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

Myself, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy join Team Tisch MS for the New York City Marathon

Hello guys! What’s happening?

running picture

I just signed up for my 5th marathon, and second New York City Marathon, but this year it’s a little different. This year I am running on behalf of Beyond Basics Physical therapy to raise money for Team Tisch MS. Team Tisch MS is a charity team dedicated to raising money to support the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York (Tisch MSRCNY). Team Tisch is dedicated to the goal of having “a future without MS”. Tisch MSRCNY has broken new ground in clinical research of multiple (MS) treatment and is now conducting a FDA- Approved Phase II Stem Cell Trial that has shown reversal of disability in MS patients. Now is the time to donate. It is so important to generate funding to keep momentum on this crucial work.

Over the course of training, I will be providing you with updates on my progress, tips and tricks for becoming and remaining your best runner, as well as discussions on how the work we do at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy can help patients with MS live more functional lives. You can check out my long form blogs here on wordpress to see updates and photos of my day to day running adventures.

My reason for wanting to be support Tisch MSRNY is personal. When I was in highschool, my mother died of a degenerative disease that stripped her of her independence and function in a way similar that MS affects people who suffer with it. Shortly after I graduated college, I got a job at a research lab in hopes to eventually become a research scientist to fight diseases that rob individuals of their ability to do the things they love. During that time I began running marathons, and shortly thereafter injured my knee, (I wasn’t a physical therapist yet, and was too silly to give a hoot about stretching) . The injury was severe enough that I had difficulty managing the short walk between the produce section and the dairy case. I went to physical therapy and as my abilities slowly began to return, I thought of my mother in her final months. The reason why those months remained sweet and rewarding for her was because she had had a physical therapist who taught her how to manage with a cane, how to efficiently get out of a chair, and how to conserve her energy so she could continue to treat her patients and support her kids in our numerous extracurricular activities. This marked the point in my life that I realized my passions and talents would be most useful in the pursuit of reducing morbidity ( negative impact on quality of life) in patients suffering from injury and disease. Although I have shifted to the clinical side of management for injury and disease, I remain keenly invested in the eradication of degenerative and disabling disease. I would love to see a day in my lifetime where my job is reduced to treating musculoskeletal injuries, because groups like Tisch MSRNY have done the research to get rid of degenerative and disabling disease conditions.

Now is the time to donate. We are so close to getting somewhere. I liken it to mile 20 of a marathon’s 26.2 miles. I have a request. My 30th birthday is in June. I would love to receive at least 30 donations of at least 30 dollars by the end of June. Please donate here today, not tomorrow, but today, right now. Amy Stein and Beyond Basics Physical Therapy said they would match my 30 for $30 donations on my birthday!!

Thanks and stay tuned for all sorts of fun running and fundraising stuff coming soon.

Click here to donate!

Check out updates on the Beyond Basics Instagram 

 

What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Pelvic Floor Physical therapy?

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

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

What exactly do Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists Do?

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

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

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

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

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

Manual Techniques

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

Myofascial Release

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

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

Scar Tissue Manipulation

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

Myofascial Trigger Point Release

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

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

Connective Tissue Manipulation

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

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

Neural, Visceral, and Joint Mobilization

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

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

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

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

Neuro-education of the Pelvic Floor and Surrounding Structures

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

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

HEP: Home Exercise Program

 

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

Conclusion

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May is Pelvic Pain Awareness Month

Mayis PelvicPainAwarenessmonth

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

May is Pelvic Pain Awareness Month: #PelvicPainAware. This is a big deal to us at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, where we see it as our mission to spread awareness of pelvic pain and dysfunction to clinicians and patients alike. This month is spearheaded by the International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS), of which, the founder of Beyond Basics, Amy Stein is the president. Amy took time to sit down with me to describe all of the fantastic things that are planned for this month so I can share them with you.

Before we get started, I want to share a little about IPPS, the organizer of Pelvic Pain Awareness Month. IPPS was founded in 1996. It is a society of healthcare clinicians who treat abdomino-pelvic pain conditions in men, women, and children. Their mission is twofold: “To educate healthcare professionals how to diagnose and manage chronic pelvic pain, thereby changing the lives of patients worldwide.” and “To bring hope to men and women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain by significantly raising public awareness and impacting individual lives.” Pelvic Pain Awareness month, is our opportunity to spread awareness among professionals and public alike in hopes of improving outcomes and demystifying pelvic pain.

Now let’s get started with Amy’s interview!

Fiona: Why did IPPS feel the need to start a pelvic pain awareness month?

  • Amy: I felt like it was needed. As president of IPPS, I wanted to make some changes to awareness, and I felt this was a great opportunity to get the word out and stop patients from having to suffer in silence. I wanted it to be abdomino-pelvic pain awareness month, but the phrase was too long.

 

Fiona: What activities does IPPS have planned this month to spread awareness of pelvic pain?

  • Amy: We created a pelvic pain awareness page on facebook and continue to tweet about it @intpelvicpain. We are also doing a blog talk radio interview with Lorimer Moseley, PhD, PT from Adelaide, Australia, on blogtalk radio/pelvic messenger on Thursday, May 18th at 7.30pm EST. Lorimer Moseley has written 270 articles and 6 books on pain. If you want to interview someone who is experienced in the study of pain and the brain, he is a good person to be interviewing. May 17th in New York City, we are doing a local fundraising/ networking event in the Green Room on 23rd street from 6:30-8:30pm to create more awareness locally. On may 25th, 9pm EST, 6pm PST we are doing a twitter journal club. An article on sexual health in women affected by cancer  will be featured, as well as one on vulvodynia, and prostatitis . [Click here to access the articles we will be discussing!] Each year we plan to add on more events for May is #PelvicPainAware both locally and internationally. 

 

 

Fiona: Why is it so important to build awareness of abdomino-pelvic pain conditions? What was the big driver for IPPS in doing this work?

  • Amy: Bringing awareness of abdomino-pelvic pain conditions is one of the main missions for IPPS, as well as Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I believe it is a mission of many of other clinics, hospitals, etc, that treat pelvic pain. Again, it is such a common experience of many, many patients who visit us, to have gone to various well-known institutions throughout the country for pelvic pain, to be told it is all in there head and that they just need mental health therapy or a glass of wine. This infuriates me STILL (20 years later!), as well as the patients. Often times it will take just one session with an experienced pelvic health physical therapist or healthcare provider to have hope again. Many of our patients have been to 5 up to 10 physicians/healthcare providers and ended up being misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, or told to go home and relax; or even worse, have more sex or switch partners. Yes, pain is processed in your brain, but there is a physical component with most of these patients.

Fiona: Where would you suggest someone who is starting their journey? What resources would you recommend?

  • Amy: I would suggest to look at International Pelvic Pain Society, International Cystitis Association, IC-network, Endometriosis Association, National Vulvodynia Association, American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) or Herman and Wallace “ Find a provider”, for you to find physical therapists and physicians. Even taking that a step further, when you find a provider, do some research: ask how often your provider sees pelvic pain patients,, how long have they been treating in this area, because that can make a difference. If you go to someone who is not as experienced or is not trained, you might hit a roadblock or plateau in your progress.
  •  I would caution against looking up too much on patient-centered forums; however, here are a lot of great blogs out there that can help give you helpful information. There are some great books out there, like Heal Pelvic Pain, and Pelvic Pain Explained, Sex without Pain, and Pelvic Pain Management.  For providers, I want to add that IPPS is hosting the World Congress on Pelvic and Abdominal Pain in Washington D.C. at the Renaissance Hotel in October 11-15th. We have Lorimer Moseley and Paul Hodges flying in from Australia. They both have done extensive research in pain. This year we are doing 9 clusters on different topics with poster and abstract presentations, as well as a post conference on The Pain Revolution, with Paul Hodges, PhD and Lorimer Moseley, PhD, PT

Fiona: If you had to distill your message for May is Pelvic Pain Awareness month, what would you like the public, people with and without pelvic pain to get from this month?

  • Amy: I would like them to know there are resources and providers out there for abdomino-pelvic pain conditions. But remember to do your homework when deciding who and what is best for you. For providers, there are great resources too, including the International Pelvic Pain Society to help better your practice.

We also want everyone to know we are having a give away in honor of Pelvic Pain Awareness Month! Learn more info below!

For Everyone!

IPPS Facebook Page

Twitter: @IntPelvicPain #pelvicpainaware

IPPS

Blog Talk Radio/Pelvic Messenger

 

For Patients!

International Pelvic Pain Society: Find a provider

National Vulvodynia Association: Health Care Provider List

APTA Find a clinician

Herman and Wallace Find a Clinician

 

Give Away Information

Giveaway open internationally ). Must provide a mailing address within 48 hours of notification of winning, otherwise another winner will be selected at random. Click here for full details,
We have several generous donors lined up for the hour and will be randomly giving away the following items during the event:
1 Copy of Amy Stein’s Book “Heal Pelvic Pain” & DVD Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain”  (follow @beyondbasicspt @HealPelvicPain2)  (Open to International)
1 Copy of Heather Jeffcoat’s book “Sex Without Pain: A Self Treatment Guid to the Sex Life You Deserve” (follow @SexWithoutPain @TheLadyPartsPT) (Open to International)
1 Copy of Stephanie Prendergast and Elizabeth Rummer’s book “Pelvic Pain Explained”   (follow @PelvicPainExp @PelvicHealth) (Open to International)
1 Gift Card to Soul Source Dilators (link to soulsource.com)  (follow @SoulSourceTD) (Open to US only)
2 EndoFemm heating/cooling pads by Pelvic Pain Solutions (Open to US only)
2 CAPPS Travel Cushions by Pelvic Pain Solutions by Pelvic Pain Solutions  (follow @EndoFEMM) (Open to US only)
2 Multi-Comfort Therapy Pads by Pelvic Pain Solutions (Open to US only)
Official Rules: This giveaway is open to US only (except where specifically indicated as international above). The following guidelines must be followed to be eligible: Use the #PelvicPainAware hashtag during the twitter party from 6PM PST to 7PM PST to be entered into the random drawing. Must follow @IntPelvicPain @TheLadyPartsPT so we may contact you after the event regarding your winnings. Winners will have 48 hours from the time of notification to provide us with their eligible mailing address, or else a new winner will be randomly selected.
 
Twitter Party/Journal Club Disclaimer: Tweets during the 1 hour event are not to be taken as medical advice. We recommend following up with your team of providers to gain your most optimal care.

 

PH101 Potty Issues with Kiddos

PottyFiona McMahon PT, DPT

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

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

If your child is suffering from urinary or fecal accidents, bed wetting, skidmarks, or painful defecation, join me on May 11th, at 7pm , to discuss pelvic floor dysfunction in children, common conditions affecting pottying, and practical tips you can use to make potty time easier.

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

RSVP: pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Physical Therapy

IBSFiona McMahon, DPT

Hello everyone! April was Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS) Awareness Month. Although, we are a bit late, we wanted to take some time to talk about IBS and what can be done to help with its symptoms. IBS can present in different ways. People with IBS may experience diarrhea or constipation, or both. At Beyond Basics, we work with issues associated with IBS, from ensuring that your digestive organs move well in order to function properly, to toilet posture, to training the pelvic floor to have the coordination to help you toilet comfortably.

Tips for living with irritable bowel and other digestive symptoms

Posture

Over the years we have used our blog to discuss many different tips, tricks, and techniques you can use at home to make the process of having a bowel movement just a bit easier. The first thing you can do is super simple: sit on the toilet with good posture. There are heaps of ways to sit on the toilet and believe it or not, there is an optimal way to sit and poop. The reason why the way we sit is so important is the anal rectal angle. The anal rectal angle refers to the angle of your rectum. When we stand and sit our angle is more bent or acute, which makes it harder for poop to drop out of out of our rectums (yay!), which increases our chances of continence. But when we are trying to poop, we want our anal rectal angle to straighten out so it is easier to poop and we don’t have to strain. The position that best allows us to do that is squatting, the way one would over an eastern style toilet. Most of us have western style commodes that don’t allow for a nice anal rectal angle opening squat. So we have to get creative. By placing a stool or the now ubiquitous squatty potty under your feet you can simulate a squat and allow for easier passage of stool. For more on posture, check out Sara Paplanus’s blog on posture and bowel movements.

Diet

veggies

Diet is a very important thing to consider when trying to optimize your bowel movements. The first thing we usually consider is fiber. There are two types of fiber. Soluable and insoluable. Soluble dissolve in water and allows the stool to absorb water and adds mass and heft ( in a good way) to your feces. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and can help push the poo out. The fact is we need to balance both types and most of us aren’t getting enough. In addition, some people need more of one type and some need more of the other or else you can end up with increased gas and bloating. Read how you can increase your fiber intake here. If you are having difficulty balancing the two or are not sure which to add, it is best to seek advice from an expert nutritionist in abdomino-pelvic pain and IBS.

Water Intake

The colon, the last stop for poop before it enters your rectum is the place where water is absorbed from the stool. In cases where you are too dehydrated, your body will recycle water anywhere it can, including your stool. If too much water is taken from your stool, it can be dry and hard to push out. We suggest drinking about one half your body weight in ounces of water daily and even slightly more if you are constipated, sweat a lot or suffer from IBS. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, drink 100 ounces of water to make sure to ease your bowel movements.water-life-crop

Physical Therapy

Pelvic floor physical therapy can help a lot with issues with IBS. In last year’s IBS awareness blog, we discussed the benefits of pelvic floor PT

“Dysfunction in organs can also cause dysfunction in the skeletal muscles that are close by. This is called the visceral-somatic reflex. One of the most common examples is when someone feels left arm pain when they are having a heart attack. The dysfunction in the heart causes pain and spasm in nearby muscles. The same thing can happen when the gut is irritated in conditions like IBS. Typically, people with IBS will feel pain and spasm in the muscles of their abdomen and pelvic floor as a result of repeated irritation in their gut. To add insult to injury, spasm in the pelvic floor, (specifically the levator ani and sphincter muscles) can adversely affect the passage of stool out of the body and make symptoms even worse.

Pelvic floor physical therapy can help symptoms caused by the visceral somatic reflex greatly. At Beyond Basics we have an excellent crew of pelvic floor physical therapists with expertise in visceral mobilization and pelvic floor dysfunction. Our physical therapists can work to eliminate painful spasms, mobilize restrictions, retrain the muscles and teach self-management techniques to keep symptoms at bay, or to eliminate some of the symptoms in the future.”

 

IBS is an important condition that affects many different people. Although there currently is no cure for IBS, there is a lot you can do to make living with this condition more manageable. If part, or all, of the symptoms are from musculoskeletal dysfunctions of the pelvic floor and abdomen, than there IS a cure and we are here to help! If you are suffering, please make an appointment with us today.

Sources

R Saeed. Impact of Ethnic habits on defecographic measurements. Arch Iranian Med 2002; 5(2) 115-16