Joint Changes in Arthritis are Permanent, but Pain Does Not Have to Be

stick man

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

May is arthritis awareness month. Arthritis can come in many different forms. It can be a result of wear and tear or it can be a response to an autoimmune condition. There are many different types of arthritis, but the fact remains that in all of these different types of arthritis, once the damage to the joint is done, it is done. Currently, we have no way of repairing the joint outside of joint replacement. You may be thinking, if the damage is done, why bother spending my precious time and money in physical therapy? The reason is that physical therapy and lifestyle management can make a huge difference towards reducing your pain, improving your function, and even preventing the progression of joint break down. Physical therapy has been proven to help reduce pain and increase function, and in many cases, avoid surgery.

Physical therapists are movement experts. It seems obvious that they should be the providers directly involved in restoring function to individuals with diseases of the joints. For both rheumatoid conditions as well as osteoarthritis, physical activity is considered the first line intervention for improving pain and function. This is not to say that exercise will replace disease modifying arthritis drugs (DMARDs) in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. It is saying treatment is not complete until you address the strength, pain, and range of motion problems that occur with arthritis.

Physical therapy will not change the conditions of joints that have been damaged by arthritis; however, physical therapy is paramount to improving the prognosis of arthritis by helping to improve the strength around the joint, range of motion, and stability of the joint to prevent further cartilage and joint break down. Physical therapy can also have a marked effect on the pain and function, and can open up your world to things that were once too painful. In a meta-analysis study conducted by Sampath and colleagues, two common physical therapy techniques, manual therapy (work on the joints) and exercise therapy were examined to assess the efficacy of these techniques on pain and function in individuals with arthritis. The study found strong evidence that exercise therapy and manual therapy were good at reducing pain and improving function in people with arthritis.

Physical therapy is so worth the investment. It is an investment in your comfort, the ability to do the things you love, and commonly helps people stave off needing a joint replacement. Full disclosure, I’m partial to our clinic, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy (understatement of the year, I know). What makes us so special is that we have the manual therapy, exercise and orthopedic experts. We all come from various orthopedic (joint and muscle PT) backgrounds including the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) and the Institute of Physical Art (IPA) and many of us have earned advance orthopedic certifications such as the Certified Functional Manual Therapist (CFMT), Certified Orthopedic Specialist (OCS), and Postural Restoration Certification (PRC) distinctions. What this means is our therapists have the knowledge and skill set to go above and beyond the basics in our hour long treatments to treat you head to toe, improving the way your body moves and more importantly, how it feels. Click here to read more about the ins and outs of the CFMT certification and how it can take you to the a place of less pain and more function here.

Another thing to keep in mind is your weight. When it comes to management of arthritic conditions, additional pounds put additional stress on your joints and can hasten the progression of joint break down. Losing pounds can be a big task when your joints are not feeling their best. Your physical therapist can guide you through exercises that are efficient for weight loss and do not exacerbate your symptoms. We also can provide a valuable link to get you set up with proper nutritional support to help manage weight.

Once the damage is done by arthritis it is done; however, that does not mean you are condemned to pain, decrease function and continued deterioration. Get physical therapy today for pain relief and to get moving again!

We have two clinics. One in Midtown Manhattan and one Downtown. We also offer Pilates and personal training at our clinics, which can help get you back into an exercise routine.

Give us a call today to find out more:

212-354-2622 (Midtown)

212- 267-0240 (Downtown)

Heidari B, Rheumatoid Arthritis: Early diagnosis and treatment outcomes. J Capsian Internal Med. 2011: 2(1) 161-70

Hootman J, Murphy L, Omura J, et Al. Health care provider counselling for physical activity among adults with arthritis. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2018; 66(51-52) 1398-1401

Sampath K, Mani R, Miyamori T, et al. The effect of manual therapy or exercise therapy or both in people with hip osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Rehab. 2016; 3-(12) 1141-55

Wang Y, Lombard C, Hussain S, et al.Effect of a low-intensity, self-management lifestyle intervention on knee pain in community- based young to middle-aged rural women: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2018; 20(74)

What Pelvic Floor PT is and What it is Not

 

PelvicTrigger Warning: This piece briefly discusses sexual assault.

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Last summer, a reporter came to our office. This is usually not a tremendously unusual circumstance at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. We often have reporters come to our office to research conditions like dyspareunia (painful vaginal intercourse), endometriosis, painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis, prostatitis, and the many other conditions we treat. This time was different. This reporter was researching legitimate medically necessary pelvic floor physical therapy to put into context what was currently happening in USA gymnastics and the Larry Nassar story.

The Larry Nassar story rocked the pelvic floor world to our core. Larry Nassar was a USA Gymnastics Team physician who sexually abused girls for decades, under the guise of providing “pelvic floor treatment”. For those of us who have spent our lives promoting, educating, and treating both men and women with pelvic floor dysfunction, to see pelvic floor treatment perverted into a way to systematically abuse women and girls, it was truly heartbreaking.

We at Beyond Basics PT feel it is imperative to ensure that every patient knows his or her own rights and what to do if they feel uncomfortable. Although we are writing this in the context of pelvic floor physical therapy. Keep in mind, that much of what we talk about applies to interactions with other healthcare professionals.

Before we get started, let’s discuss why one might need to have their genital region examined in the course of physical therapy treatment. Pelvic floor dysfunction refers to a whole host of symptoms mainly felt in the pelvis, although they may appear in other parts of the body. These symptoms may include and are not limited to both male and female pelvic pain, urinary, bowel and sexual issues. Treatment may include external manipulation of the pelvic floor and genital region as well as manipulation of the pelvic floor muscles by inserting a gloved finger into the anus or the vagina. These techniques are used in combination with other osteopathic techniques to improve muscle length and strength, as well as reducing spasm within the pelvic floor and surrounding areas. To read more about what pelvic floor physical therapy is, click here. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be life changing when performed appropriately. It can allow an individual to go back to work or back to school, or the tolerance to sit on a plane to visit family, when doing so would have been too painful prior to physical therapy. It can allow an individual to have painless sex (male and female, same sex or opposite sex sex), and it can allow someone to regain continence who before was socially isolated. Pelvic floor physical therapy is a legitimate means of improving the health and quality of life of an individual. We will include peer reviewed articles below if you would like to read more.

Given the intimate nature of the treatment as well as the power dynamic that sometimes may exist between patient and clinician, it is important to discuss what rights you have as a patient in order to make yourself feel more comfortable. The following outlines your rights as a patient receiving any type of medical treatment.

Consent

When you step through the door of any medical office for the first time, you get handed what feels like fistfuls of paperwork. In that paperwork, there should always be a consent form. This form must be signed before you are treated, the exception being in medically emergent situations, when you become unconscious and consent is implied for life saving medical intervention.

Remember, just because you signed the form before treatment, doesn’t mean you consent to any and all treatment. You may always revoke your consent by saying you don’t want to participate in a procedure or intervention by saying so.

We want you to feel comfortable. If a treatment course makes you uncomfortable, tell us. Gritting your teeth and tolerating an uncomfortable treatment can sometimes do more harm than good. It is also appropriate to revoke consent to be treated if you are unsure why a treatment is being done or suspect it may not be necessary. Our jobs as clinicians are not only to treat but to educate. If you don’t know why we are doing a certain technique, we need to take time to educate you in order to do our job correctly. Revoking consent can be as simple as telling your practitioner you do not want to engage in a certain activity. Practitioners may take time to explain why they feel that intervention is necessary; however they should never make you feel ashamed for revoking consent. Remember, you are not in the clinic to please us. You are there for yourself. To get better. That is it.

Even if you truly need a pelvic floor treatment, often times there are other parts of the body that should be addressed to aid in certain pelvic conditions. Skilled practitioners can delay pelvic floor treatment by treating other parts of the body until you are ready. This can often be done while still maintaining forward progress.

Chaperone

Chaperones are individuals who accompany you to medical and physical therapy exams and treatments. If having a chaperone attend a visit or visits would make you more comfortable, you should be allowed to bring one. You should be able to bring a family members, or a friend into treatment. If you don’t have someone to fill this role, you can ask the facility to supply you with one, (usually asking ahead of time will ensure a staff member is available). In very few cases, such as surgery or trauma interventions, is it appropriate for a patient to be denied a chaperone if he or she requests it.

Second Opinion

What if your clinician gives you a diagnosis or suggests a treatment that doesn’t sound right? This is where a second opinion really comes in handy. Getting a second opinion is not “cheating” on your doctor, it can allow you to explore other options or be more confident in your original provider’s course of action.

Respect and Comfort

Feeling respected by your clinician is essential to healing . If you feel that you are not getting the respect you deserve or even if you are not connecting with clinician for whatever reason, you have the right to change clinicians. You don’t have to feel obligated to explain why you are changing clinicians if you don’t want to. Most healthcare providers realize that we might not have the right clinician for every person, and we are trained to not take it personally. It is okay to put yourself first.

Red Flags in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

  1. Feeling coerced, bullied, or shamed into a pelvic floor treatment
  2. Therapist does not wear gloves for treatment
  3. Therapist insists on not allowing chaperone
  4. Therapist fails to offer adequate reason for treating the pelvic floor
  5. Therapist is not licensed
  6. You therapist acts in a way to make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable

The truth is, there are so many wonderful physical therapists out there who treat the pelvic floor. Being a physical therapist is one of the greatest jobs in the world, because we get to help people do things that before were difficult or impossible. Pelvic floor physical therapy changes lives. We sincerely hope this article helps you feel empowered to go to physical therapy and know what your rights are and what to expect.

Further reading on pelvic pain:

Association

International Pelvic Pain Society: www.pelvicpain.org

International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health: www.isswsh.org

 

Books

Heal Pelvic Pain

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healpelvicpain.com/

Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain DVD

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healpelvicpain.com/

When Sex Hurts

By: Andrew Goldstein, MD and Caroline Pukall, PhD

Healing Painful Sex

By: Deborah Coady, MD and Nancy Fish, PhD

 

Scholarly Articles

Anderson R, Wise D, Sawyer T. Integration of myofascial trigger point release and paradoxical relaxation training treatment of chronic pelvic pain in men. J Urol. 2005;174(1):155-60

Anderson R, Sawyer T, Wise D, Morey A. Painful myofascial trigger points and pain sites in men with chronic prostatitis/ chronic pelvis pain syndrome. The Journal of Urology, 182;6 2753-58

Fitzgerald M, Kotarinos R. Rehabilitation of the short pelvic floor. I: Background and patient evaluation. Int Urogynecol J 2003; 14:261-8

Fitzgerald M, Kotarinos R. Rehabilitation of the short pelvic floor. II: Treatment of patient with the short pelvic floor. Int Urogynecol J 2003;14: 269-72

King H. Manual Therapy May benefit women with interstitial cystitis and pelvic floor pain. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2013;(113)4: 350-61

Morin M. Bergeron S. Pelvic floor rehabilitation in the treatment of dyspareunia in women. Sexologies. 2009; 18:91-4

Shafik A, Shafik I. Overactive bladder inhibition in response to pelvic floor muscle exercises. World J Urol. 2003 May; 20(6):347-7. Epub. Apr 4

Wurn B, Wurn L, Patterson K. Decreasing dyspareunia and dysmenorrhea in women with endometriosis via a manual therapy: results from two independent studies. 2011;3(4)

PH101: Potty Issues with Kiddos

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Did you know kids can suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction too? Pelvic floor dysfunction in children can result in pain, bladder holding or constipation, embarrassing soiling accidents, frequent nighttime accidents, as well as trouble going potty. For most kids, there is an underlying physical component that needs to be addressed by an expert pediatric pelvic floor physical therapist.

It is very upsetting for a parent, guardian or caregiver to see a child suffer with pain or embarrassment, but there is so much that can be done to help out children with these issues. We use positive charts to develop short term and achievable goals to reinforce  behaviors and steps towards healthy toileting. Simple techniques like improving toilet posture, practicing deep breathing with bubbles, using a timer to assist in times voiding, educating the parent/guardian/caregiver on the colon massage, developing a core stability and stretching program, and more can go a long way towards improving bowel and bladder symptoms.

If your child is suffering from urinary or fecal accidents, bed wetting, skidmarks, or painful defecation, join me on  May 2nd at 7pm , to discuss pelvic floor dysfunction in children, common conditions affecting pottying, and practical tips you can use to make potty time easier.

This is our last Pelvic Health 101 class of the spring series. We want to thank for an awesome season! Keep your eyes on the blog for the Fall’s PH101 classes!

RSVP here

 

To Learn More Today, Check out our other blogs on the pediatric pelvic floor!

The Scoop When Kids Have Trouble with Poop

Pediatric Bowel Part II: How to Make Pooping Easier for your Kiddo

Pelvic Health 101 Spring 2018 (2)

 

Beyond Basics is Visting Brooklyn!!!!

Brooklyn

 

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Have you got pelvic floor questions? Have you desperately wanted to go to one of our PH101 classes, but can’t swing 7pm in midtown in the middle of the week? Well, I have great news and GREATER news. I know, right… how much great news can you handle? The first bit of awesome, is that Beyond Basics’ Physical Therapists’, Dr. Fiona McMahon and Dr. Sarah Paplanus are hosting a forum and open discussion on pelvic floor health and treatment on Saturday, April 28th at The Floor on Atlantic (310 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn) at 12 noon. We will be there to explain the ins and outs of the pelvic floor, what can go wrong with it, and best yet, how you can heal it. It is a must go to event. RSVP here. Also, it’s FREE!

So what’s the other news, Fiona? Well, it’s that although we are not in Brooklyn, we have opened another office just across the river from Brooklyn, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy Downtown. In enlarging our footprint we hope to expand access and convenience to patients living downtown and in Brooklyn. We will be hosting a Grand Opening and 15 year anniversary celebration at our new location: 156 William St, Suite 800 New York, NY 10038 on Thursday, April, 26th from 4pm – 7pm. Come and enjoy food, drinks and meet our Physical Therapists. RSVP here.

 

 

May Is Pelvic Pain Awareness Month!

Mayis PelvicPainAwarenessmonth

 Kaitlyn Parrotte, PT, DPT, OCS, CFMT

While there are many causes to be aware of and advocate for, one close to our hearts at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is pelvic and abdominal pain, and we are excited to report that May is Pelvic Pain Awareness Month! This designation for May was created by the International Pelvic Pain Society last year. So let’s talk a few moments about what is abdomino-pelvic pain, how impactful the diagnosis can be, and what we can do!

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, chronic pelvic pain is described as a “noncyclical pain of at least 6 months’ duration that appears in locations such as the pelvis, anterior abdominal wall, lower back, or buttocks, and that is serious enough to cause disability or lead to medical care.”(1) While the incidence and prevalence of chronic pelvic pain in men and women are reported in an inconsistent manner,(2) some estimates compare its global prevalence to asthma (4.3%-8.6%), and another to the prevalence of low back pain (23.2 +/- 2.9%).3 Individuals who suffer from chronic pelvic pain also often present with other complicating factors such as depression, anxiety, poor sleep, difficulty with work, and/or relationship issues. Also, many people with chronic pain are commonly disabled by fear that activity will make things worse.(2) Furthermore, pelvic pain is puzzling as it is a multisystem disorder, which includes sexual, bowel, urinary, gynecological, and musculoskeletal symptoms. It is challenging to determine a clear mechanism of pain with this diagnosis, and the term “pelvic pain” does not take into account the many signs and symptoms that may be occurring outside of the anatomical pelvis.(2 ) 

Due to the complicated nature of this condition, there is a significant economic burden associated with management of it. In the United States, approximately $881.5 million was spent on chronic pelvic pain to cover the costs of direct healthcare. Additionally, approximately $2 billion was spent as an overall cost, which includes direct medical costs and indirect costs, such as those related to absenteeism from work.(3) Besides economic burdens on individuals suffering from chronic pelvic pain, there are also many challenges for the healthcare system to deal with. For instance, while a diagnosis of chronic pain in the United States typically yields more than 80% of physician referrals, it is estimated that only about 15% of individuals with chronic pelvic pain consult primary care providers, and only 40% of this group are referred to specialists for further investigation. (3) Furthermore, if specialist care is involved in the management of chronic pelvic pain, it is often spread between multiple specialties, such as urology, gynecology, urogynecology, colorectal services, pain medicine, and even occasionally spinal services, rheumatology, and neurology. Thus, there is a risk that patients may be passed back and forth between different teams of the same specialty, or between different specialties, and may not receive consistent or effective care.(2)  In a nutshell: chronic pelvic pain can be a debilitating condition that can have significant consequences on an individual’s physical, mental, economic, and social well-being.

Hopefully, if you were not already passionate about raising awareness of pelvic pain, you now have some insight as to why this cause is so important! Now the question lies, what can you do? How can you get involved?

On May 31, 2018 the staff here at Beyond Basics PT will be hosting a fundraising pub night at The Green Room, located at 156 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010, from 6.30-9pm. At this event, we will be uniting healthcare practitioners to raise funds for research and educational programs that will promote more effective diagnosis and treatment for those suffering from pelvic pain. All our proceeds will go directly to the International Pelvic Pain Society, so come out and support our cause!!

If attending this event is not possible, please consider visiting the website for the International Pelvic Pain Society (www.pelvicpain.org) and donating funds for educational and research programs (https://wjweis.association-service.org/securesite/ipps/donations.aspx). Together, we can help bring chronic abdominal and pelvic pain into the forefront of healthcare, to ensure individuals dealing with this condition are receiving consistent and effective multidisciplinary care.

 

Sources:

  1. Andrews J, Yunker A, Reynolds WS, Likis FE, et al. Noncyclic chronic pelvic pain therapies for women: comparative effectiveness. AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, Rockville (MD), 2012.
  2. Baranowski AP, Lee J, Price C, Hughes J. Pelvic pain: a pathway for care developed for both men and women by the British Pain Society. Br J Anaesth. 2014;112(3):452–9.  
  3. Ahangari A. Prevalence of chronic pelvic pain among women: an updated review. Pain Physician. 2014;17(2):E141–7.

PH101: I’m Pregnant – Help!

Having a baby is exciting, fascinating, and nerve wracking. If you have never been through the process before, chances are you have a lot of questions and concerns about what changes your body will go through during your pregnancy, what the birthing process entails, and how your recovery will go once you’ve had your baby.

Join us and childbirth specialist, Ashley Brichter, in our Pelvic Health class to discuss the ins and outs of having a child.

Register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com   today.

Location:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Time: 7pm on April 25, 2018

Pelvic Health 101 Spring 2018 (2)

Building a strong foundation – Treating the pelvic floor in individuals with multiple sclerosis

By: Kaitlyn Parrotte, PT, DPT, OCS, CFMT

MS

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an “immune-mediated” disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (1).  The cause is unknown. MS is characterized by injuries (plaques) of the myelin, which is a fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers; nerve fibers themselves may also be attacked. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue that is called “sclerosis,” which is how the disease was named (1,2).  When the myelin, or nerve fibers, are damaged or destroyed at any point on the neural pathway, nerve impulses that are traveling between the brain, spinal cord and the body are interrupted, and as a result, can create a variety of symptoms.(1)

Symptoms:

The more common symptoms seen in individuals with MS are:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or Vertigo
  • Sexual Problems
  • Pain
  • Emotional changes
  • Walking difficulties
  • Spasticity
  • Vision problems
  • Bladder problems
  • Bowel problems
  • Cognitive changes
  • Depression(1)

Types of MS:

There are four disease courses that have been identified in multiple sclerosis:

  • Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS) – a first episode of neurologic symptoms in the central nervous system, which lasts at least 24 hours.(1)
  • Relapsing-remitting MS (RMSS) – the most common form of the disease, that is characterized by clearly defined episodes of new or increasing neurologic symptoms (relapses), followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions).(1)
  • Primary progressive MS (PPMS) – characterized by a gradual worsening of neurologic function, from the onset of symptoms, without any relapses or remissions.(1)
  • Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) – follows a course of MS that is initially relapsing-remitting. Most people with RMSS will eventually transition into a secondary progressive course, which is when their neurologic function will gradually worsen over time.(1)

Treatment of MS:

Because of the complex nature of this condition, and because it is not a curable disease, the management of MS requires comprehensive care. One component of that care is physical therapy. A physical therapist will evaluate and address the body’s ability to move and function. Common physical therapy interventions frequently address walking and mobility, strength, balance, posture, fatigue, and pain. However, did you know that physical therapy can also treat issues with bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction(1)? These dysfunctions are addressed through treating the pelvic floor musculature and surrounding tissues, which is performed by specially trained clinicians, such as the physical therapists at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy.

 

Bowel Dysfunction:

As previously noted, patients with MS can have various symptoms, including symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction, such as bladder, bowel, and/or sexual dysfunction. According to one study from 2016, individuals with MS can have lower anal sphincter pressure (which limits their ability to control stool flow), as well as higher rectal sensitivity (which makes it more difficult for a person to appropriately recognize when they need to defecate). These can increase the occurrence of fecal incontinence (involuntary leakage of stool), as adequate muscle strength and tone are needed to prevent leakage, and appropriate urge is required to ensure a person can get to the bathroom when they actually need to go (3) Even in the constipated individual with MS, there is a decrease in anal sphincter tone, which results in poor muscle coordination, making the release of stool more challenging (3) With these individuals, pelvic floor relaxation is typically needed to allow for easier and complete emptying and to decrease symptoms of bowel urgency.

Several studies from the late 1990s and early 2000s have looked at using biofeedback to help retrain muscle coordination. Biofeedback was applied in two ways: through stick-on electrodes that measured the response of muscles surrounding the anus, and with feedback applied internally in the rectum, with a finger, rental sensor or balloon. With stick-on electrodes, individuals are typically connected to a machine that allows them to see the electrical activity of their muscles, so they can work on controlling them (contract or relax). With internal feedback through a therapist’s gloved finger, with a rectal sensor or balloon, individuals can improve muscle control through gaining better awareness of their pelvic floor muscles. Researchers found that the use of biofeedback yielded some improvement in patient reported disability for those experiencing either constipation or fecal incontinence (4,5).  Physical therapy treatments to address muscle coordination and sensitivity can be helpful to treat those experiencing constipation or fecal incontinence related to MS; however, more research is needed to help enhance care.

Urinary Dysfunction:

As MS impacts the nerve signal transmission along nerve channels, urinary dysfunction frequently occurs (6) The most common urinary disorder seen in this population is urinary incontinence, which is involuntary leakage of urine. Urinary incontinence is related to fatigue and uncoordinated muscle recruitment, which are characteristic of MS, and can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life(2) Another common diagnosis is overactive bladder, which interrupts bladder function and causes a sudden need to urinate(6). This may occur, at least in part, due to hyperactive muscles in the pelvic floor that have become too short and tight over time.

Many groups have looked at the impact of physical therapy to directly address weaknesses that develop in the pelvic floor, and are related to urinary dysfunction (6,7) Two separate articles published in 2016 looked at groups of women with MS, and split them into groups to undergo pelvic floor muscle training with and without some form of electrical stimulation. The emphasis of this intervention was to train the pelvic floor muscles how to activate without compensation from surrounding muscles, over the course of several months (6,7) By the end of one study, women in both groups demonstrated increased pelvic floor strength and endurance, decreased symptoms of overactive bladder, and decreased anxiety and depression (6). In the other study, all three groups exhibited a decrease in pad weight, which measured the amount of urinary leakage, as well as decreased frequency of urgency and urge incontinence episodes(7). This research is showing that direct treatment to the pelvic floor muscles help to decrease urinary symptoms in people with MS, as muscle strength and endurance are increased.

Sexual Dysfunction:

Sexual dysfunction is also common in individuals with MS (affecting 40%-80%)(8). Sexual arousal begins in the nervous system with the brain sending signals through the spinal cord and nerves to the sexual organs. These pathways can become damaged due to the effects of MS on the nervous system, which in turn impacts a person’s sexual response or sensation. Symptoms of this may manifest as difficulty achieving orgasm or loss of libido, as well as erectile dysfunction in men, and altered clitoral/vaginal sensation or vaginal dryness in women (9). Other symptoms of MS, such as fatigue, muscle weakness, and spasticity also negatively impact sexual response in this population (8).

Pelvic floor muscles are responsible for rhythmical involuntary contractions during orgasm. These contractions occur when sensory information travels through nerves to these muscles. Continued, uninterrupted stimulation may allow for sexual arousal to progress and build up to a maximum point. Once this point is reached, the pelvic floor muscles, which have been gradually becoming tighter and tighter, get even tighter, hold this tension momentarily, and then release all tension; this is an orgasm (10). Through various research, it has been shown that weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to a decrease in orgasm and arousal (8) and specific pelvic floor muscle strengthening can help improve sexual function, especially in females (11,12,13).

One study that looks at MS-related sexual dysfunction is a 2014 article published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal. This article took 20 women diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, and divided them into three treatment groups: pelvic floor muscle training alone, pelvic floor muscle training with intravaginal electrical stimulation, and pelvic floor muscle training with electrical stimulation applied over a nerve in the leg. The pelvic floor muscle training in each group consisted of teaching each participant how to contract her pelvic floor without using surrounding muscles as a compensation, and then performing both fast and slow contractions, over twelve weeks of treatments. After the twelve weeks of treatment, individuals in all three groups demonstrated significant improvements in muscle power, endurance, and fast contractions of the pelvic floor. They also reported an increase in the total score, as well as the arousal, lubrication, and satisfaction subscores, of the Female Sexual Function Index.8 What this study has shown is, in women with MS, physical therapy can help to treat sexual dysfunction by enhancing muscle response and activity in the pelvic floor.

Conclusion:

All bowel, bladder, and sexual function rely in part on strong and flexible muscles in the pelvic floor. With Multiple Sclerosis, these muscles tend to lose either mobility and then strength, and/or muscle tone and coordination. Either way, the loss of efficient tissue tension, coordination, and strength, makes the performance of these important functions much more challenging. While various medications or other interventions, may also be necessary to help individuals with MS manage their symptoms, physical therapy has been proven to be an important part of the healthcare team. Here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, all our clinicians have specialized training to evaluate and treat the pelvic floor, so each one of us is in a strong position to help you manage these symptoms and improve function! Feel free to contact our office at 212-354-2622, or visit our website (www.beyondbasicsphysicaltherapy.com) for more information!

Sources:

  1. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. https://www.nationalmssociety.org
  2. de Abreu Pereira CM, Castiglione M, Kasawara KT. “Effects of Physiotherapy Treatment for Urinary Incontinence in Patient with Multiple Sclerosis.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science 2017; 29(7): 1259–1263.
  3. Marola S, Ferrarese A, Gibin E, et al. “Anal Sphincter Dysfunction in Multiple Sclerosis: An Observation Manometric Study.” Open Medicine 2016; 11(1): 509–517.
  4. Chiotakakou-Faliakou E, Kamm MA, Roy AJ, et al. Biofeedback provides long-term benefit for patients with intractable, slow and normal transit constipation. Gut 1998;42:517–21.
  5. Wiesel PH, Norton C, Roy AJ, et al. Gut focused behavioural treatment (biofeedback) for constipation and faecal incontinence in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2000;69:240–243.
  6. Ferreira, Ana Paula Silva, et al. “Impact of a Pelvic Floor Training Program Among Women with Multiple Sclerosis.” American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 2016; 95(1): 1–8.
  7. Lúcio A, Dʼancona CA, Perissinotto MC, et al. “Pelvic Floor Muscle Training With and Without Electrical Stimulation in the Treatment of Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Women With Multiple Sclerosis.”Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing 2016; 43(4): 414–419.
  8. Lúcio AC, D’Ancona CA, Lopes MH, et al. “The Effect of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training Alone or in Combination with Electrostimulation in the Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction in Women with Multiple Sclerosis.” Multiple Sclerosis Journal 2014; 2 (13): 1761–1768.
  9. “Sexual Problems.” National Multiple Sclerosis Society, http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Sexual-Dysfunction.
  10. Lowentein L, Gruenwald I, Gartman I, et al. Can stronger pelvic muscle floor improve secual function? Int Urogynecol J 2010; 21: 553-556.
  11. Bo K, Talseth T, Vinsnes A (2000) Randomized controlled trial on the effect of pelvic floor muscle training on quality of life and sexual problems in genuine stress incontinent women. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 79(7):598–603
  12. Beji NK, Yalcin O, Erkan HA (2003) The effect of pelvic floor training on sexual function of treated patients. International urogynecology journal and pelvic floor dysfunction 14(4):234–238
  13. Zahariou AG, Karamouti MV, Papaioannou PD (2008) Pelvic floor muscle training improves sexual function of women with stress urinary incontinence. International urogynecology journal and pelvic floor dysfunction 19(3):401–406.