PH101: Potty Issues with Kiddos

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

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

It is very upsetting for a parent, guardian or caregiver to see a child suffer with pain or embarrassment, but there is so much that can be done to help out children with these issues. We use positive charts to develop short term and achievable goals to reinforce  behaviors and steps towards healthy toileting. Simple techniques like 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 November 15, 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: pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

 

Physical Therapy Month

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

October is National Physical Therapy Month. During Physical Therapy Month we take time to inform the public about the benefits of physical therapy as well as focus on a particular issue affecting the lives of our patients. This month the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) has decided to address the current opioid crisis. At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we addressed the treatment of chronic pain and the effect opioids can have in the blog titled “Navigating Life with Chronic Pain: Part 1 “. I highly recommend looking back at this blog to learn more about the pain science behind chronic pain and what you can do to treat it. Keep you eyes open for our upcoming blog, “Navigating Chronic Pain”: Part 2, for more on specific treatments.

For October’s Physical Therapy Month, the APTA has decided to address specific policy changes that need your support to help fight the opioid epidemic. The time for addressing the opioid epidemic is now (honestly, it should have been years ago). According to the APTA, 1 in 3 opioid users report they are physically addicted to opioids, and 4 in 5 new heroin users begin their addiction by misusing opioids. Even more staggering, heroin deaths now outnumber deaths due to gun homicides. This issue is an issue we, at all levels of healthcare must fight.

The APTA is advocating for these 6 policy changes to help fight the opioid crisis

1.Repeal the Medicare Therapy Cap: To allow patients on medicare to receive the care they need from their physical therapist

2. Remove Federal and State Restrictions that Impede Access to a Physical Therapist: Allow patients to see physical therapists without an MD’s referral

3. Ensure Comprehensive Insurance Coverage for Physical Therapy

4. Provide Fair Physical Therapy Copays Under Insurance: Reduce high copays and deductibles for physical therapy to lessen the incentive to turn to cheaper opioids over physical therapy as a pain treatment.

5. Allow Physical Therapists to Perform to the Full Extent of Their Education and Training: Physical therapists hold doctoral degrees and should be allowed to practice their full scope of services.

6. Protect Patient Choice of Physical Therapy Treatment: Patients should be able to select the therapist of their choice, not the one the MD selects.

If you have chronic pain, please choose physical therapy first. It is a much safer and more effective option than opioids. The physical therapists at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy are well trained and experienced in treatment of chronic pain conditions. Call today.

Marathon Update: Sickness When to Run and When to Take a Break

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Hi everyone I am writing you from week 22 of training for the NYC marathon. This year I am running the marathon, sponsored by Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, in order to support New York’s Team Tisch in raising money for multiple sclerosis research. Currently, we are only about 1000$ from our goal, time is getting tight so don’t forget to donate today. Click here to donate to Team Tisch MS NYC Marathon to support research for treatment and prevention of multiple sclerosis.

Today, I want to write about a fact of life for almost every human being, illness. Getting sick can be vexing for just about every marathon runner. It puts us in this nearly existential running dilemma, “Do you run and risk getting more sick?” or “ Do I take the rest, and miss a potentially race making run?”. The question can sometimes make you feel even more lousy than whatever you are actually sick from.

In my training for this marathon, I have been confronted with this question way too many times. I’ve been sick 4 times in the last 22 weeks, total bummer, but I live in a super crowded city and work with children so I am not surprised. P.S. Working with kiddos is the best thing ever and is totally worth whatever puke, snot ridden illness I get, so I am definitely not complaining.

A lot of runners have “the neck rule”. I first came across this rule as a high school runner, and I see it all over running publications. It has been a useful tool for me for years in determining when to take a knee and focus on feeling better. The neck rule is not necessarily running exclusive, so feel free to apply it to most workouts. Basically it goes like this, if your symptoms are above the neck, i.e. congestion, sore throat, etc, you are generally safe to run. If your symptoms are below the neck, i.e. fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, etc, it is time to give your body a rest and let your immune system do its thing. It can be so frustrating to skip a run, especially when your illness falls on a major training session, but in the long run, you will end up healthier and you will be able to return to your prior level of performance sooner. This doesn’t necessarily mean that head only symptoms mean you absolutely should run. It’s a basic guideline: if you are feeling too run down and fatigued to run, listen to your body, it’s pretty smart.

When you are starting to feel better go back into things slowly. Once your fever has been gone for about 24 hours without fever reducers, vomiting or diarrhea have cleared, and you can eat and drink normally, ease back in. Plan your next run on a treadmill or in short loops by your home so you can cut it short if need be. You don’t want to be stuck 8 miles out from home, finding you are still really worn down from being ill. Been to that show and got that T-shirt.

Marathon training is as much mental as it is physical. The mental challenges can present themselves in surprising ways. One of the biggest pitfalls runners “run” (oops, not sorry about that pun) into following an illness, is the desire to cram all of the mileage they have missed into a few days following an illness. Don’t do it. Most training plans are designed to challenge the body at a level it can tolerate as well as provide enough rest to build up strength and functional reserves. Adding a huge glut of extra miles in the middle of it, can really throw things off and put you at a greater risk of injury or even additional illness. Let those miles go and be confident in the fact that you allowed your body to heal and get to full strength.

Please click here to donate to TISCH Multiple sclerosis research.

Additionally, check out my progress in physical therapy here:

 

And for more on training while sick, click here.

 

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

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

Meet our new student, Volume II

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Julia Rosenthal, 3rd year Physical Therapy Student

Last week we introduced you to our student, Monica. This week we want to introduce you to our other student Julia. Read on to learn more about her journey.

1.) Where are you from, if you are from somewhere else, what brought you to NYC?

I am from just outside of Washington, DC. I came to NYC to study at NYU where I completed my undergraduate degree. I was in NYU’s Gallatin school of Individualized Study, where I created my own major in Culture and Philosophy of Healing. I also came to NYU because I wanted to remain active in the performing arts. While at NYU I continued to study vocal performance outside of school, and also sang a cappella and performed in student run drama companies.

2.) Did you work before PT school, if so what did you do?

Before PT school, I worked as an office manager at a psychology and psychiatry practice here in NYC called union square practice. I also continued to study voice, and sang backup for my friends’ various performances at the Bitter End downtown.

3.) What made you want to be a PT?

Though I started at NYU planning to progress to medical school, my major led me to take many courses on topics such as philosophy of medicine, anthropology of medicine, seminars on alternative therapies, and others that challenged me to think about what “healing” meant to me. I chose to veer away from becoming a medical doctor in favor of becoming a PT so that I could approach treatment in a more holistic way that allowed me to incorporate some of the theories on body work that resonated with me in my studies.

4.) What made you want to intern at Beyond Basics?

When I started PT school, I did not know what pelvic floor physical therapy was. I learned about it by accident when I mentioned my history of gastrointestinal issues to a professor, who pointed me in the direction of some resources on how pelvic floor physical therapists could help. Though I was able to resolve my own issues through nutritional changes, I was very intrigued by this area of PT, and began reading more about the many patient populations that specialists in this area can treat. I became involved in a research project with Dr. Cynthia Chiarello on pregnancy related pelvic girdle pain, and through that project my interest in this area of practice continued to grow.

Because of my interest in women’s health, I attended some of the Pelvic Health 101 sessions hosted at Beyond Basics. These sessions were fun and informative, but what I most appreciated was how comfortable the patients who attended felt with the therapists and the other people in the room. It made me realize how special Beyond Basics is, and since then I have been eager to have an experience working in this clinic and with the therapists here.

5.) What do you do for fun?

I like to see live music of all kinds – from opera to brass bands, to soul and funk, I love it all. As I mentioned, I sang a cappella and did musical theater in college, and I also studied jazz and opera with a vocal coach. I haven’t been doing much performing since starting PT school, but am looking forward to getting back to it after graduation. I also love all sorts of different exercise, including pilates, barre, weight training, and running.

6.) What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting in PT school?

The pace and workload in PT school can be stressful, but don’t let that discourage you! You and your peers will all be going through that adjustment together, and will all cope with it differently so use each other as a support system. Finding a balance between school and your social/recreational time is also important. Make sure to make time in your schedule for fun and relaxation. My escapes were going to the gym, going to concerts, going to the park when the weather was nice, and finding new places to go here in NYC that I had never been before. Spending a little time on yourself will keep you focused during study time, and prevent burnout.

Without Happy Ankles and Feet, We Don’t Have a Leg to Stand On!

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By, Amy Stein, DPT and Fiona McMahon, DPT

Our ankles function to help us do simple tasks from walking down the hall, climbing stairs to advanced tasks like cutting during a high level soccer game. Ankles need two things to do their job well. They need stability to allow us to transfer our weight onto them and mobility to absorb forces, like little shock absorbers when we move. A deficit in either one of these area’s can affect our ability to efficiently do certain activities and may cause pain in the foot and ankle itself or further up the leg.   As physical therapists we evaluate and treat ankle and foot issues to get the athlete or non-athlete back to optimal function.  

Get this, the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles in it. There is a lot to look at and unfortunately, a lot that can go wrong with the foot. As physical therapists and especially here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we like to use a systematic approach when evaluating the foot and ankle. We look at the foot’s range of motion (how far it can move), its strength, it’s ability to move well (motor control), and whether or not something’s not moving well when it comes to the soft tissue or the joint of the foot. If something’s up with any of these categories we open our tool box and treat using functional manual therapy, neuromuscular and postural re-education and self care!

Things we look at

  • In standing we assess the patient’s baby squat ( or plié, as our former dancers would call it) we are looking to see if there is an issue with the tissue of the foot’s ability to stretch and fold
  • Heel raise: We look at our patient’s’ ability to go up on their toes, aberrant or weird motions tell us about motor control, strength, and joint mobility.
  • Arm Swing: We promise this isn’t to make our patients look silly. It allows us to assess pronation and supination, which are super important motions of the foot.
  • End feel: We will passively move the patient’s foot and ankle through its range of motion to assess how the joint feels. It can tell us a lot about what’s wrong and where it’s coming from.
  • Palpation: We pride ourselves on our hands at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. One of our PT’s calls it our “brain hands”. Palpation can reveal a ton about what’s going on in the foot.

These are all pretty basic first steps when assessing our patients. They are the starting point, but by no means the finish line. Once we get the big picture we will refine our examination to see what’s going on when our patients are doing their specific sport or activity. Once we get a good handle on  what’s going on we select the most appropriate techniques for our patients. Each patient is different and one basic protocol for everyone isn’t how we roll at BBPT. If you think your ankles or feet could use a little extra TLC, book an appointment today. To get the ball rolling, check out our blog written by our therapist, Denise Small .