. This saying could not be more true when it comes to bladder irritants. Not everyone’s bladder is irritated by the same thing. You can find a list of common bladder irritants here . Did you click it? Totally overwhelming, am I right? The thing is my bladder irritant may not be your bladder irritant. The best way to find out what is your irritant, is to eliminate items you may suspect as being irritants for three to four days and add them back in to see if they bother you. If you find that you are really unsure what is bothering you or you have a history of disordered or restrictive eating. I would highly recommend doing this with the guidance of a trained nutritionist. Not only can a good nutritionist help you detect irritants more efficiently, they also can provide you alternatives, so you have plenty of yummy things to eat during your quest to determine if your diet is bothering your bladder as well as keep you safe if you have had or are currently struggling with disordered eating.

The Bladder and The Pelvic Floor

All of the conditions listed earlier in this blog can be caused entirely or in part by the pelvic floor. Hopefully experimenting with eliminating bladder irritants improved your symptoms at least somewhat. But if it hasn’t, it may be time to consider the pelvic floor. Both pelvic floors that are weak and tight and weak and loose can contribute to the symptoms outlined above. Often times combining dietary changes with pelvic floor rehab can provide the right synergy to get over the hump and to start feeling better again.

Practical Bladder Tips

  • Normal voiding frequency is once every 2-3 hours. If you find you can not make it that long and don’t have pain, try lengthening the time between “goes” 10-15 minutes at a time and practice deep diaphragmatic breathing in the interim.
  • If you experience sudden urge, DON’T PANIC! Rushing often makes it worse. Breath slowly and calmly make your way to the toilet.
  • When hesitancy strikes, breath deeply. If you have male reproductive organs, try sitting on the toilet to relax the pelvic floor and make peeing easier.
  • Avoid drinking water 2 hours before bedtime if you are experiencing nocturia.
  • If you are constipated, work on managing that problem. The bladder lives right in front of the rectum. A large backup of stool will press on the bladder, irritating it and reducing its holding capacity.

Conclusions

Are bladder irritants really a thing, yes for some people and we are still trying to figure out why. If you are having trouble tackling your bladder problems. Come give us a visit at BBPT so we can get you feeling better! Also check out Amy Stein’s book for more ways you can deal with bladder pain.

Friedlander J, Shorter B, Moldwin R. Diet and its role in interstitial cystitis/ bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) and comorbid conditions. BJUI. 109. 1584-91

Pelvic Floor Mythbusters: Is kegeling the one true way to a healthy pelvic floor?

Pelvis Drawing

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT.

Is kegeling the one true way to a healthy pelvic floor? Not always. We can end the blog here. Just kidding, of course there is nuance to be considered here. But as pelvic floor physical therapists, nothing is more cringe inducing than hearing the phrase “just do your kegels” thrown around for myriads of ailments from low libido, to pain, incontinence, and erectile dysfunction. While it is true the pelvic floor muscles can be involved in all of these conditions and in some cases kegels may help, there are many cases where kegels are the EXACT opposite of how you should be treating these muscles.

Physiology

To understand kegels we must first understand the pelvic floor. To understand the pelvic floor we must also explain the muscles at a very basic level. Bare with me readers, this will help us as we bust through this myth. Muscles, all muscles do what they do, by contracting and getting shorter to produce force. This is easy to see on a bodybuilder doing a bicep curl. As she curls her hand up you can see these muscles shortening into a little ball. Not only is this a great way to show off your gains in the gym, the shortening of these muscles are providing the strength to perform this task. We call this shortening a concentric contraction. Kegels are concentric contractions too! A good kegel will cause the pelvic floor to shorten and provide strength. Let’s go back to our body builder for a second. She has done her lift now she needs to lower her dumbbell back to the floor. In order to lower that dumbbell back to the floor in a controlled way, she needs what’s called an eccentric contraction, which is the controlled lengthening of the muscle. If she did not have a good eccentric contraction she may not be able to lower that weight effectively after she curled it. What if she couldn’t lower her bicep at all or just very slowly after her bicep curl? Maybe her weightlifting wouldn’t be as effective, she’d tire more easily, or she could develop pain. Would you tell this woman that more bicep curls would help? Or might you suggest a program of stretching first? Telling someone to do kegels, when you don’t know the status of their pelvic floor and how well it can relax is similar to telling the bodybuilder with the non relaxing bicep to just do more bicep curls. At best it certainly won’t help the situation and at worst it could cause more pain and dysfunction.

“But Fiona, I have incontinence, so that definitely means I have weaknesses, so it’s good for me to do kegels, right?”. Maybe… but in my experience, probably not. Let’s agree on one thing, it’s completely intuitive that people would think that kegels would help incontinence. The muscles of the pelvic floor are responsible for continence… so they must be weak if one is experiencing incontinence. You are right! When we think weak with muscles, we often think weak and loose, which is one form of weakness, but we rarely think weak and tight. Let’s go back to our body builder lady. She deserves a name at this point. Let’s call her Kendra. If Kendra has a tough time moving her lifting her arm from fully straight to a full bicep curl, we could guess she is weak and loose. But if Kendra could not fully straighten her arm out she would be considered weak and tight. Both of these versions of Kendra would have trouble curling heavy weight. One Kendra due to frank weakness another Kendra because she simply does not have enough room or range of motion to generate enough force to curl that dumbell.

Tight and weak pelvic floors are a lot like second Kendra with the poor ability to lengthen her arm. Tight pelvic floors have less range of motion to generate force. You need a good amount of force from the pelvic floor to counteract the pressure of activities like lifting, coughing, laughing and sneezing and stay continent. Over loose and over tight pelvic floors can’t really do that.

If you have pain in your pelvis not from a medical condition, (although tight pelvic floors present with many medical conditions), your pelvic floor is probably tight. A tight pelvic floor may also have trigger points which can send pain to various locations in your genitals, back, legs, and abdomen. Continuing to tighten can cause this pain to get worse.

Treatments

So how do you know what to do? This is where a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist can come in handy. They can assess the muscles by touching them either externally or internally to determine what course of action is right for you. If you are loose and weak, HAPPY DAYS! Strengthening can help them get better. If you have tight and weak muscles, HAPPY DAYS again! Gentle lengthening, stretching and down training of the muscles can help them get better. Did you know, because a tight pelvic floor can cause weakness itself, returning the proper length to the muscles can restore strength, without actually needing to kegel?! Wild! Regardless of the situation happy days can be ahead.

Skilled PT

Really knowing the pelvic floor is a skill and requires advanced expertise.  Kegels should not be initiated, unless the physical therapist has carefully examined your pelvic floor. Not all therapists are trained to do that technique so it is important to inquire about their background before starting pelvic floor PT. There are a lot of different ways to treat the pelvic floor, to read more What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy . If you are interested in learning more give us a call at 212- 354-2622 for a free consult if you live in the greater NY/NJ/CT area.

PH101: Ladies Session

By: Fiona McMahon, DPT
Hey Ladies!!! In the next installment of our Pelvic Health 101 course, we are hosting a ladies’ session to allow for a safe and non-threatening place to discuss many issues that can affect the health of your pelvic floor. This class one of Stephanie Stamas’s (the founder of PH101’s ) favorites and is definitely not to be missed. Hear more about it in her video below! Join us at 7pm on October 30th . Please register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

 

Location

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Pelvic Health 101 Flyer-jpeg

Ph101 Men’s Only Seminar

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

On October 23rd at 7pm we will be hosting our  “Men’s Only Seminar”. Join us as we discuss how pelvic floor dysfunction affects the male pelvic floor. Learn how your sex life can be improved by pelvic floor treatment, how to regain function after prostatectomy, and how to rid yourself of the pain of prostatitis, and avoid antibiotics for the most common type of prostatitis. This seminar is not to be missed!

For more reading on male pelvic health topics, check out:

All About Testicles

Navigating Life with Chronic Pain: Part 1

Navigating Life with Chronic Pain: Part II

Prostatitis What it is and What to do About it

Location:

110 East 42nd Street

Suite 1504

NY NY

10017

Pelvic Health 101 Flyer-jpeg