Pilates and the Pelvic Floor

 

Gym CadillacKierstin Elliott, Pilates Instructor at BBPT

Breath. Breath is the common denominator for understanding how pilates can enhance the pelvic floor’s function. Reciprocally, using your pelvic floor correctly can deepen your connection to your pilates practice.

Let’s take a look at how to optimize your breath in the first place. A deep, three dimensional breath utilizes your diaphragm to its fullest extent. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts forming a dome shape under the rib cage while simultaneously lengthening the pelvic floor creating a cylindrical shape within your torso.

There are two options for the rib cage while you take this inhale. Option one involves flaring the ribs outward during the breath. Option two involves narrowing the ribs slightly down towards your ASIS (hip bones). When we breathe with a more neutral, tapered rib cage, we utilize the second option for rib placement, thus finding our Zone of Apposition (ZOA). Breathing within the ZOA provides us with the most efficient breath we can take. Once the ribs are placed properly over the pelvis, we’re able to create the cylindrical shape within the torso and the relationship between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor is optimized!

Pilates is rooted in core strengthening principles that directly correlate to breath and the ZOA. In order to keep your ribs from flaring, ultimately keeping you from finding the ZOA, you need to have a sense of abdominal control. There are a handful of ways to find the ZOA, but one of my favorite cues to use with clients is to “narrow your ribs toward your naval.” Try this on your own either lying down, sitting, or standing, and notice what happens to your abs as soon as you taper, or narrow, your ribs toward your naval. You should feel some muscle tone over your stomach. AKA your abs kicking in!

Once you’ve achieved proper rib placement, ab engagement, and optimal breath, layering various exercises into your program will be much more attainable. It requires a good amount of body awareness to be able to coordinate these three major concepts before advancing through your pilates practice. It’s also important to concentrate on how your pelvic floor is reacting to your breath and movement. In footwork, for example, you start in neutral spine and exhale as you press the carriage out feeling a slight contraction in the pelvic floor. On the inhale, knees bend pulling the carriage back to it’s starting position while the tailbone drops slightly and the sits bones widen allowing you to lengthen the pelvic floor. (Prime example of moving within your ZOA).

As you can see, the pelvic floor plays a huge role in breath and core activation which is the root foundation of all your pilates and basic core exercises! If this interests you, or utterly confuses you, schedule a pilates session with me at Beyond Basics!

Call us today at 212-354-2622

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Pelvic 3

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

What is the sacroiliac joint?

You’ve probably heard of SI pain, but what is the SIJ and what can we do if something goes wrong?

The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) connects the sacrum, the wedge-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine, to the ilium, which is one of three bones that make up each half of the pelvis. (1) The sacroiliac joint is designated as a diarthrodial joint, which means it is a moveable joint that is surrounded by connective tissue. (2,3) Each joint is supported mainly by ligaments that lie in front and behind it, that are made up of strong, threadlike types of connective tissue. Stability is also enhanced through ligaments that connect between the spine and the sacrum (sacrospinous ligament), and the sit bone and the sacrum (sacrotuberous ligament). (2)

The SIJ helps us to walk and change positions by being stable enough to move weight from the spine to the legs, while allowing for a small amount of movement between the spine and the pelvis. This small amount of movement between the spine and the pelvis is also important as it allows for the pelvis to expand to make childbirth easier. (2,4) These functions can occur due to the unique design of the SIJ.

According to a well-known researcher named Andry Vleeming, the SIJ gains its stability in one of two ways: through form closure or force closure. Form closure refers to the stability provided by the bony surfaces of the sacrum and ilium, which fit together like a puzzle. You may use this type of stability, for instance, when you are lifting a heavy box, or pushing a very full cart of groceries; you want your SIJ to be as immobile as possible so your trunk can be stiff and rigid, allowing you to move a heavy load without overstressing any muscles in your back. Force closure describes stability occurring through the ligaments and muscles around the joint; this allows for more movement to occur. For this type of stability, think salsa dancing. In salsa dancing you need a great deal of hip and pelvic movement; however, you need those movements to be in control so you can move with precision along with the quick beat of the music. (5-7)

 

What is sacroiliac joint dysfunction?

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SIJD) is a common cause of low back pain, accounting for up to 40% of cases of nonspecific low back pain. (4,8) It can occur in any population: males and females; those with a sedentary lifestyle and those who are athletes. However, there seems to be a slightly greater occurrence in women, with the theory being that since the joint surface in women is smaller and less curved, the SIJ may become dislodged more easily. (2,4) SIJD can have a negative impact on quality of life, from being less active to having a financial impact. For instance, indirect health-care costs associated with low back pain range from $7-$28 billion per year, and individuals lose an estimated 5.2 hours of work time per week. (4)

The origin of SIJ pain is unknown; however, factors that may contribute include fractures, ligamentous injuries, or inflammation that occur with excessive stress to the SIJ. (8) Risk factors for developing SIJD include abnormal walking patterns, differences in leg length, scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine), heavy physical exertion, trauma, pregnancy, and back surgery. (8) Presentation of symptoms can vary quite a bit; however, individuals with SIJD often present with achy low back pain that can make it difficult to find a comfortable position. Pain may worsen with running, climbing stairs, or standing from a seated position. Also, if pain is truly coming from the SIJ, a person will not experience symptoms down into the leg, as is seen with sciatic nerve involvement. (4)

 

How is SIJD diagnosed?

SIJD can be very challenging to diagnose due to the complexity of the joint itself, as well as the variation in pain patterns that can be seen; thus, if you visit a healthcare provider, you may find he or she performs an array of components in an examination. Many individuals have tenderness with touch over the joint; this can help a healthcare provider rule in SIJD. (2,8). Also, various orthopedic tests can be performed that put stress on this joint, such as by putting a person’s trunk or leg in a certain position to see if it recreates symptoms. (2) Imaging can be performed in this area, but it rarely provides clear information that can help make a diagnosis; however, a doctor might recommend it if there is a concern for infection, inflammation, fracture, or other more serious conditions. (2) Injections into the SIJ itself can also be used to help diagnosis this condition, and are shown to be one of the single-most definitive diagnostic tools available. (2) Overall, effective diagnosis for dysfunction at the SIJ requires the use of multiple tools to help increase the accuracy of the condition being ruled in or out.

 

How can this impact function? Why does it matter?

It is hypothesized that SIJD can have such a significant impact on quality of life because it results in inadequate stability at the joint during movement. If the SIJ is unable to maintain an optimal level of stability, then excessive stresses will likely be placed on surrounding structures and tissues when each leg has body weight going through it. This can lead to other areas of pain, and potentially start the process of degeneration. (4) A recent research group looked at the impact of SIJD on a simple, but common functional task of rising from a chair. They found that in individuals with SIJD, there were significant differences in the amount of weight a person was putting through the leg on the painful side, as well as in the amount of bend at the hips when sitting. They also found that when individuals began to rise from a chair, muscles on the side of SIJ did not turn on right away, which means the muscles were not helping to keep the SIJ from moving too much. (4) Thus, this condition can make it challenging to use the body efficiently due to pain and weakness, which can negatively impact function throughout a given day.

 

What can physical therapy do?

Once a person is diagnosed with SIJD, what can be done? Research has shown that non-surgical treatment, such as physical therapy, can be very beneficial for someone with SIJD. If you see a physical therapist, you will likely receive some variation of joint mobilization and exercise, which is shown to help achieve significant improvements in pain, function, alignment, and muscle control. Exercise programs that emphasized pelvic stability through core, pelvic floor, and gluteus (hip and buttock) exercises, as well as increasing the strength of hip rotator muscles, decreased pain and decreased reported disability after a range of 8-12 weeks. (8,9) In other studies, an exercise program that focused mostly on gluteus maximus strengthening was utilized, since this muscle is considered one of the primary stabilizers of the SIJ. The exercises in these programs included bridging, single leg bridging, hip extension on hands and knees, fire hydrants, deadlifts, and single-leg squatting. In these studies, participants reported less pain after the course of treatment, demonstrated increased muscle strength, and returned to normal daily activities. (10,11) While there is no set exercise protocol established at this point, a strengthening program, with or without a home program, is a mainstay for treating this condition, and results in improved function.

 

Are there other treatments?

In some cases, physical therapy alone is unable to resolve the issue. In these situations, a patient may be given an injection of corticosteroids to decrease inflammation, in or around the SIJ. Prolotherapy is also sometimes used in this population to help reconstruct or regenerate damaged or weakened connective tissue. While it is helpful to know what other options are out there, it is important to note that the research in these areas is continuing to develop, and there is no consensus on dosage or who is the optimal candidate. (2)

 

Conclusion

The sacroiliac joint is a complex joint between the back and the pelvis, that allows for minimal mobility, and is required to maintain stability between the trunk and the legs. It can become painful due to direct or indirect trauma, which can have a significant impact on function and quality of life. While diagnosis can be tricky due to the wide variety of symptoms, research is finding that conservative care through physical therapy can make a significant difference by promoting optimal alignment and stability. If you or someone you know is struggling with sacroiliac joint dysfunction, make an appointment with a physical therapist today to help improve function. Feel free to contact our office at 212-354-2622, or visit our website (www.beyondbasicsphysicaltherapy.com) for more information!

 

 

Sources:

1. Ullrich, Peter F. “Sacroiliac Joint Anatomy.” Spine-Health, www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/sacroiliac-joint-anatomy.

2. Peebles R, Jonas CE. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction in the athlete: diagnosis and management. Current Sports Medicine Reports, vol. 16, no. 5, 2017, pp. 336-342.

3. “Diarthrodial Joint.” Biology Online, www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Diarthrodial_ joint.

4. Capobianco RA, Feeney DF, Jeffers JR, et al. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction patients exhibit altered movement strategies when performing a sit-to-stand task. The Spine Journal, 2018, DOI: https://doiorg/10.1016/j.spinee.2018.03.008.

5. Vleeming A, Stoeckart R, Volkers AC, et al. Relation between form and function in the sacroiliac joint. Part I: Clinical anatomical aspects. Spine, vol 15, 1990, pp. 130-132.

6. Vleeming A, Volkers AC, Snijders CJ, et al. Relation between form and function in the sacroiliac jt. Part II: Biomechanical aspects. Spine, vol 15, 1990, pp. 133-136.

7. Vleeming A, Schuenke MD, Masi AT, et al. The sacroiliac joint: an overview of its anatomy, function, and potential clinical implications. J Anat, vol 221, 2012, pp. 537-567.

8. Al-Subahi M, Alayat M, Alshehri MA, et al. The effectiveness of physiotherapy interventions for the sacroiliac joint dysfunction: a systematic review. J Phys Ther Sci, vol 29, 2017, pp. 1689-1694.

9. Albright J, Allman R, Bonfiglio RP, et al. Philadelphia Panel Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines on Selected Rehabilitation Interventions for Low Back Pain, Physical Therapy, vol 81, n 10, 2001, pp. 1641–1674.

10. Added MAN, de Freitas DG, Kasawara KT, et al. Strengthening the gluteus maximus in subjects with sacroiliac dysfunction. International Journal of Sports Phys Ther, vol 13, n 1, 2018, pp. 114-120.

11. Yoo WG. Effect of the single-leg, lateral oblique, decline squat exercise on sacroiliac joint pain with knee pain. J Phys Ther Sci, vol 28, 2016, pp. 2688-2689.

The Special Care Needs of the LGBTQ+ Community

Happy Pride Month!!!!

We are reposting an old post broadly discussing the LGBTQ+ community, with special focus on transgender individuals. Please keep checking back as we continue to discuss specific issues relating to the care of the LGBTQ+ community.  

Amy Stein PT, DPT and Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

rainbow flag

Who are LGBTQ+ individuals?

At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we have been meeting and studying with experts about the LGBTQ + community. LGBTQ+ refers to individuals who do not identify as heterosexual or do not identify as cis- gendered (although these two categories are not mutually exclusive). Cis-gender means you identify with the genital anatomy you were born with. People who belong to the LGBTQ+ community can be cis-gendered (meaning they identify with the genital anatomy that they were born with) and be gay/lesbian/ bisexual/ questioning etc.  They can be trans-gender and heterosexual or some combination thereof. Basically LGBTQ+ is a term that includes people who are not both cis-gender and heterosexual. LGBTQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and other individuals.  

Never Assume. Listen, Ask.

We were excited to understand and learn more about how we can help, specifically with patients experiencing pain or weakness in the pelvic floor. We met with an LGBTQ + advocate and he recommended the following when it comes to treating patients both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community.  First rule of thumb:  with all patients, don’t assume and be open to any questions or discussion. Ask if your patient would like you to stay away from certain terms regarding their anatomy, as well as their preferred gender pronoun. Use language that they want us to use.

 As with all patients, we need to use a biopsychosocial approach. With any patient, Richard Green at Bellevue hospital says that we always want to know exactly what is going on with our patient. We must subjectively understand why they are visiting us.  Has there been trauma, surgery, complications, or anything that has worsened their symptoms? What hormones and medications are they on? Don’t single anyone out. These questions are important for every patient.  

We want to get the medical and surgical history during or prior to the visit. There is no standard one surgical procedure or hormonal protocol in trans care. Hormones, either testosterone, estrogen, lupron, puberty blocking, testosterone suppressing can be used in many patients, but are also used specifically to aid in transition in transgender patients. Many hormones have consequences or side effects and our patients need be educated on the various options.  There is research on hormones and bodily changes, however there is no good research on how the hormones affect the pelvic region. Anti-estrogen hormones may result in vaginal drying and atrophy, more tissue tearing, and pain with penetration.  Endometriosis can be worsened with testosterone hormones.  Hormones can be administered via injection, pellets, patches, creams, gels, and pill form.  It’s important to realize side effects and risks of hormones for each patient. Dosage depends on body type, weight, previous surgeries, etc.  Hormone therapy can be given by a primary care provider or endocrinologist; however, many are not familiar with a specific protocol but at the same time each person may have different goals.  Progression of hormones can be monitored for each patient and according to patients wants and needs.  

For those who opt for surgical transition, it can result in pelvic pain and or weakness as organs are moved and or removed. Like we mentioned before, there is no one surgical protocol and it will vary from surgeon to surgeon, from changes in hormones from the removal of certain organs.  Knowing what tissues have been removed or moved and or where scar tissue could have been formed, is important to addressing a patient’s complaints. Also, it’s important to ask if the patient was having these symptoms or pain prior to any of the surgeries or hormonal medications. Surgical transition can take a long time with various surgeries and various symptoms that arise throughout. Some issues that  can occur are fistulas or fissures and when dealing with nerve implants there could be nerve damage and restrictions.

 

How is care for the LGBTQ+ community funded and regulated?

Medical coverage for the LGBTQ + community is non-regulated and different in each state. The Affordable Care Act, (ACA) covers some therapies and surgeries. You can try to appeal with each insurance which have their own policies on gender affirming care.

How can physical therapy help?

At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we specialize in abdomino-pelvic disorders, including pain, weakness, bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction.  We also specialize in orthopedics and functional manual therapy.  We treat the LGBTQ+ community and we welcome any questions at desk@beyondbasicspt.com or call 212-354-2622. We are happy to help and look forward to hearing from you!
Resources: Center of excellence for transgender health.

WPATH center for care Endocrine Society

  • speaks on hormone therapy (however some information may be out of date).

 Adolescent Health Center

Pilates Tip: Supine Toe Taps

Kierstin Elliot, Pilates Instructor, BBPT

STT5toe tap

Exercise: Supine Toe Taps

Set up: Lying on back, imprint spine, legs in table top, arms resting by sides.

Execution: Inhale to start, exhale to hinge right leg down towards floor (about 45 degrees from hip) and then return back to table top. Repeat on left side, alternating for 8-10 reps. Start with minimal range of motion and then increase once you feel more confident with the exercise.

Focus: Lower abs. It’s imperative to go slowly with this exercise to ensure isolation of the abdomen. Focus on turning off the quads and hip flexors ( the muscles in the front of the legs) as they will want to take over. In addition, be careful that your pelvis doesn’t tip sideways or your back doesn’t arch. Initiate from the lowers abs.

Importance: One of the best exercises for lower abdominal strengthening. This exercise also enhances your ability to stabilize the pelvis and lower back, isolate lower abs, and hone in on the mind/body connection.

Modifications: For a challenge, try keeping legs together. Allow yourself to hinge downward for 4 seconds and then back up to table top for 4 seconds. To make it more accessible, try placing an inflatable cushion or disk under your sacrum. This prop will add increased awareness to lower back/pelvis region as well as adding support.

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)

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.

 

 

Take Charge of Your Health! How to Advocate for Yourself.

StethoscopeKaitlyn Parrotte, PT, DPT

Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy (OCS)

Certified Functional Manual Therapist (CFMT)

The new year is in full swing, and many of us have set goals to help start things off with renewed energy. One area in which, many people make goals in is health. While some folks vow to go to the gym regularly, or eat healthily, many other individuals commit to having medical check-ups, or taking care of a long-festering issue, such as a painful knee or abdominal pain. No matter what type of healthcare provider you are visiting, it is imperative that you come prepared to make sure you are getting all the facts, and are able to advocate for yourself to ensure you are receiving the best treatment for you.

Come with a Plan

One way you can advocate for yourself is to come prepared to a medical consultation by bringing a list of questions and subjective information with you. Be prepared to discuss what is bringing you to see that health care provider. What symptoms you might be experiencing? When these symptoms began? What makes you feel better and worse? How your symptoms make you feel limited in your daily life, and what you are hoping to get out of seeing that practitioner (i.e. a referral to a specialist, pain relief, etc.,.)? Many questions can arise during a medical examination, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, and make sure you understand the information you have been given. Research has shown, that individuals who ask specific questions about their health, may receive more comprehensive care. For example, in a 2015 article from the Journal of Family Medicine and Community Health, researchers found that when older patients were more proactive with communication to their doctors, primary care physicians were more likely to recommend both cancer screening and cancer prevention to their patients.1

On Second Opinions

When you receive a medical result, do not be afraid to get a second opinion. People seek out second opinions for various reasons: to get reassurance on a treatment protocol, to confirm the findings of a particular healthcare provider, to verify the reputation of a given institution, and even due to patient dissatisfaction in the communication or relationship with a practitioner.2-3 Whatever your reason, know that it is your right to have a second opinion to ensure you are getting the best possible care. Some research has found that second opinions have changed the diagnosis and/or course of treatment. In two studies that look at different patient populations with cancer, they found that in cases where a specialized practitioner was consulted, the accuracy of initial staging for a diagnosis increased, treatment and management of the condition was affected in about 20% of cases, and unnecessary surgeries were prevented in about 7% of cases.4-5 Thus, getting a second opinion can be very beneficial to you. Whether it changes the course of a treatment, or simply reinforces what you have already been told, seeking a second opinion can help you make educated decisions regarding your care.

Consider Both Risks and Benefits

If you are given a diagnosis and are informed of your treatment options, make sure to ask about, and consider, the risk-benefit analysis for each. The “risk-benefit analysis” is defined as “the consideration of whether a medical or surgical procedure, particularly a radical approach, is worth the risk to the patient as compared with possible benefits if the procedure is successful.”6 What this means is, it is important to weigh any treatment’s potential outcome on your quality of life, as well as your values and goals, when determining what route of care you’d like to embark on. If the risks outweigh the benefits for you personally, then it may not be a treatment worth trying. However, that is a very specific and personal decision, that must occur between you and those close to you, under the guidance of your health care provider.

Prevent Illness Before it Happens

While it is very important to be well-informed and prepared for a visit so you can better advocate for yourself, taking steps to prevent illness or injury in the first place, is crucial to promote overall well-being. Two major changes you can make in enhancing your health are diet and exercise. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, 117 million individuals, which is about half of all American adults, “have one or more preventable chronic diseases,”7 which include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers (i.e. colorectal and postmenopausal breast cancer), and poor bone health. Theses chronic diseases are related to poor quality eating habits and physical inactivity. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of adults, and nearly one-third of children, are overweight or obese, which is associated with increased health risks and higher healthcare costs.7 Key recommendations for a “healthy eating pattern” include: eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and oils, as well as fat-free or low-fat dairy, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.7 Research has found that most Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. However, those that do tend to eat more fruit at breakfast and in snacks throughout the day, while more vegetables are consumed at lunch and dinner.8 This is something that can be added to your routine easily to ensure you are consuming a balanced diet.

As previously mentioned, physical inactivity can contribute to poor health; however, engaging in regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and fitness, and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults aged 18-64 need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking), and at least 2 days of muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms). The same recommendations are given to older adults over the age the 65 years.9 That may sound like a lot of time that you don’t have; however, the CDC reports that engaging in aerobic exercise for even 10 minutes at a time can be beneficial.9 So get on your walking shoes and start power-walking to your appointments, or to the breakroom at work!

Ok. That was a lot of information, so here is a recap:

  1. Being well-informed and prepared with questions for medical consultations allows you to better advocate for yourself, and may help you to receive more comprehensive care.
  2. Seeking a second opinion, especially when considering a major medical procedure, is something that is your right as a consumer, and can impact your diagnosis and/or course of treatment.
  3. Considering the risk-benefit of any medical or surgical intervention is important to ensure that a given treatment is appropriate for your quality of life, values, and goals.
  4. While being educated and engaged when dealing with a medical concern is important, helping to prevent illness or injury through diet and exercise are critical for maintaining a healthy life.

If you are saying to yourself, “this is too overwhelming; there is no way I can do this!”, then I will leave you with a quote from Audrey Hepburn: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible!” You have the information; now it is time to get out there and start leading a healthy life, so the energy and inspiration of the new year keep ringing all year long!

Sources:

  1. Kahana E, Lee JE, Kahana B, Langendoerfer KB, Marshall GL. 2015. Patient planning and initiative enhances physician recommendations for cancer screening and prevention. J Fam Med Community Health, 2(9), pii 1066.
  2. Mordechai O, Tamir S, Weyl-Ben-Arush M.2015. Seeking a second opinion in pediatric oncology. Pediatr Hematol Oncol; 32 (4): 284-9.
  3. van Dalen I, Groothoff J, Stewart R, Spreeuwenberg P, Groenewegen P, van Horn J. 2001. Motives for seeking a second opinion in orthopaedic surgery. J Health Serv Res Policy, 6 (4): 195-201.
  4. Sawan P, Rebeiz K, Schoder H, Battevi C, Moskowitz A, Ulaner GA, Dunphy GA, Mannelli L. 2017. Specialized second-opinion radiology review of PET/CT examinations for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma impacts patient care and management. Medicine, 96 (51), doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000009411.
  5. Lakhman Y, D’Anastasi M, Micco M, et al. 2016. Second-opinion interpretations of gynecologic oncologic MRI examinations by sub-specialized radiologists influence patient care. Eur Radiol;26:2089–98.
  6. “The Free Dictionary by Farlex – Medical Dictionary.” https://medical-dictionary.the freedictionary.com/risk-benefit+analysis.
  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2015.
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