PH101: Improve Your Birthing Experience

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 November 8th, 2017

Pelvic Health 101 Fall 2017

Marathon Training Update

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Hello everyone! Here’s a brief little update from physical therapy land about progress for the marathon! We are actually a little less than a month away from race day. We are close to our donation goal, but really need your help to make it. Please click here to support research to end multiple sclerosis. This is go time. It’s where the rubber hits the road and you have to put a little more muscle in your hustle. Typically this is the point at which you start to approach 20 miles training runs and things can go right, which is great, or things can go wrong and you learn from them. I will also give you a quick update on what’s been going on in physical therapy.

Nutrition Mistakes

I had a pretty good learning experience a couple of weeks ago that I want to share with you, so you don’t end up making the same mistakes I made. On my first mega mile run, which I consider anything over 15 miles in this category, I hit the wall so hard I think I might have left a Fiona shaped impression in the brick. I started out a 17 mile run fast, doing about 8 minute miles. I also neglected to do my usual carb load for breakfast. On top of that, I forgot to bring any glucose replacement supplements with me. You know where this is headed. At mile 13 I crashed. I sat on the side of the road and contemplated calling an uber. I managed to make it back but average a 9:30 pace, no where close to my goal pace.

This just goes to show how important it is to have the right fuel whether you’re pounding the pavement. My subsequent two runs 18 and 20 miles respectively went much better. I tried out GU, a glucose replacement gel versus glucose tablets. I’ve use GU a lot, but it has a thick consistency, which can only be described as gnarly, but the stuff works and you certainly aren’t eating it for taste. The glucose tablets were delicious, if you like sweet tarts candies, which I do. The only drawback is I can imagine the dry powder of them to be a little rugged to get down on days where you might end up more dehydrated. I have one more 20 miler to pound out before the big day, so I’m going to try a mixture of both and see how I feel. What’s so beneficial about long runs is not just the physical training, but also learning what works for your body. It allows you to foresee possible problems that could occur on race day and address them before they arise.

Physical Therapy

As I alluded to in my last blog, this fall has been a bit tough with colds and stomach bugs. Jessica was good to incorporate some visceral mobilization work into treatment to allow more sore little digestive organs a chance to heal. She also worked on my sacrum, the bone above your tailbone, to make sure that I had enough range of motion to run efficiently. She then made me work! We did work to activate more core muscles and at the end of treatment, there was a real increase in my core strength!

This fall has been full of surprises health/training-wise, but with Jessica’s help I was able to immediately feel a little better, without taking my eye off my goal of a 8:35 mile pace! If you could use someone like Jessica in your corner, call us at BBPT today.

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Time to PUMP SOME IRON! September is Healthy Aging Month

WeightsFiona McMahon PT, DPT

The idea of strength training can conjure up many images, like the funny images of  Saturday Night Live’s Hans and Frans, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. It can also be intimidating. The idea of walking into a crowded weight room full of young and fit people, who seem to all know what they are doing can stop a newbie in their tracks. But resistance training has so many benefits, for health, function, and longevity. It goes way beyond looking good in a swimsuit, although it certainly can help with that. In honor of September’s Healthy Aging Month we at Beyond Basics are taking a close look at how adding a safe strength training regimen to one’s daily routine at any age, can boost so many indicators of health and quality of life.

Everyone understands that muscles are essential for everyday tasks like rising from a chair, carrying your shopping, and many other instrumental tasks required for independence. The thing about muscles is they are not static, and as we start to age we lose muscle, especially if we do not work to maintain our muscle mass. Believe it or not, we slowly start losing muscle mass at age 30, (bummer, I know), but after 60 is where things get really crazy. After age 60 we start losing muscle mass at a rate of approximately 15% per year. The less active someone is in their life, the quicker this loss occurs. Low muscle mass is called sarcopenia. You will see this term a lot in this blog. The condition of sacropenia brings with it functional impairments from lack of strength and can put a person in a position where they are more likely to require assistance for everyday tasks. Furthermore, when sarcopenia and obesity occur at the same time, which we often see in the elderly, the functional impairments associated with sarcopenia and obesity are greater than either sarcopenia or obesity alone.

But there is hope. Aging isn’t a slippery slope into weakness and frailty. It is what you make it. Even sarcopenic muscle can respond and strengthen in response to proper training. In fact, it adapts to the demands of strength training at the same rate as younger muscle. Weight training can actually reduce fat and build muscle, helping to reverse the condition of sarcopenic obesity. Many studies indicate that resistance training can prevent and or reverse age related losses in function. Even with all the benefits of strength training. Only an estimated 10-15% of older folks regularly participate in strength training exercise, leaving a huge percentage of the population missing out on strength training’s myriad benefits, which we will cover in more detail below.

Benefits of Strength Training

 

Balance and Fall Prevention

Falls are a serious cause of injury, disability, and death in the elderly. People over the age of 60 have a once yearly fall rate of approximately 30%. Resistance training in combination with balance training under the care of a skilled physical therapist can go a long way to reduce one’s risk of falls. If falling is a concern of yours, please check out our other blog on falls and fall prevention.

 

Pain Syndromes

Pain symptoms in individuals with Fibromyalgia Syndrome improved following a 12 week high intensity strengthening program (Mayer).

 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by low bone density, increases a person’s risk of fracture. Fracture brings along with it risks of prolonged pain, depression, issues with function, subsequent fracture, and even death. Individuals with vertebral fracture have a 2.7 increased likelihood of death and are likely to have an additional fracture within a year of the original fracture.

There is evidence supporting resistance exercise as a useful tool to increasing bone density in osteoporotic individuals. With people with extreme cases of osteoporosis, there is increase risk of accidental fracture from dropped weights, poor form in transitions and adjusting weight machines. In these individuals, and all individuals for that matter, it is extremely important to work with a physical therapist to construct a safe and beneficial routine.

 

Function

Many studies have found significant improvements in function following a resistance training program. Physical therapists like to use a few specific tests when getting a general idea of someone’s function. A couple of our favorites are the Timed Up and Go (TUG) and the 6 – Minute Walk Test. They measure the time it takes to rise from a chair and the amount of ground covered in six minutes, respectively. Pretty simple, right? In all of the studies I read that were using these outcomes, both TUG and 6-Minute Walk scores significantly improved following strengthening intervention. These tests are really special because they have incredibly strong correlations to functional independence and risk for falls and hospitalization. On top of improving scores in these tests, patient’s themselves also reported improved mobility in their daily lives.

Frequency and Duration

Out of the studies examined, most advised participating in a resistance routine 3-4x weekly in order to see an increase in muscle mass in 6-9 weeks. Continued training will sustain this effect. Most recommended 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions and 65-85% one rep max. Bands and free weights have found to be effective for strength training in older individuals. As stated before, exercise machines tend to have an increased risk of fracture in those with severe osteoporosis and therefore, should be avoided unless one is certain they can adjust the machine with correct form. Repetitions should be slow and controlled. Cardio and weight training are life long commitments.

So Where To Start?

The first place to stop is at your local and experienced physical therapy office. Your PT will be able to determine if you are safe to exercise and what types of exercise will work best for your body and your goals. Will exercise bands work better for you? What the heck is 80% one rep max? When can I progress? Am I doing this right? All of these questions will be answered by your physical therapist. At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy we work to not only improve strength, but also efficiency of movement to allow our patients to get the most from their time with us as well as their time spent doing resistance training. If you think weight training is right for you and are eager to get started, make a call to us at BBPT or to your local PT, to make an appointment today!

Chen M, Jiang B. Resistance training exercise program for intervention to enhance gait function in elderly chronically ill patients: multivariate multiscale entropy for center of pressure signal analysis. Comput Math Methods Med. 2014

Giangregorio G. Papaioannou A. MacIntyre N. Too fit to fracture: exercise recomendations for individuals with osteoporosis or osteoporotic vertebral fracture

Liao C, Tsauo J, Lin L, et al. Effects of elastic resistance exercise on body composition on body composition and physical capacitiy in older women with sacropenic obesity. Medicine. 2013. 96(23)

Mayer F, Scharhag-Rosenberger F, Carlsohn A. The intensity and effects of strength training in the elderly. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 108(21):359-64

PH 101 Something’s Wrong with my What?

 

You’ve waited and waited, now finally Pelvic Health 101 is BACK!

On September 20th, 2017 at 7pm we will be kicking off our fall semester of pelvic health education classes. We have a lot planned this year, so get pumped. 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 as well as the function of your bowel, bladder, and sexual muscles and organs. 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: pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

Here is our line up of this and future classes:

Pelvic Health 101 Fall 2017

Marathon Prep with Beyond Basics: Weeks 1-3

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT and Jessica Babich PT. DPT

15 KFiona: Hi everyone! It’s been a few weeks since our last update. I am currently halfway to our $3,000 fundraising goal for the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York. Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are raising money by running the New York City Marathon and taking donations. If you wish to donate here.

As far as training, things have gone well. The last 12 weeks of training have largely consisted of building a solid base with a whole lot of speed play to improve my lactic acid tolerance (you know, that burning feeling in your muscles, when you are really working hard). This will hopefully improve my ability to hang in there at a consistent speed throughout the race. In the next 12 weeks the amount of speed play will decrease and the mileage will slowly start to build, culminating with two 20 milers before the actual marathon.

So far my average pace has been slightly faster than goal and I have noticed that for the most part I feel stronger and more powerful than I had in the past. Also, the nagging calf pain sensation I had complained about in the past is now improving and occurs much less frequently. I’ve been doing my home exercise program that my physical therapist, Jessica Babich,  recommended on top of my pre-existing routine of strengthening, rolling, and stretching.

Here’s a little of what we worked on in our last 3 visits to help meet our goals, of running faster with less pain:

Week 1: Facilitation with theraband, core activation

On week one, Jessica worked to help get my core to fire more consistently. This is important to allow for greater push-off and power and can hopefully lead to reduced risk of injury. This stuff is hard! Jessica would put my body in a specific position and apply resistance to wake up my long dormant muscles. I broke a sweat but could definitely tell it was working.

Week 2: Ankle ( devil spawn)ankle.jpg

I hated it. But I loved the results. In my earlier blog I wrote about how I hurt my ankle doing a handstand (again, don’t ask). In my initial evaluation, Jessica noticed that I wasn’t quite pushing off well enough through my right side. Basically, I was using my left side to get my power, and the right side was just going along for the ride. No good. Not efficient. Jessica worked on getting the bones in my foot to glide the way they need to in order to improve my range of motion in that foot. Once I had the new range of motion, she gave me some exercises to help teach (we call it neuromuscular re-ed), the foot what to do. The process wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’ve definitely subjected myself to training runs that felt worse.

Here’s what was super neat about this whole deal. I had been doing some plyometric work on my own to help train power and speed. Prior to this visit, one of the exercises I was doing, was the box jump. It is what it sounds like, jump up onto this special cushy box. I started off jumping 24 inches, but I noticed I was really just doing a glorified hop, using my left leg to do all the work. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. On my own I regressed myself to a 12 inch box and tried hopping onto it with each leg (to get right leg in on the action and pulling it’s own weight). IT WAS SO HARD. It was like my body had no idea how to get itself on to the box when I used my right leg, My left leg was more than happy to do single leg box jumps all day, but righty definitely wanted to take the L (that means loss, not the L -train) on that one. But after the ankle treatment with Jessica, a 12 inch single leg box jump was easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. In fact, I progressed myself to the 16 inch box the next gym session. Currently, I am doing 18 inch single leg box jumps and am back to 24 inch box jumps with both legs. Right?! Wild!

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN ALL OF IT! I started to find on my shorter runs I could more easily keep a 8:30 pace (goal) without additional effort than I had spent on my slower runs. I eventually started doing those runs at 8 minute pace and 7:30 pace to spice it up. This past weekend I was able to do a 15K (9.3 miles) at 8:00 pace which is something I’d never dreamed of. It’s been really neat. I’ve had 3 rounds of physical therapy, and no one has ever addressed my feet which has made such a difference.

Week 3 : Myofascial release

This was the week of the monster cold(S), there were two separate colds and I was not able to run the way I would have liked. I still made my pace and snuck a couple in at 8 minute flat pace, but I did end up missing a few runs. When I saw Jessica, I was just about to slip into the terrible chasm of phelgmy awful misery for the next week and Jessica being extremely thoughtful and perceptive recognized what was afoot.

This session was the most passive of the sessions and she worked on my tight and tender leg muscles and I felt much better following the appointment.

Objective findings:

This is where we put our money where our respective mouths are and see if there is any improvement on the test we conducted during the initial evaluation.

Previous findings:

Lumbar protective mechanism (Institute of Physical Art) : We started with absent initiation in all four quadrants; meaning I had poor core control and was pretty wobbly.

Current Findings

Lumbar protective mechanism (Institute of Physical Art) : Right flexion 2/5, left extension sluggish 1/5, left flexion sluggish 1/5 right extension sluggish ⅕; what this means core is actually working to stabilize me while I run! It’s not super strong but it’s getting there.

Fiona’s impression:

So far I feel really good. I am experiencing less of my typical aches and pains and am feeling stronger and more confident in my runs. I have had several 6 mile training runs at about 7:30 minute miles, which is the fastest I’ve ever run that distance, which is so, so, so exciting. It’s hard to nail down exactly where my speed increase came from. I am doing more skilled physical therapy which has improved my core control and ankle range of motion, and I feel as though I push harder through the ground and float as I leave it. It’s an exhilarating feeling I haven’t had since running cross country in high school! And I also am much more focused in my speed workouts than I used too. Along with speed, Jessica has managed to inject a bit more joy into my running.

If you care to support New York Tisch Multiple sclerosis center through Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and Fiona McMahon’s running efforts please click here to help contribute to the ground breaking work they are doing for people with multiple sclerosis.

Beyond Basics’ Marathon Prep Program: The Evaluation

marathon-image.gif

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT & Jessica Babich PT, DPT
Fiona: Hello everyone, for those of you who didn’t get a chance to catch my blog a few weeks back, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is joining forces with the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York to raise money to support multiple sclerosis research, through Team Tisch MS NYC, in this year’s New York City Marathon. Our goal is $2,500  and WE ARE SO CLOSE, if you care to donate, please click here. I will be running the marathon in November, and Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is working to support my fundraising endeavors as well as showing the running community the invaluable benefits of having a sharp, perceptive, thorough and expert physical therapist on your side during training; and that goes for ANY sports training!

I just had my first evaluation with Jessica Babich, PT, DPT,  who is both a pelvic floor physical therapy expert as well as a functional movement specialist with an extensive background in orthopedics and sports-related injuries. Jessica was super thorough, she took an extremely detailed history, she looked at my posture, joint mobility and mechanics, strength, core function, and even how my shoes were constructed to see if they were good enough to run in! The shoe part was super wild!  In this blog you will see where I stand from a physical therapy perspective, and where I hope to go. Both Jessica and I are authors in this blog so keep an eye on who is talking so you can get the full scoop from both the physical therapist and the patient perspective

3 pillarsJessica: When I look at runners,  I first assess the individual as a whole and identify which area in their body seems to be driving inefficiency. I look at the 3 pillars of functional efficiency, (Mechanical, Neuromuscular, and Motor Control) when examining my patients. Within the mechanical capacity, I examine which structures such as joints, muscles, viscera, neurovasculature, etc.,  that could inhibit optimal functional performance.  Specifically with a runner, I am interested in his or her alignment as well as range of motion through their rib cage, spine, pelvis, and lower extremities.  Looking at a patient’s posture in both walking and running, allows me to determine the momentum driving the patient forward. This can be helpful in finding out what and where a dysfunction may be that could affect a runner’s performance. With a runner, I am interested in how he or she initiates his or her run.  Are they able to drive force through their lower extremities into their trunk without spinal compensation.  Does the runner have adequate strength and endurance to maintain appropriate form and movement strategy throughout their run?  I also examine what happens to the patient’s form during walking when you slow him or her down. Breaking down the whole movement pattern and looking at individual parts helps to further expose any problem areas. I examine dynamic stability and controlled mobility to ensure my patients are moving efficiently. From there, I examine the basics, is there a lack of movement (is something stuck or tight) that can affect a runner’s ability to powerfully push off the ground when they run and absorb force when they land.   Lastly, I am evaluating Motor Control.  If the mechanical capacity and neuromuscular function is present, how does this individual choose to move, or what is his or her strategy to get from point A to point B.  This is where a lot of the training comes into play.

 

History

Fiona: I told Jessica about my previous injuries, almost all have occurred secondary to decades of running (It truly is my favorite activity), currently I am feeling some left sciatic pain, which has become fairly bothersome.

.Orthopedic Injuries

  • Right hip labral tear
  • Right knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome), which comes and goes but is currently under control
  • Occasional left knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome), much less bothersome than the right side
  • Mild to moderate left calf pain, which also comes and goes
  • Right ankle sprain, from a failed handstand (don’t ask), no longer bothersome, but not properly rehabbed

Medical

  • Largely unremarkable, neural tension secondary to Arnold Chiari Type I malformation. Chiari occurs when part of the brain  (the cerebellum) herniates through the skull opening into the spinal cord. It sounds pretty awful, but for me, it’s not too bad and I only experience occasional dizziness as a symptom.

Current Exercise Routine:

  • I’m pretty regimented and break most of my workouts into 2 daily sessions. I run in the morning, currently I am working on speed training and run something between 3 and 8 miles daily, 5-6 times weekly. I am following one of my favorite marathon gurus, Hal Higdon’s plan, which you can see for yourself here.  I have used Hal’s plans for 2 of the 4 previous marathons I’ve run, and I really like how he organizes his plans. I would advise anyone thinking of trying a marathon, to use a training plan.  It allows you to ease yourself gently into upping the mileage, rather than panicking at 5 weeks before the race that you haven’t taken your long runs over 20 miles.  Following my run I do a mixture of stretches, use my stick ( it’s like a foam roller) and a trigger point ball to roll out my muscles. 4 nights a week I do PM weightlifting sessions, which last about 40 minutes. I split my lift into upper body and lower. I do a mixture of stabilizing and traditional exercise. When I’m done I’ll stretch again and this time roll out on a foam roller. In order to support all that exercise I drink a ton of water and try and fill my diet with lots of whole grain carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats (I’m looking at you avocados!)

The Evaluation:

Posture:

IMG_3011
Jessica examining my posture and my ability to tolerate load through the spine using the Vertical Compression Test

     Fiona has a posterior/posterior alignment.  ( This terminology comes from the Institute of Physical Art (IPA), and is a wonderful training program for PTs) Meaning, her ribcage is set posterior in relationship to her pelvis and her ribcage is tipped posteriorly.

Range of Motion (ROM):

 

  • Poor lumbar spine ROM, with an inability to reverse the curve in my lumbar spine
    • Why this is important: my spine should have motion in order to absorb the shock from repeated foot falls, also an immobile spine may inhibit the core stabilizers from firing properly
  • HISL testing ( another IPA test): Positive  at the right (hip) at 90 degrees, with poor glide of the femur down on the left side. Positive at left  (hip) at 100 degrees.
    • How do we translate this into non-physical therapy speak? First of all the HISL stands for Hip, Innominate, Sacrum, and Lumbar. It measures the relationship between the bones of the upper thigh, pelvis, and low back. What my results tell us is that my hips are stuck and cause my innominate (bone in the pelvis) to move too early. This is not so great because it causes the bones further up to have to move extra to compensate. We have to clean this up.

 

Strength and Function :IMG_3010

  • Instead of testing muscles one-by- one, which is commonly done in traditional physical therapy practices,  we decided to take a look at functional movements. Who gives a hoot if I have strong quadriceps while sitting on an exam table, if they can’t function properly during actual running, right?
  • LPM (Lumbar Protective Mechanism)( another IPA test) : absent in all quadrants
    • Dang! Lumbar protective mechanisms refers to the ability to stabilize your spine and protect your core in response to bumps and jostles. I didn’t stabilize at all. This is important because running is essentially a series of bumps and jostles, running on an unstable spine and core can increase your chances of injury as well as reduce your power during push-off in running leading to slower times (HORRENDOUS!).
  • Sagittal Plane Lunge: I have deficits with initiation and weight acceptance on both sides. I compress my arms in prayer position to create stability and when taken away I have a loss of trunk control. My right ankle more unstable than the left.
  • Runner’s Start Jump: difficulty coordinating movement on both sides, but significantly worse with initiation from right side at the ankle.
    • Remember my ankle sprain? Well, apparently that’s still holding me back and decreasing my ability to push off the ground. You could imagine how this could become a problem over the course of 26.2 miles. Moral of the story, see a PT after you hurt your ankle!
    • Also we see deficits in core control again.  I think addressing this with Jessica will really improve my time.

Shoes and wear:IMG_3000 (002)

  • Apparently my shoes were good! Jessica told me that sometimes right and left sneakers can be made in different factories and have different densities, which can really mess you up while running. Also if the back part of you sneaker extends too far it can make your brain think your foot is larger than it is, leading to injury. The wear of the shoe is also important to see if one foot pronates or supinates more than the other. If this was the case, Jessica could work on the alignment of the bones in my feet, ankle and foot strength, as well as teaching me how to tie my shoes in a way that better support my feet.

 

Assessment and Take Away:
Jessica’s Assessment: Fiona, like a majority of our athletes presents with deficits in the 3 major pillars leading to functional inefficiency. The goal of physical therapy, isn’t always to reduce pain, it is to get you to function better, which in turn will decrease wear and tear that contribute to common pain patterns.

Fiona: I can’t say I am surprised by much of what we found. I am slightly disappointed with my core activation finding, because I had been focusing on that particular issue for months and months in the gym. Jessica told me she thought part of my issue was that my lower (lumbar) spine was so rigid, it might be hard for me to get into a place where my deep core muscles can work to facilitate stability. It goes to show, even as a physical therapist, you need someone else to literally watch your back. As a physical therapist, my evaluation showed me that now is the time for help. Although I am strong and spend hours working out, my core stability is something I need more help with, and I simply cannot work my way out of my weakness alone in a gym. I’ve tried long enough. I need gentle manual therapy and proprioceptive neuromuscular feedback to wake my lazy deep stabilizers out of their hibernation and orthopedic work to allow the joints of my spine and pelvis to move more efficiently and effectively. Although this body has its deficits, I’m really proud of what it has done so far, and I’m really excited to see where Jessica will help me go!

 

Plan:

  • Improve the movement of: right foot, trunk, and cervical spine
  • Improve core stability and strength to allow for more power and reduction of injury risk
    • We will achieve these goals through manual work, neuromuscular re-education in order to teach the muscles to activate better and a strong home program to maintain changes made in physical therapy.

 Goals

Jessica: My goal is to treat the mechanical deficits inhibiting her neuromuscular system and then functionally reintegrate the parts into the whole system to enhance performance efficiency.

Long Term Goals:

  • 1: (12 Weeks) | Patient to demonstrate core first strategy with transitional movements to improve stability, energy efficiency and decrease risk for injury
  • 2: (12 Weeks) | Patient to demonstrate optimal ribcage over pelvic posturing for automatic core engagement and decrease mechanical load on system.
  • 3: (12 Weeks) | Patient to improve R foot positioning for stability and push off in gait

 

Home Exercise Program:

So far I have one addition to my workout routine. It is a split stance at the wall designed to wake up my stabilizers before I go running. I stand at the wall with one leg fully extended on my toes and the other bent at the knee and the hip, with my toes pointed up. I hold for 30 seconds per side and then I get going. It has been a couple days since this exercise was assigned, and I’ve done it on about 50% of my runs. Remembering to do your home program is one of the biggest challenges of physical therapy. My strategy to combat this is to leave a sticky note on my door reminding me before I leave the house. I will report back on future blogs to let you know how my strategy worked out.

That’s it for now:

Check out more info and pictures on our instagram and facebook pages

Click Here to Donate to support Team Tisch MS NYC:

 

 

What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

marigold-2117436_960_720By Amy Stein, DPT and Fiona McMahon, DPT

May is Pelvic Pain Awareness Month (#PelvicPainAware), supported by the International Pelvic Pain Society (www.pelvicpain.org). As physical therapists who specialize in abdomino-pelvic pain disorders, one of the toughest parts of the job is meeting men and women who have suffered with pelvic pain for years, only to be told by their doctors/healthcare providers that there is no help for them. It is not uncommon to meet a patient who has suffered for 5- 10 years without help before finding us. Musculoskeletal causes of abdomino-pelvic pain are treatable conditions and often times we can start to improve a patient’s symptoms within just a few visits. We are promoting Pelvic Pain Awareness Month because it is our mission to ensure that people know that help exists so they can start living richer and fuller lives. In honor of Pelvic Pain Awareness Month we want to take some time to explain what we do and how it can help with the symptoms of pelvic pain. Please read on to see how we can help you with your pain.

What do pelvic floor physical therapists actually do? Why do they do what they do? What can you expect from your first physical therapy visit?

Physical therapists (PTs) are experts in movement and function, which sounds like a pretty broad topic to be an expert in, and it is. After physical therapists graduate PT school (now-a-days at the doctoral level), they find their niche and specialize. You can find PTs working with high-level athletes, children, infants, people who are recovering from injuries, people with neurological conditions and many other types of clients.

Pelvic floor physical therapists specialize in the muscles, nerves and connective tissues that live between your legs, also known as the pelvic floor. They gain their expertise through a series of post-graduate continuing education classes, certifications, and training. Their training allows them to perform both internal and external pelvic exams, and broadens their knowledge of conditions which affect the pelvic floor. Sometimes, people who specialize in modalities like biofeedback or dilator therapy, advertise themselves as pelvic floor therapists, but don’t have any hands on experience treating the sensitive and often reactive muscles of the pelvic floor. If you are seeking pelvic floor physical therapy, it is important to enquire about the experience and level of training your potential physical therapist has had in this specialty.

What is the pelvic floor and what is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Who needs pelvic floor PT? The pelvis performs many important functions of the body. The muscles, nerves, connective tissues and skeletal structures of the pelvic floor help to keep us continent, aid in sexual performance and function, and assist in core stability.

When some or all of these structures of the pelvic floor are not functioning properly, they can cause a multitude of different symptoms. People who are suffering from bowel, bladder, and or sexual problems, as well as those who are suffering from pain in the pelvis, upper legs, abdomen or buttocks most likely have pelvic floor impairments contributing to their pain.

Issues with the pelvic floor can arise from a multitude of reasons. Infections, previous surgeries, childbirth, postural and lifting problems, and trips and falls can all bring on pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor pain can persist well after the cause of it has been removed. So it is entirely possible to feel the effects of an old infection, surgery or injury, days to years after they occur. Anyone who has had long standing abdomino-pelvic pain, or pain that they can’t seem to get rid of after seeking the help of medical doctors or other healthcare providers is a good candidate for a pelvic floor physical therapy evaluation and possible curative treatment.

What is Pelvic Floor Physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a practice of healing that restores function and reduces pain through the use of techniques to improve bony alignment, reduce trigger points, and improve muscle coordination and strength. Pelvic floor physical therapy is a branch of physical therapy and is built upon these same principles.

What sets pelvic floor physical therapists apart is their in depth understanding of the muscles and surrounding structures of the pelvic floor, beyond what was taught in physical therapy graduate school. What that means for a patient who is seeking the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist, is that his or her pelvic floor issues will be examined and treated comprehensively with both internal and external treatment, provide them with lifestyle modifications to help remove any triggers, and receive specific exercises and treatment to help prevent the reoccurrence of pain once he or she has been successfully treated.

What exactly do Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists Do?

The elephant in the room with pelvic floor physical therapy is the internal exam/ treatment. It can seem a little daunting, especially if you have pelvic floor pain, but pelvic floor therapists are trained to be as thorough as possible while minimizing discomfort.

During the internal exam, your physical therapist will place a gloved finger into your vagina or rectum to assess the tone, strength, and irritability of your pelvic floor muscles and tissues. Internal exams and internal treatment are invaluable tools that are taught to pelvic floor physical therapists. It can tell us if there are trigger points (painful spots, with a referral pattern or local); muscle/tissue shortening; nerve irritation and/or bony malalignment that could be causing your pain directly or inhibiting the full function of your pelvic floor muscles. We can also determine if your pelvic floor has good coordination during the exam. A pelvic floor without good coordination, may not open and close appropriately for activities such as going to the bathroom, supporting our pelvis and trunk, sexual activity, and keeping us continent.

It is essential that we, as pelvic floor physical therapists, also include other assessments when we are examining our patients for the very first time. We employ the tried and true physical therapy exam practices to determine if there is an underlying condition elsewhere in your body, such as a strength deficit or alignment issue that could be affecting your pelvic floor. It’s wild to think of it, but something as seemingly unrelated as a flat foot or a hip injury can be enough to set off pelvic and abdominal pain!

Some pelvic floor physical therapists may have the opportunity of getting a lot of time to speak one-on-one with a patient to determine possible causes of his or her symptoms, educate the patient and to guide them to other practitioners who may optimize their physical therapy results if necessary. We truly can find out so much by just listening to what our patients have to say. A fall, or infection can be significant as well as a patient’s feelings and knowledge about their current condition.

Once we determine the cause of our patient’s pelvic floor dysfunction, we design a plan tailored to the patient’s needs. At Beyond Basics, we have a diverse crew of physical therapists who bring their own training and background into each treatment. What is really beautiful about that, is that all teach and help each other grow as practitioners. It will be difficult to go over every single type of treatment in one blog post, but we will review some of the main staples of pelvic floor rehab.

Manual Techniques

As physical therapists, are our hands are amazing gifts and phenomenal diagnostic tools that we can use to assess restrictions, tender points, swelling, muscle guarding, atrophy, nerve irritation and skeletal malalignment. We also use our hands to treat out these problems, provide feedback to the muscles, and facilitate the activation of certain muscle groups. There have been a great number of manual techniques that have evolved over the course of physical therapy’s history. Let’s go over a few.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release was developed by John Barnes to evaluate and treat the myo-fascia throughout the body. The myofascial system is the connective tissue that coats our muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones, and runs throughout our bodies. Any tightness or dysfunction in the myofascial system can affect the aforementioned structures and result in pain and or movement dysfunction. By treating the fascia directly, therapists can improve their patient’s range of motion, reduce pain, and improve a patient’s structure and movement patterns.

Myofascial release is a more gentle technique that can be useful in cases where a patient is already experiencing a great deal of pain. The therapist will hold gentle pressure at the barrier of the tissue (the point where resistance is felt) for a short period of time, usually less than 2 minutes until the therapist feels the tissue release on its own. The therapist does not force the barrier.

Scar Tissue Manipulation

Scars are almost always a fact of life. From surgeries, to accidents, to conditions like endometriosis, or certain STI’s, almost everybody has one. What doesn’t have to be a fact of life are the muscle, nerve and skin restrictions and overactivity that they can cause. By releasing scar tissue in physical therapy, it has been shown that the surrounding restrictions also decrease their resistance and adherence to the deeper tissues and surrounding organs.

Myofascial Trigger Point Release

Discussed extensively in Travel and Simon’s two volume series, trigger points are taut (firm) points in the muscle that have a consistent referral pattern (they transmit pain to the another part of the body). Trigger points are not only important because they cause pain, they also can affect how the muscle works. This is one of the main reasons our therapists at Beyond Basics are fastidious about ensuring all trigger points are released in the abdomen, back, legs and pelvic floor before transitioning to any core stabiltiy or strengthening exercises that can re activate a trigger point.

People with trigger points in their pelvic floor and surrounding areas can experience pain in the rectum, anus, coccyx, sacrum, abdomen, groin and back and can cause bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction. When physical therapists find a trigger point they work to eliminate it and lengthen it through a myriad of techniques. Recent literature has found that trigger point release alone can achieve an 83% reduction in symptoms.

Connective Tissue Manipulation

Skin rolling, ie. rolling of the skin over another layer helps to improve the movement of those two layers and reduce the tension and pulling between them. It feels like a scratch or ‘nails’, and in cases where a patient has more restrictions, the sensation may be more amplified.

One of the great benefits to skin rolling is it increases the circulation in the area to which it was applied. Often times, areas that are tight or restricted are receiving reduced blood flow and oxygen. By bringing blood flow to the area, toxins can be cleared and the healing contents of the blood are brought to the injured area. Skin rolling can also restore the mobility of surrounding joints and nerves, which can help to restore normal function. By allowing the skin to move more freely, pelvic congestion, heaviness and aching can be effectively treated.

Neural, Visceral, and Joint Mobilization

Nerves, organs, and joints can lose their natural mobility over time and cause a whole host of symptoms from pain, to loss of range of motion, and poor functioning of the bodily symptoms. Skilled and specialized therapists can use a variety of active techniques (patient assisted) and passive techniques to free up restrictions in these tissues and organs and improve overall function.

Neural mobilization as the name implies, involves the restoration of neural structures back to their normal mobility: to glide and slide. Neural structures that cannot move properly can cause pain that can radiate down an extremity or into the trunk and can give the sensation of burning, zinging, and stabbing. Some orthopedic therapists practice this type of mobilization; common examples include the sciatic nerve in the leg and the ulnar nerve in the arm. Pelvic floor PTs focus on these nerves when they cause issues, but they also pay attention to nerves that innervate the perineum and genital region (bicycle seat area), such as the pudendal, iliohypogastric, obturator, ilioinguinal, genitofemoral and the femoral cutaneous nerves. By allowing these nerves to move freely, symptoms such as vulvovaginal, penile, rectal, clitoral and testicular pain, itching and burning can be greatly improved.

Visceral mobilization restores movement to the viscera or organs. As elucidated earlier in our blog, the viscera can affect a host of things even including how well the abdominal muscles reunite following pregnancy or any abdominal surgery. Visceral mobilization aids in relieving constipation/IBS symptoms, bladder symptoms, digestive issues like reflux, as well as sexual pain. Visceral mobilization can facilitate blood supply to aid in their function, allow organs to do their job by ensuring they have the mobility to move in the way they are required to perform their function, and to allow them to reside in the correct place in their body cavity. Evidence is beginning to emerge to demonstrate how visceral mobilization can even aid in fertility problems.

Joint mobilization is a common and favorite tool of most orthopedic physical therapists. We love it so much because it can have so many different benefits depending on the type of technique used. Maitland describes types of joint mobilization on a scale between 1 and 5. Grade 1 and 2 mobilizations are applied to a joint to help to lessen pain and spasm. These types of mobilizations are typically used when a patient is in a lot of pain and to help break the pain cycle. On a non-painful joint, grade 3, 4, and 5 (grade 5 requires post graduate training) mobilizations can be used to help restore full range of motion. By restoring full range of motion within a restricted joint, it is possible to lessen the burden on that and surrounding joints, thereby alleviating pain and improving function.

Neuro-education of the Pelvic Floor and Surrounding Structures

The muscles of the pelvic floor must work together and in coordination to perform specific tasks. The pelvic floor has to contract, elongate and relax in very precise ways to perform basic functions like urination, defecation, support the pelvis and organs, and sexual function and pleasure. If your pelvic floor muscles and/or nerves fail to do what they are supposed to do at the right time, problems like painful sex, erectile dysfunction, constipation, and incontinence can occur.

Biofeedback is a modality that allows you to learn how to better control your muscles for optimal function. Biofeedback shows you what your muscles are doing in-real time. It is helpful to teach patients to lengthen and relax the pelvic floor for issues like general pelvic pain, painful sexual activity and constipation or to contract the pelvic floor in order to prevent leakage with activities like coughing, laughing, lifting, running or moving heavy objects. However, biofeedback does not demonstrate shortened muscles and tissues; therefore, in certain cases the biofeedback may seem to be within normal limits but yet the patient has 10/10 pain. In these incidences, manual palpation is more appropriate to identify restricted and shortened tissues and muscles, and myofascial trigger points.

HEP: Home Exercise Program

 

Home exercise programs are essential for each patient. In the case of weakness, a patient will require more pelvic floor, core and functional strengthening and stability exercises. For overactive and pain conditions, the HEP typically consists of relaxation techniques, self-massages (both external and internal), gentle stretching, cardiovascular fitness as tolerated, and eventually pain-free core stability exercises. Both require postural and behavioral modifications and self-care strategies. For more information and detail, check out the book: Heal Pelvic Pain, by Amy Stein or her DVD: Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain here.

Conclusion

As you can now see, there is so much out there that can be done for people suffering with pelvic floor dysfunction. This blog is by no means extensive, and there are even more options you and your physical therapist can explore to help manage your pain or other pelvic issues. Pelvic floor dysfunction requires a multidisciplinary approach for most of our patients. Hopefully, this blog helped to paint a picture of what you will experience with a pelvic floor physical therapist. We advise that you seek out an expert and experienced pelvic floor physical therapist in order to help better your life and improve your function.

Sources

FitzGerald M, Kotarinos R. Rehabilitation of the short pelvic floor I. Background and patient evaluation.

Padoa A, Rosenbaum T. The Overactive Pelvic Floor. Springer. 2016

Simons DG, Travell JG, Simons LS. Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Volume 1 Upper Half of Body. 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins; 1999.

Stein, Amy. Heal Pelvic Pain. McGraw-Hill. 2008

Stein, Amy. Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain. Video: www.healingpelvicandabdominalpain.com 2013

Travell, Janet G. and Simons, David G., MYOFASCIAL PAIN AND DYSFUNCTION. THE TRIGGER POINT MANUAL, Volume 2, The Lower Extremities, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, 1992.

Valovska A. Pelvic Pain Management. Oxford University Press. 2016

Weiss J. Chronic pelvic pain and myofascial trigger points: manual therapy for interstitial cystitis and the urgency-frequency syndrome. J Urol. 2001; 166(6) 2226-31