September is Sexual Health Awareness Month!

pexels-photo-544917

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 Consent must be given with every sexual encounter and can be withdrawn at any time.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]

 

 

 

Join Denise Small PT, DPT on July 6th for a Free Pilates Class

denise

Fiona McMahon, PT, DPT

Denise has not 1 but 2 hats here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. Not only is she a Doctor of Physical Therapy, specializing in functional manual therapy, orthopedics and pelvic floor conditions, she is also a certified Pilates instructor. Through the years she has worked to combine her passions to produce an outstanding Pilates program tailor made for individuals suffering from any pain condition and to help them become more functional and back to their exercise routine.

On July 6th at 7pm, Denise will be sharing her expertise with the public by offering a FREE gentle pilates class here at Beyond Basics. In this class participants will “ examine the interconnectedness of [their] own functional anatomy to move through and around [their] current fitness barriers”

To get a flavor of what Denise has to offer check out her blog posts bellow. If you are interested in attending the class, please RSVP here. Learn more about the Pilates program and the physical therapy program by clicking here.

Check Out Denise’s Blogs Here:

Pilates Blog- Rhythm- Coordination of Breath and Movement

The use of Breath in the Pilates Method 

Benefits of Pilates with Pain Conditions

Summer Movement Class

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

Pilates Blog- Rhythm- Coordination of Breath and Movement

PilatesDenise Small, PT, DPT

Today’s Pilates blog will focus on another basic movement principle of the Pilates method, Whole Body Movement.

In the last blog, I wrote about the importance of breathing three dimensionally, both expanding and contracting your abdomen and ribcage when breathing. Joseph Pilates wanted to help exaggerate these physiologic functions with movement, to help bring better awareness of these functions to one’s consciousness. He did that by coordinating both whole body movement and breathing. For example, when one inhales, the ribs and sternum move up and out, like a water pump or the handle on a bucket. You can feel this action by placing your hands on the outside of your ribcage, or on your sternum, as you inhale. When the ribs move up and out or the sternum lifts, the spine also extends because of the physical connection of the ribs into the spine. So, when Pilates gave a movement that involved spinal extension, like cow pose, he encouraged his students to inhale.

Conversely, when one exhales the opposite happens, and the ribs move in and down. When the ribs move in and down, this helps facilitate spinal flexion, because of the ribs physical connection to the spine. So, when Pilates gave a movement involving spinal flexion, he encouraged his students to exhale.

The result is inhalation with ribcage expansion and spinal extension, and exhalation with ribcage compression and spinal flexion. By coordinating the ribcage and spinal movement with the breath, you can maximize your air intake and expulsion. In addition, by coordinating your breath and movement, your body can more easily access its natural rhythms, calming the nervous system and promoting relaxation and healing.

Give it a try in your seat at work. Or come to Beyond Basics and visit me for a Pilates private!

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.

 

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