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

Navigating Life with Chronic Pain: Part 1

cactus

Fiona McMahon, PT, DPT

Why Should Everyone Care About Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is the in vogue topic of the day. It is a subject that has pushed its way into American’s awareness for very good reason. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, chronic pain currently affects more than 1.5 billion Americans, affecting work, sleep, and quality of life. Most importantly chronic pain has become dangerous as the opioid crisis has come to a head. Out of the 28,000 people who died of accidental drug overdose, nearly 12,000 died from pain killers, three times as many in 1999, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

What Is Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is classically defined as pain that persists more than 3 months, but it is so much more than that. When pain becomes chronic, it is actually processed in the brain differently than acute pain. This is one of the reasons chronic pain has proven to be so difficult to treat using traditional means.

Pain serves a vital function and is something we need to survive. Pain alerts us to danger like a hot stove or broken bone and compels you to take action. This “take action now” pain is acute pain. Chronic pain lingers and can be totally independent of what is actually going on in the tissue. In fact, the tissue may have healed completely and still pain persists. There are a lot of thoughts as to why pain becomes chronic. It can seem like there is nothing left to treat, and all we can do is blunt it with analgesics and painkillers. But there is more to do. All pain, whether it is acute or chronic is processed by pain receptors, the spinal cord, and finally the brain. By addressing pain at the level of the nervous systems, we can change the way stimuli are perceived in the brain, and hopefully reduce pain.

The book, Explain Pain, by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley does a really superb job explaining this concept. In the book, they explain chronic pain is the body’s response to prolonged exposure to noxious stimuli. (In non medical person terms: basically if you have pain for a long time, the body becomes much more sensitive to things that may or may not be painful or damaging). In states of chronic pain, your body can actually lower the threshold for something to become considered painful in the brain. Meaning, that simple stimuli like tight fitting clothing, or sitting can feel very painful. Your body is doing this, because it is on guard for anything that might hurt it. Chronic pain is your body’s way of looking out for you, but has gone way too far.

This blog is not long enough to dig into all of the varied nuances of how and why chronic pain occurs, but if your interest is peaked, I would highly recommend taking a look at Explain Pain or The Explain Pain Protectometer in order to dig down into the deep and fascinating science behind chronic pain.

False Leads and Dead Ends In Pain

Opiods, Addiction, and Efficacy

The nature of chronic pain has proven to be elusive for patients and healthcare practitioners alike. In the 1990’s, in an effort to finally address chronic pain, opiods became much more widely used. At the time, drugs like Oxycontin were marketed as a safe way to treat chronic pain. The manufacturer of Oxycotin, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, instructed their drug representatives to tell doctors that the rate of addiction for long term Oxycotin users was 1%, according to pharma who help fund these studies. Although one study did indeed find these numbers many other found addiction rates in excess of 40%.

Probably one of the most unfortunate aspects of the push by pharma to prescribe opioids more freely, is despite marketing to the contrary, there have been more and more studies supporting the theory that opioids may in fact be ineffective for the treatment of chronic pain. Studies of worker’s compensation patients being treated for chronic pain indicate that patients on higher opioid dose, return to work more slowly than those on lower doses. Additionally, patients with back pain, who are being treated with long term opiod therapy report greater disability than those who are not on opioids.

Opiods have their place, especially in the treatment of cancer, procedural, and end of life pain, however it is becoming more and more clear that opiods are not the miracle drug we once thought they were in the treatment of long term chronic pain. The increased risks of addiction, accidental overdose, falls and fractures, depression, and severe constipation (which can indeed worsen the pain for which the opiod was prescribed in the first place), make it clear that as a medical community, we need to find a safer and more effective way to reduce chronic pain symptoms.

First steps

If you can find a cause, but at the same time don’t get hung up on it.

This is easier said than done. Often times, by the time patients reach us here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, they have folders that are stuffed to the brim with expensive diagnostic tests that read “unremarkable”. This can be incredibly frustrating for someone suffering with very real pain. My first word of advice is, If something doesn’t feel right with your body, don’t stop looking for help, until you find someone who can truly help you. There are many pain conditions like, chronic prostatitis and endometriosis. Which are poorly understood by many providers, that require treatment and or consultation by a specialist. This isn’t to say that the clinicians that are unfamiliar with chronic pain conditions aren’t fabulous providers, but these chronic pain conditions often require a clinician who spends his or her career treating and managing these type of pain syndromes. Basically, don’t allow yourself to be written off by any clinician who tries to tell you your pain isn’t real. It is, but most importantly there are things to be done. At Beyond Basics, we have extensive training on chronic pain conditions, additionally we have multiple connections with physicians, nurse practitioners, and other clinicians who treat chronic pain, that we will often refer too if we feel additional intervention beyond physical therapy is necessary.

I am warning you, before you read this paragraph, I am about to say something that on its face will seem mind numbingly contradictory. Bear with me please, and read the entire passage. If you do get a diagnosis, do not expect an immediate cure of pain. Chronic pain has gone past the point of solely being about tissue damage. A chronic undiagnosed infection, muscle spasm, or injury should be treated to remove the fire or proximate cause of the pain. Just because the pain is gone, does not mean the nervous system will immediately calm down. In chronic pain, treating the proximate cause enables the nervous system to begin to down regulate (or less threat sensitive) with further treatment, but does not always guarantee immediate cure.

This brings me to the problem with imaging. Imaging is a great tool and advances in the ubiquity and affordability of imaging techniques like ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are allowing more and more people glimpses inside their body. If you have ever looked at an MRI of yourself the feeling is profound. I have been fortunate enough to see both my brain and right hip in mind blowing detail on MRI. It’s amazing, but sometimes knowing where every tear, herniation, and bit of swelling is not only unhelpful, but downright dangerous to some patients.

I am not being hyperbolic simply to drive a point home. Early and unindicated MRI in cases of low back pain has been shown to result in increased time spent on disability and increased cost of care ranging between $8,000-13,000 according to the article by Webster, cited in the sources. The fact is with imaging as powerful as MRI, we get to see almost EVERYTHING and because MRIs are getting slightly cheaper and more common, we are identifying structural changes like disc herniation in people, who might not have had a reason to suspect that there was something wrong in their spine in the first place. Sometimes knowing there is a structural abnormality in your body can cause pain and hypervigilance, when prior to knowing, you may not have had the same quality or as much pain in the first place.. Reports indicate that disc herniation and narrowing of the spinal cord can be seen in up to 57% of people who have no symptoms at all. It’s not a far leap to imagine someone with pain hanging all of their problems on a slipped disc if the MRI shows it. What’s worse, is MRI results are alluring and can often lead practitioners down the wrong path of treatment, because it is an easy answer.

In physical therapy school, my professors drilled into us, with almost religious fervor, treat what you find. A fabulous Physician’s Assistant of mine also told me 90% of what you need to know is in a patient’s history of their present illness. It is so true. You can tell a lot about the origin of the pain by asking questions like, how long has it been around, what makes it worse, what makes it better, and what does it feel like. Imaging can sometimes be a bit of a red herring, rushing well intentioned clinicians towards what they think is a cure, while skipping some crucial information through gathering steps that would aid in a more accurate diagnosis.

MRI’s aren’t all bad. They can be life saving and life improving when they are used appropriately. There are many clinical practice guidelines that guide providers on when it may be beneficial to order MRI or other imaging, however, research has certainly borne out that early imaging is actually counter productive in the treatment of chronic pain.

 

If you find a cause, great. If you don’t, or still feel bad don’t despair

We place so much of our hopes on diagnosis. It seems logical that if there is a cause, there must be a cure. Unfortunately, it is not alway so simple. We went over in the opening paragraphs about how chronic pain is more than what’s going on in a specific body part, it also involves the brain. Sometimes simply curing the tissues is not enough. Sometimes we never know what the cause is. This can be so frustrating for patients. As a pelvic pain specialist, I treat a lot of patients with pelvic floor pain and spasm, who have not yet figured out what specific incident brought the pain on. Rarely, in these cases, is there the “oh, crap” moment, when you realize you have injured yourself. Sometimes the development of chronic pain is like having a water glass. We are all born with water glasses of different sizes. We pour a little water in for something like poor posture, genetics, injury, diet, stress, etc., and when our water glass has overflowed, we develop chronic pain. There is no one definitive cause in cases of the overflowing water glass. Many factors have contributed, and many factors must be addressed in order to treat it properly. That’s why the holistic, mind-body approach is really where it’s at, when we treat chronic pain.

Now that you have a grasp on pain science and how chronic pain can behave differently from acute pain, you can begin to approach treating and dealing with it in a different way. In part two of this blog we will discuss different treatments for chronic pain, including yoga, acupuncture, meditation, of course, physical therapy, and many more. Please stay tuned.

Sources:

AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine. http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx. [Accessed June 25, 2017]

Butler, David S, and G L. Moseley. Explain Pain. Adelaide: Noigroup Publications, 2003. Print.

Zee A. The Promotion and Marketing of Oxycotin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy. Am J Public Health. 2009;99(2):221-227

Singh P, Chaturvedi A. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Pain Management: A Systematic Review. Indian J Palliat Care. 2015. 21(1): 105-15

Von Korff M. Long-term use of opiods for complex chronic pain. Best Pract Clin Rheumatol. 2013 Oct 27(5):663-72

Webster B, Bauer A, Choi Y, et al. Iatrogenic Consequences of Early Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Acute, Work Related Low Back Pain. Spine. 2013. 38(22) 1939-46

September is Sexual Health Awareness Month!

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Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

September is here and we at Beyond Basics are taking some time to observe sexual health awareness month. We take pride in our role of providing our patients with treatments to make sex comfortable and pleasurable as well as in our role as sexual health educators. Sexual health is comprised of many factors beyond just your ability to have sex. This article, by no means, exhausts all factors but is a good starting point to learn more about increasing your health as well as your enjoyment when it comes to sex. We will be expanding on some of the conditions featured in this blog in future posts, so stay tuned.

What is Sex

Sex is not a one-size fits all activity and can come in many different forms. Even between straight couples penetrative sex may not be the standard. In fact there are many couples that can not engage in penetrative intercourse for a variety of reasons. This may be because of an injury, medical condition, or simply because intercourse is not gratifying for the couple or there is some other act that is more gratifying. It’s really up to the couple’s choice and preference. A term for sexual activity that is not penetrative is called outercourse.  One type is not necessarily better than another. It’s all about what works for you and your partner’s bodies and desires.

Emotional Health and Sex

Sex is more than how it makes you feel physically, it is about how it makes you feel emotionally. Many things can influence how we feel about sex and how sex makes us feel about ourselves. If sex is making you feel unhappy or anxious it is important to get to the root of the cause, in order to maximize not only your pleasure but also, your well being. Common issues, to name a few, that can negatively affect sexual experiences are listed here:

 

  • Trauma
  • Mismatch between your sexuality and culture
  • Issues with your partner
  • Issues with consent: Consent is a hot button issue in today’s media and on college campuses. Although consent is a broad and important topic, it can be boiled down to a few key points:
  1. Consent can never be assumed, regardless of dating status or previous sexual activity. For consent to be given, it must be given with an affirmative “yes” answer.
  2. Consent can not be given if someone is high on drugs, underage, or drunk
  3. Consent must be given with every sexual encounter and can be withdrawn at any time.

If emotional issues are contributing to a lack of enjoyment with sex, it may be time to reach out to a certified sex therapist.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs) and Safer Sex

Sexually transmitted infections also known as sexually transmitted diseases can have a huge impact on your well being. Up until recently, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) have been known as sexually transmitted diseases. There was a change in the nomenclature of these infections, because many of them can be asymptomatic and a person may carry and transmit them without knowing they have been infected.

STI’s unfortunately sometimes carry a moral connotation, in that blame is often put on the person who has it. STIs are simply an infection with a bacterial, fungal, or viral pathogen and have absolutely no bearing on the moral character of those infected. They can be transmitted sexually but they can also be spread through the childbirth process, dirty needles, or a tainted blood infusion.

All STI’s are not created equal. For some there are excellent screening tests and treatment, yet for others, treatment or screening or both may not be fully effective yet. Some may be obvious to those infected, while others may go undetected for years. Common symptoms of symptomatic STI’s include:

  • Sores and bumps around the genital and rectal area
  • Painful urination
  • Penile discharge
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Foul vaginal odor
  • Painful sex
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in and around the lower extremities, which may also be present in the upper body as well.
  • It is important to remember these symptoms are non-specific and can be related to a number of other conditions that are not solely related to STI.

STI Complications

  • Pelvic pain
  • Eye inflammation
  • Pregnancy complication
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Certain types of cancers associated with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Risk Reduction

Because not all STI’s can be cured, (although many can be effectively managed) and the impact to one’s health can be so large, it is imperative to safeguard your health and fertility. Steps you can take to reduce your risk of STI infection include:

  • Abstaining from sex: abstinence is the most effective way to reduce your risk of STI; however, with most adults, this is not an acceptable option.
  • Using a barrier to reduce contact with bodily fluids. Using condoms for penetrative sex (vaginal, oral, and anal) or a dental dam for vaginal oral sex, can help to reduce your risk.
  • Keeping your number of sexual partners low: long term monogamous coupling is associated with a lower incidence of STI
  • Regular screening: Because many STI’s can be asymptomatic, regular screening is key to catching an STI early, treating the infection, and preventing damage to your own body as well as transmission to others,
    • Herpes: Recommended for those at risk for herpes (people having unprotected sex, have had sex with someone who is infected, or people experiencing symptoms such as sores)
    • Chlamydia:  men who have sex with men, as well as women who are under 25 have a greater risk of contracting chlamydia and should be tested for it
    • Gonorrhea: men who have sex with men, as well as women who are under 25 have a greater risk of contracting gonnorrhea and should be tested for it
    • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): It is suggested that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV. If you do have HIV, it is imperative to be regularly screened for other STI’s as it is easier to contract them with an HIV infection
    • People born between 1945-1965: should be tested for hepatitis C as there is a high incidence in this population.
    • New Partners: Before having sex with a new partner, both people should be tested for STI to prevent transmission of new infections
    • HPV: Females should be screened for HPV at least every 3 years if they are 21 to 30.  It is recommended to be tested at least every 5 years for sexually active women over 30. There is currently no HPV screening for males.
      • Two vaccines are now available to help prevent two types of HPV associated cancer. The current recommendation is that both boys and girls receive the vaccine between the ages of 11 and 12 years old. Boys can receive that vaccine between 13 and 21 and girls between 13 and 26 as a catch up period.
    • Truvada: Truvada is a drug that is now available to help prevent transmission of HIV and indicated for use in high-risk populations.

 

When Genital Pain Limits Sex

Both men and women can have pain that is so severe that it limits their enjoyment of sex, or prevents sexual pleasure completely. There are many syndromes and diseases that can cause pain with sex. As we covered earlier, STI’s can influence pain, as well as other conditions such as non-bacterial prostatitis, vulvodynia, vaginismus, pudendal neuralgia, as well as many more. These diseases and conditions can be influenced by poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles and vice versa. Keep an eye out for future blog posts devoted entirely to these conditions.  It is possible to have tight and tender pelvic floor muscles as a result of an infective process, injury, or they may arise on their own idiopathically.

 

What to do if you have pain

First off, don’t panic.  Pelvic pain is relatively common, some studies estimate chronic pelvic pain rates being higher than 25%. You are not alone. It is important, though, to act swiftly to identify the culprit. The majority of pelvic pain is treatable, but the process is much easier when started earlier on in the pain cycle.

Go to your doctor to rule out any infective or disease process that may be causing your pain. The best case scenario is that a short course of treatment will do the trick. Unfortunately, often times the root cause is not identified on the first trip to the doctor and your results may come back negative for any infectious agent or systemic condition. This is common for many of the patients we see at Beyond Basics. If this happens to you, consider going to a pelvic pain specialist, whether physician or pelvic floor physical therapist, for more precise testing.

It is important to remember not all physicians are trained to recognize dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system, although the number of those who are trained is growing. Indications of musculoskeletal dysfunction are: pain that changes with changes in activity or position, pain that does not go away once the original disease or infection is treated or cured, or pain that can not be correlated to a specific systemic dysfunction. It is important to remember that musculoskeletal dysfunction in the pelvis can mimic, or be the cause of, bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction.

If you believe your pain is musculoskeletal in nature or even think it might be, it is important to be examined by a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist and not all pelvic floor physical therapists are well trained. Pelvic floor physical therapists can determine if muscles and/or nerves are playing a role in your pain, and then treat the dysfunctional muscles and tissues to allow you to return to your old activities. When looking for a pelvic floor physical therapist, it is important to inquire whether or not they do internal work, both vaginally and rectally, and to ask about their training and experience.

At Beyond Basics we are experts at treating sexual pain as well as screening our patients and referring them on to the correct physicians to help treat any systemic causes of pain. We value a holistic approach to treating sexual pain, and strive to provide our patients with the best care possible. If you are in the New York area, another state, or even abroad and are suffering from sexual pain, please consider starting your healing journey with us.  We have an extensive ‘out of town’ program:  URL for program.

 

Resources:

STI Awareness and Counselling Services

American Sexual Health Association: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/

Planned Parenthood: www.plannedparenthood.org

 

  • Services provided
    • STI screening/counseling
    • HPV vaccine
    • Male reproductive health exams
    • Pregnancy tests and counseling
    • Health insurance screening and enrollment

NYC STI Clinics and Services: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/services/clinics.page

 

Sexual Assault Counseling:

 

RAINN: Rape Assault Incest National Network: https://centers.rainn.org/

-800.656.HOPE

  • Services provided (free or low cost):
    • Counseling
    • Medical Attention/ Hospital Accompaniment
    • Victim assistance/ advocacy
    • Legal/ Justice System advocacy
    • Emergency Shelter

Pelvic Pain Resources:

International Pelvic Pain Society: www.pelvicpain.org

 

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

www.pelvicpain.org

 

Heal Pelvic Pain

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healpelvicpain.com/

Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain DVD

By: Amy Stein DPT

http://www.healingpelvicandabdominalpain.com/

 

Explain Pain

By: David Butler

https://www.amazon.com/Explain-Pain-David-Butler/dp/0987342665?ie=UTF8&hvadid=49868747328&hvdev=c&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvpone=&hvpos=1t1&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvrand=9859257768995611935&ref=pd_sl_1tz644lwle_b&tag=googhydr-20

Healing Painful Sex

By:   Deborah Coady, MD and Nancy Fish, PhD

 

The Pain No One Wants to Talk About

https://beyondbasicsptblog.com/2015/05/13/the-pain-no-one-wants-to-talk-about/ When

When Sex Hurts

By: Andrew Goldstein, MD and Caroline Pukall, PhD

 

Sources:

 

International Pelvic Pain Society:  www.pelvicpain.org

 

International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health:  www.isswsh.org (confirm url)

 

Ahangari A. Prevalence of Chronic Pelvic Pain Among Women: An Updated Review. Pain Physician. 2014;17(2) E141-7

 

Barrow R, Berkel C, Brooks L. Traditionally Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention and Control Strategies: Tailoring for African American Communities.  Sex Transm Dis. 2008 Dec; 35 (12 sUPPL): s30-9

 

Katz A, Lee M, Wasserman G, et al. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD): A Review of the CDC 2010 STD Treatment Guidlines and Epidemiologic Trends of Commone STDs in Hawai’i. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2012 Mar; 71(3): 68-73

Mayo Clinci Staff. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/home/ovc-20180594. [Accesses August 17, 2016]

 

 

 

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:

 

 

When it Feels Impossible to Have Sex

flowerFiona McMahon, PT, DPT

“Vaginismus”, it sounds like a dirty word if you have never heard it before, but for the many, many women who experience this painful and frustrating disorder, it is an important diagnosis to understand, recognize and treat in order to improve quality of life.

Definition

Vagnismus occurs when the muscles of the vagina clench or spasm, making penetration by a partner, toy, tampon, or speculum impossible and painful. These spasms occur independently of the women’s desire to have sex. As you could imagine, this condition can be be extremely frustrating and can interfere with an individual’s sex life and health. Vaginismus can also occur in anticipation of pain, which is reinforced by unsuccessful attempts at penetration. Other gynecological, muscular, and gastrointestinal disorders can perpetuate the pain and spasm feedback loop.

Treatment

Treatment for vaginismus must be holistic and may incorporate treatment for any medical or systemic causes of pain, counselling to reduce stress and fear associated with penetration, and physical therapy to help “teach” the muscles of the pelvic floor to relax and lengthen in order to accommodate penetration. It takes a skilled clinician to recognize all the components contributing to vaginismus and to make referrals to other members of the healthcare team as necessary.

Medical Intervention

The medical approach for vaginismus may be two pronged in order to relieve this condition. First, your doctor or nurse practitioner may prescribe a medicine to help treat the specific symptom of pain with penetration. Your healthcare provider (HCP) may also identify a medical cause to pain with penetration. By treating the cause, your HCP can help to break the pain and spasm cycle of vaginismus. Some medical conditions that can contribute to vaginismus include, endometriosis, intersitial cystitits, skin conditions such as lichen planus, simplex, or sclerosis, or hormone imbalances affecting the vulvar skin.

Psychological Intervention

Sometimes, getting referred to therapy, when you have a problem like vaginismus can seem insulting, like someone is telling you “it’s all in your head”. In a study conducted by Van der Velde in 2001, pelvic floor muscle response was found in both women with pelvic pain and without in response to a threatening movie. You can imagine how this could affect a woman who has had a history of painful penetration. Therapy can go a long way towards lessening the fear around penetration and allowing your body to relax in sexual situations.

Vaginismus isn’t all in anyone’s head. It is a very real physical response to anticipated pain. Vaginismus often affects one’s partner as well. She or he may develop fear of hurting you and may be afraid to have sex. Sex therapists can work with individuals and couples to help facilitate a non threatening return to sex.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a mainstay of treatment for vaginismus, and in simple cases may be all that is required. Vaginismus is all about overactive muscles and there is so much we can do for muscles as physical therapists.

Treatment for vaginismus is all about taking one’s time and making the patient as comfortable as possible with every aspect of treatment. Rushing to perform an internal pelvic exam is not in anyone’s interest as it may facilitate increased guarding and spasm. That being said we can work to lessen the strain on the pelvic floor muscles by releasing the surrounding tissues and fascia of the abdomen and legs. We can also use external biofeedback, which is a way for you to see in real time, whether or not you are tightening your pelvic floor so you can gain more control over it.

When you are ready, the therapist will do an internal exam, where she will place a gloved finger into the vagina to assess whether or not there is trigger points ( highly irritable tight bands of tissue) or spasm within the muscle. When trigger points or spasm are present in the muscle she will work to release the muscles so that they can better stretch to accommodate an object penetrated into the vaginal canal, as well as reduce pain with penetration in hope of breaking the pain and spasm cycle.

Another great part of physical therapy in treating vaginismus is the home exercise plan your therapist will prescribe. Dilators are commonly used tool for treating vaginismus both at home and in the clinic. Dilators are cylinder shaped wands that are inserted into the vaginal canal. They come in many different sizes. The smallest size is usually smaller than a tampon. Usually a therapist and patient will work their way up from the smallest to “goal” size. Goal size is decided by the patient and corresponds to the patient’s desired functional goal, whether that is accommodating a speculum, tampon, toy, or partner’s penis. Dilators can do a number of things for someone with vaginismus. First they allow for a gentle stretching of the vaginal canal both at home and at therapy. Dilator use at home can really help to speed up a course of therapy. Secondarily, dilators can allow the patient confidence in a private place devoid of a partner’s expectations which can then be transferred to sexual relations with the patient’s partner.

Your therapist may also suggest stretching and strengthening exercises to help take pressure off of the pelvic floor, because the pelvic floor may be tight if it is working too hard to stabilize the bones and organs of the abdomen .

Sex doesn’t have to be painful and even with the worst cases of vaginismus, there is help. The physical therapists at Beyond Basics are specially trained to recognize vaginismus and identify the its specific causes in each individual case. If you are affected by this condition, please consider visiting us for an evaluation. Also check out the film “Tightly Wound” which is a personal account of living with and treating vaginismus.

Sources:

Harish T, Muliyala K, Murthy P. Successful management of vaginismus: An eclectic approach. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011;53(2): 154-155

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

Preparing for the Marathon with Physical Therapy at Beyond Basics!

JHO-Muscogee Moms Contest-Blog

Fiona McMahon, DPT

Hi all! If you have been following our blog, you should be aware that Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are teaming up to raise money the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York with Team Tisch MS. I’m hoping to raise $3,000 dollars to support multiple sclerosis research.  We have currently raised approximately $1,500!. Please support us and click HERE to donate. What puts the fun in this fundraiser ( sorry, not sorry about the pun) is that we get to get donations through running the New York Marathon, which I will be running in November.

I have run 4 marathons before including New York, and even though my timed goals were not lofty ( I really only cared about dragging my body from A to B 26.2 miles later), I relied on PT every single time, to keep my body whole and prevent me from sustaining race ending injuries. This year is no different and this week I will be having my first appointment with Jessica Babich, at Beyond Basics.

 

Why go to Physical Therapy if you are not injured?

No matter how you cut it, physical therapy is an investment. Based on your insurance, co-pays can vary to very little to more expensive, and no matter how much you are paying, the time it takes to go to physical therapy and diligently do your exercises is a finite resource. So why add more tasks to an already arduous training schedule? For me, the answer is easy, I want my body to not only run a faster marathon this fall, but I want to do so in a health way to protect my joints, ligaments and muscles, so I can not only continue to run, hike, ski, and play outside, but also so I can continue working without pain.

But aren’t you a PT, can’t you just PT yourself?

One of the most powerful and surprising lessons I’ve learned through being a physical therapist is, it is really hard to be objective about your own body. Physical therapists are trained to see large scale impairments like weak hip strength, which I know for a fact is something I need to work on, but also small scale impairments in movement, like slightly more pronation on the right foot than the left, those are things another practitioner needs to observe from the outside to diagnose and treat. Having an objective movement analyst ( aka a physical therapist), can help you see weaknesses, and alignment issues that even the most expert observer may miss on themselves. Long story short, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Why someplace like Beyond Basics Physical Therapy

I work at Beyond Basics, so full disclosure, it is the most convenient place I could go. That being said, it is also the best place I could go. Physical therapy clinics come in “flavors” and for someone hoping to truly optimize their performance, Beyond Basics Physical therapy and clinics with the same “flavor” are where to go. What makes Beyond Basics physical therapy so special is the hour one-on-one treatment they offer. This allows us to address all three pillars of movement, efficiently, effectively, and completely. The three pillars are mechanical, ( tightness, or lack thereof, of muscles, joints, fascia and ligaments as well as bony alignment), strength (how strong is a particular muscle and is it strong enough to do it’s job), and finally neuromuscular control, ( do your muscles do the right thing at the right time, this is really important to stabilize the joints of the leg and back, and is often overlooked in some busier physical therapy practice). Other physical therapy practices have a slightly different flavor. They may have a one physical therapist treating 4 patients and hour. Even if time is divided up perfectly equitably between patients, this allows the therapist of only 15 minutes on hands-on treatment to correct mechanical and neuromuscular issues, therefore leaving 75% of the time doing exercises with other patients. That flavor of physical therapy can work for some people, especially those who like to socialize with other patients during treatment, but for me, marathon training is too hard to only get 15 minutes of hands on time and spend 45 minutes doing exercises in a crowded gym. I feel that I am perfectly capable of doing my assigned exercises regularly as part of my home program. I would much prefer to work with a therapist who can tailor my treatment to suit my needs, not one who has to juggle the time constraints of treating multiple patients at once.

How are you preparing for PT?

Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is based out of New York. Like most states in the USA, New York has direct access, so I don’t need to have a prescription to come in. I will be bringing a few things to my appointment that I think are essential: health history, attire, and attitude.

Health History: Health history is a big one. In physical therapy a complete health history includes your current medications, and medical conditions, past injuries ( this is really important, and things like an ankle sprain a few years ago can clue us in on a lot ), and other factors like stress, amount of sleep you typically get, how much you work out and what you do, and diet.

Attire: Another important and sometimes overlooked item on the list. Your physical therapist will have to examine different areas on your body, as well as have access to treat those areas. Loose fitting shorts and an athletic top are a good bet. Even if you are going to physical therapy, for a condition like pelvic floor dysfunction, your therapist may ask you to do exercises, so it wise to bring workout clothes to your appointment. If you are a runner, bring in your shoes. The wear pattern on used pair of running shoes can provide heaps of valuable information.

Attitude: This is super important. Physical therapy is a partnership between you and your physical therapist. For me I already, foresee finding time to do the exercises that Jessica will prescribe to be a challenge. But the fact is, home exercise is part of the deal, and I won’t get nearly as much benefit from physical therapy alone, versus physical therapy with home exercise. Like I said before marathon training is simply too hard to just go through the motions at physical therapy.

 

What are your goals and what do you expect to gain from physical therapy?

Like I said before, I want to stay as healthy for as long as possible, but I would be lying if I said my primary goal wasn’t to increase my time. I want to put my money where my mouth is and put all my old times out in the open. So you can know where I am starting from and where I hope to go.

Here are my past times:

Mount Desert Island 2010: total time 3h 56 minutes 18 second: 9 min per mile pace

Mount Desert Island 2011: total time 4h 05 minutes 21 second: 9 min 22 seconds per mile pace

Sugarloaf 2011: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace

New York City 2013: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace

Here’s my dream goal for this race:

3 hours and 45 minute at 8: 35 pace.

As you can see, it’s 7 whole minutes faster than my fastest race over 7 years ago . To get there, I can’t get injured and I certainly can’t waste any precious energy during the race running inefficiently. I know that Beyond Basics will give me the best chance to meet my goals.

If you are looking to increase your performance in your sport of choice come see us to make sure you are getting the most power out of your serve, swing, or stride. Click here to access our home page and make an appointment today.

Continue to follow us here, on Instagram, and on Facebook to see my progress in physical therapy as well as my progress towards my goal of raising $3,000 dollars for MS research. If you care to donate please click here to donate to this worthy cause