BPPT Health Tip: Best Positioning Tips for Optimal Bowel Movements

By Sarah Paplanus, DPT, PT

Are you among the 4 million Americans who suffer from constipation? Or the 1 in 5 American adults with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Do you occasionally experience the pain and itchy feeling associated with hemorrhoids? If so, the Squatty Potty or similar stool may be the perfect addition to your bathroom! Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with any of these conditions, it is important to note that straining or holding your breath to complete a bowel movement is never normal and is usually a sign of dysfunction. Colorectal medical conditions can vary in their cause, in their presentation and in their severity, but your pelvic floor muscles will always be affected.

null( Image via: squattypotty.com )

Anatomy!

 

Your colon carries waste out of your body, and where the colon meets your rectum is called your anorectal angle. This anorectal angle is an important factor in continence.

Your pelvic floor muscles work together to support the rectum, change the anorectal angle and control opening/closing. One of your pelvic floor muscles (the puborectalis) forms a sling around your rectum and works to maintain the anorectal angle. If that muscle is tight, it can essentially “choke” your rectum and contribute to straining.

null

What does squatting do?

Squatting straightens the anorectal angle and helps to relax the puborectalis muscle, which helps to facilitate emptying. It also decreases the amount of pressure in the abdomen, which has been shown to decrease the time and effort needed for defecation. This all helps to reduce excessive pressure and strain on your pelvic floor muscles. In cultures where squatting is still prevalent for defecation, such as parts of Asia and Africa, it has been found that bowel movements tend to be more complete and that there is a decreased incidence of colorectal dysfunctions such as hemorrhoids, constipation and hernias.

Why is straining bad?

A principle of elementary mechanics states that “any system exposed to excessive pressures ultimately sustains injury”.These injuries can be in the form of a hemorrhoid, a hernia, a muscle strain or a chronic pelvic floor dysfunction. Straining also increases your risk of the Valsalva maneuver, which is exhaling against a closed airway. This causes a sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure which can cause abrupt changes in blood pressure.

Toilet Posture

null

Using a squatty potty, stool, or even two yoga blocks can help you assume a “squat” position. Lean forward and rest your elbows on your knees. Take deep breathes in, using your diaphragm. Place your hands on your belly and feel your breathe fill up your abdomen. Keep your mouth open and jaw relaxed!

Other Strategies to Improve Bowel Health

  • Cardiovascular exercise
  • Proper nutrition (see our previous post on fiber!)
  • Make sure you are drinking enough water
  • Relaxation training, diaphragmatic breathing

 

What to do if you are still suffering?

If the above tips are not helping defecate regularly and comfortably, you may be suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur when the muscles of the pelvic floor become too tight, weak, or both to do their job properly. Physical Therapy can help! Visit us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy to help better your BM’s.

PH101: Something’s Wrong with my What?

herhis_2-03

Image via PlayBuzz

On March 16, 2017 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.

Please join us at our office at:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY 10017
Register at: pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com

Here is our line up of this and future classes:

pelvic-health-101-spring-2017

Spring Pelvic Health 101 is Coming

Fiona McMahon, DPT, PT

Pelvic Health 101 is back with some old favorites like, “Something’s wrong with my what?” and “Why is pooping so difficult?” We have also added a new course on pediatric pelvic floor issues.

If you have questions, we have answers. Join us for lectures and question and answer opportunities with expert pelvic health physical therapists, childbirth educators, and nutritionists. Please reserve your spot early at pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com. Remember spots fill up quickly. As always, light refreshments will be served.

pelvic-health-101-spring-2017

Yeast the Inflammation Beast

 

candida-albicans

Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

You are what you eat. Trash in equals trash out. You can’t exercise yourself away from an unhealthy diet. These adages are often on my mind as I make my food choices because of the myriad of health professionals who have taken time to come to our practice to tell us how we can improve our own and our patients’ health by taking more time to look at what we are consuming in our diet. Lately many of these clinicians have been focusing on candida overgrowth and diet, which can contribute to pain and inflammation conditions.

What we eat can directly affect the bacterial and fungal make up of the gut, AKA the gut microbiome.The gut requires a certain level of good bacteria to help us digest what we eat. Over time a poor gut microbiome can affect how efficiently the gut works. The function of the gut goes beyond just digesting food, but also is vitally important for the production of neurotransmitters, which help to spread messages within the brain and throughout  the whole body.  The microbiome also plays an important role in our hormones, and immune system. When the microbiome of the gut is not balanced, it is called dysbiosis.

One of the most common culprits in gut microbiota dysbiosis is candida, (Yeast!). Candida is a naturally occurring inhabitant of the body and when it’s at appropriate levels, it doesn’t tend to be noticed, but anyone who has experienced a yeast infection knows that if this little guy is allowed to go unchecked, it can do a lot to make you miserable. Besides plaguing women with itching, burning vulvas, yeast overgrowth may cause many other ailments.

Science has pointed to the role candida can play in contributing to chronic and inflammatory conditions. In one study by Kumamoto in 2011, candida overgrowth was associated with delayed healing of inflammatory lesions and were associated with pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals) and increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s  disease.

Yeast overgrowth can also affect the bladder along with over colonization of saccharomyces (another form of fungus). In fact yeast and saccharomyces was found to be higher in women during a flare of interstitial cystitis than when their symptoms were low.

Yeast is not the only organism that can get out of balance and affect our bodies in harmful ways. There are many other players that can get out of balance. Some signs of an altered gut microbiome is a history of allergies, eczema, or repeated fungal infection.

 

What to do?

It all seems pretty dire, right. How do you control who is colonizing your gut, when you barely have enough time to make it to the gym after work? There are a few simple steps you can start with.

Avoid antibiotics, unless your doctor thinks you need them.

 

 

PillsThe medical community has become a lot more aware of the dangers of over prescribing antibiotics from their perspective, but it is important to keep in mind that a powerful antibiotic can wipe out good bacteria and bad bacteria in one fell swoop. If the good guys in your gut are reduced, the bad bacteria have a better chance of taking over. Take antibiotics only when recommended. Keep in mind antibiotics will not help treat viruses like the flu, they can only treat bacterial infections.

Modify your diet

spiced_mackerel_with_05813_16x9

Increase your consumption of good fats (omega 3’s) to help reduce inflammation.

Food high in omega 3’s include flax and hemp seed/oils, fish (the fishier the fish, usually means more omega 3’s, for example herring is higher in omega 3 than a milder fish like snapper). Also reduce your consumption of processed foods which can increase inflammation levels and eliminate simple sugars and fried foods. If this is only minimally successful, try a gluten and dairy free diet.  

If simple changes are not helping consider seeing a professional

doctorFind a naturopath, functional or integrated MD, or nutritionist who can investigate more fully whether or not you have SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), candida overgrowth, or other gut microbiome disorder. Or perhaps you are lacking certain ingredients, vitamins or mineral.  These professionals can tailor a diet and medication regimen to help return your gut microbiome to tip top shape.

 

 

Sources:

Kamamoto C. Inflammation and gastrointestinal candida colonization. Cur Opin Microbiol. 2011;14(40): 386-391

BBPT Health Tip: HOT or COLD? That is the Question

bigstock-illustration-of-thermometers-w-49787687

Fiona McMahon, DPT.

 

What’s better, heat or ice? This is a question that most medical/health type professionals get all the time. The answer is, it depends. Both have fabulous benefits for different sets of circumstances. Let’s explore these cheap, safe and effective pain relievers.

Heat

In the biz, ( no one calls physical therapy “the biz” yet, but if I try hard enough, it may stick) we call heat, thermotherapy. Fancy, right? Thermotherapy is great for pain that is a result of a trigger point, or muscle spasm. Think deep neck, back pain, or pelvic pain. It’s great for menstrual cramps and can  create a nice soothing effect.

For any active inflammation or infection however, heat can be harmful and can actually make it worse. You do not want to place heat over joints affected by autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also not good for new, fresh injuries, like a muscle strain or a injury from a fall. Heat is really good for chronic long standing pain conditions.

Heat comes in types, dry and moist. Dry is the kind that’s emitted from like an electric heating pad or a microwaved heating pad. Sometimes people may find that dry heat, dries out the skin. Moist heat comes from things like moist towels or moist heating pads (these are the kind we use in our clinic). Moist heat tends to penetrate deeper into the muscles.  

 

Safety Considerations for Heat:

  1. Don’t over heat. Sounds simple, but in the throes of severe pain, many people may find themselves with the more is better mantra.  It’s not.
  2. Don’t apply to open wounds, on individuals with peripheral vascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, or on people with reduced sensation or ability to remove the hot pack.

 

Cold

Physical therapists have a fancy name for this one too. It’s cryotherapy. Sounds super futuristic doesn’t it? Ice is awesome. It really is. It is great for acute (recent) injuries like a sprain or a strain. There are actually studies that show that ice within 36 hours of injury speeds recovery better than heat. Ice can reduce pain in the area it is applied, reduce guarding and spasm, and reduce swelling.

 

Safety Considerations for Cold:

  1. Never use on people with reduced sensation, ie. Raynauds, actively healing wounds, circulatory issues, or hypertension
  2. Less is more. Keep cold packs on for 20-30 minutes once every 2 hours on newly injured body parts. Keeping the ice pack on for longer can cause increased blood flow to the area which will reduce the helpful effects of the ice.

When in doubt as to if you should use cryotherapy or thermotherapy, consult with your physical therapist or healthcare provider.  At Beyond Basics we treat injuries beyond those to the pelvic floor and we can help with your injury questions. You can also find a physical therapist with the APTA’s PT finder tool

BBPT Health Tip: Adding Pelvic Floor Relaxation to Deep Breathing

Amy Stein DPT, PT and Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

 

bookhppThis blog contains information adapted from Heal Pelvic Pain by Amy Stein. If you are interested in learning more about pelvic floor exercises you can do on your own, please visit http://www.healpelvicpain.com/ , http://amzn.to/2ioSz2J, or visit us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy in New York City to get your copy today.

 

In an earlier post we discussed the positive benefits of adding diaphragmatic breathing to your routine to reduce stress. If you missed it, check it out here .

But why not go a step further. Did you know that you can add pelvic floor drops to your breathing routine to help relax a tight and painful pelvic floor.

 

What is a pelvic floor drop?

A pelvic floor drop is the relaxation of the muscles of the pelvic floor. It is like that feeling you have when you can finally relax the muscle in between your legs after holding urine in for a long time. It’s a great feeling of relaxation and here’s how you can mimic it when you don’t have to go.

 

But How do I do it?

 

  • Step 1: Get comfortable. Sit, stand, lay down, whatever suits you, relax your body and close your eyes
  • Step 2: Breathe deep. Inhale between 3 and 5 seconds
  • Step 3: Exhale. Exhale slowly, 5-6 seconds. As you exhale imagine your breath gently placing pressure on your pelvic floor into relaxation. Don’t push or strain.

Like diaphragmatic breathing, you can use this technique throughout the day to help reduce stress and pain in the pelvic floor. Happy breathing!

BBPT Health Tip: Seated Hamstring Stretch

Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

img_4456

Fenitra Fuchs, of BBPT shows the correct way to perform this stretch. Notice how she doesn’t curve her back forward in order to perform the stretch

Seated Hamstrings Stretch

Hello folks! Beyond Basics Physical Therapy’s latest health tip is the seated hamstrings stretch!

Why seated you ask? In selecting this stretch over other hamstrings stretches, I wanted to pick something that most everyone can be able to do. This stretch is particularly beneficial for those of you who have difficulty getting on and off the floor. Although if you do have difficulty getting off of the floor, it is important to go to physical therapy and get the training to do so, as being able to independently get up off the floor is imperative for maintaining independent function as you age.  Another point: if you have any sciatic pain or sitting pain, please seek a physical therapist before attempting this stretch.  

Muscles involved: Hamstrings, gastroc soleus complex ( your calf) and to some extent your sciatic nerve

Stretch Type: Static: Best if performed after workouts on warm muscles. Exercise caution if stretching cold muscle, because unwarned muscle doesn’t stretch as well as warmed up muscles.  

Caution: It is possible to overdo it. Stop the stretch or ease up if you feel tingling in your legs or pain in your low back.

As always: No stretch should ever be painful. If a stretch is painful, stop and consult your physical therapist for modifications.  

 

Directions:  Sitting in a sturdy chair, ( don’t do this on a rolly stool or office chair, please!). Straighten knee of leg to be stretched and point toes up. Lean forward at the hips until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg. Don’t round your back. Keep in mind, for those of us with tight hamstrings, you will feel the stretch without too much of a forward bend.  So take it slow!

img_4457

Fenitra demonstrates a straight knee and pointed toe while performing her stretch

IMG_4455.JPG

Fenitra demonstrates this stretch