By: Fiona McMahon, DPT
Hey Ladies!!! In the next installment of our Pelvic Health 101 course, we are hosting a women’s only session to allow for a safe and non-threatening place to discuss many issues that can affect the health of your pelvic floor. This class one of Stephanie Stamas’s (the founder of PH101’s ) favorites and is definitely not to be missed. Hear more about it in her video below! Join us at 7pm on April 23. Please register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com
We’ve written a lot of blogs over endometriosis (endo) over the years. It is a common diagnosis at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, and frankly, out in the world. The current estimate is 1 in 10 people with female anatomy have endometriosis, and the average time for a proper diagnosis is 11 years. This number may be subject to change as currently laparoscopic surgery is the gold standard for diagnosis. We write extensively about what endometriosis is, and how it is thought to develop in this blog, But the cliff notes version is that endometriosis is the deposition of endometrial-like cells outside of the uterus. There actually was some degree of controversy about what the deposits actually are. It was originally thought that the deposits were endometrium (the lining of the uterus), but now the endo community is moving away from that thought. The deposits can cause a whole host of symptoms, or none at all. Symptoms severity is not related to the number/amount of endometrial deposits someone has. We still don’t know why some people with large amounts of endometrial implants and or adhesions can experience little to no symptoms, while others who have a relatively small amount of endometrial deposits may experience debilitating pain.
For most people who know anything about endometriosis, they know it is associated with painful periods. Although this is true, if we look at painful periods, we may be missing a lot of other endometriosis-related symptoms. Endo can affect the urinary system, resulting in urinary pain, hesitancy, frequency, urgency, and incomplete emptying. It can cause painful defecation and constipation, and it can affect your sex life causing pain with penetration and or orgasm. Endo can present itself in so many diverse ways and two people with endo may present completely differently.
For individuals with symptoms from endo, there is a lot that can be done to help minimize pain. But the same approach is not always effective for everyone. It is really important to look at your own goals when deciding on what to focus on so you can express them to your care team.
There is no magic pill or treatment that works on every endo patient. Oral medicines, surgery, physical therapy, nutrition, and lifestyle changes can all help with symptoms of endo. Often times treating endo requires some combination of all of these things and the frustrating part is what may have worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you. We will take a little look, (by no means exhaustive) at each one of these interventions with the intention of piquing your interest and hopefully facilitating a discussion about these options with your healthcare provider.
Endometriosis is thought to be an estrogen-driven condition. Some people with endo may find relief from medications that affect hormone levels. Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are an example of medication used to affect hormone levels. There are other options beyond OCPs that work to alter hormone levels. For some people with endo, this approach can be helpful for symptom management, although hormone altering medication won’t cure endo. You do have to consider the side effects of all the medication options however because some of the side effects can be worse than the medication’s positive effects.
Excision surgery is both treatment and the gold standard for diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis. Surgery works by cutting out the endometrial deposits. Performing biopsies on these deposits allows the practitioner to know if the deposit is Endo. Ablation surgery has been shown to only clear part of the endometrial implants and is not nearly as comprehensive as excision surgery. As a result, repeat surgery is commonly required with ablation, and in many cases, multiple repeat surgeries.
So we’ve just explained to you that endo is an estrogen-dependent condition that causes deposits in the abdominal cavity. Logically it makes sense that getting rid of these deposits via surgery or slowing their growth with medication could help treat endo and the pain associated with it. But what does physical therapy have to do with the treatment of endometriosis? The answers range from simple to complex, with the complex delving into some pretty heady neuroscience. Why don’t we start with the simple first, and get more complex as we go.
The deposits created in the abdominal cavity by endo can cause the tissues of the abdomen to get stuck and not slide and glide freely, we call those stuck areas, tissue restrictions or adhesions. The scars created by endo removal surgery cause adhesions. Sounds pretty bleak, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Physical therapists have been treating scars for eons (actually since the start of the civil war, but we digress). Whether or not you have had surgery, chances are you will benefit from some myofascial release, which can help reduce endo and surgery related adhesions. Although most physical therapists know their way around scar massage, it is important to go to one who has been specially trained in pelvic floor conditions and ideally has been trained in visceral mobilization. This training will allow your PT to address adhesions of the viscera (your organs) as well as allow them to work on adhesions in the pelvic bowl by performing intravaginal and intrarectal release.
Here’s where it gets heady, bare with me. Let’s start with defining my subheading. Trigger points are taut bands of muscle that are extremely irritable. Trigger points can be described as “latent”, meaning they are painful when touched, or they may be an active myofascial trigger point, which is constantly angry and can refer pain elsewhere in the body. Trigger points in the abdominal-pelvic region can radiate to some funny places far away from where they actually are. Someone may feel the referred pain from a trigger point in their belly or back, near their bladder, or in their “ovary”, as well as other places. Physical therapy can help relieve these trigger points by performing myofascial release as well as using techniques like biofeedback to help you learn how to relax your pelvic floor and prevent trigger points from reoccurring.
People who have been in pain for a long time may experience a phenomenon called central sensitization. What that means is the body, in an effort to protect you, starts perceiving things that wouldn’t necessarily be painful as painful. No one actively does this, and it is not in your head. It actually happens in the spinal cord and brain. This is what I mean by endo lowering pain thresholds. Physical therapy can be instrumental in improving pain thresholds through a process of desensitization.
What we just discussed are some of the most common things physical therapists address in patients with endometriosis. But let us not forget that everyone with endo experiences it differently. Pelvic floor physical therapists may address issues with urination, sex, and bowel movements directly as well as other issues like weakness, joint pain, and instability. It really is specific to the individual with endo.
Many people find relief in making adjustments to their lifestyle and diet. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of yoga on endo pain, as well as making changes in diet such as avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine or committing to an IC and anti-inflammatory diet. In my experience, different things will work better for different people, but we have seen these changes be extremely helpful for some people. We write more about these changes in this blog.
We hope this blog was helpful to you. Having endo can really suck (we can’t think of a better word for it). If you think you may have endo, talk to a gyno who specializes in the treatment of endometriosis, because there is something you can do about your symptoms. Endo is a disease which requires much more research and awareness. Please take time this March to wear some yellow and do your part to spread endo awareness to physicians and other healthcare providers, to high schools and to your community.
Alimi Y, Iwanga J, Loukas M, et al. The clinical anatomy of endometriosis: A review. Cureus. 2108
Aredo J, Heyrana K, Karp B, et al. Relating chronic pelvic pain and endometriosis to signs of sensitization and myofascial pain and dysfunction. Semin Reprod Med. 2017; 35(1):88-97
Mayo Clinic. “Endometriosis”.
. Accessed on February 19, 2019
Mehedintu C, Plotogea MN, Ionescu S. Endometriosis is still a challenge. Journal of Medicine and Life. 2014. 7(3); 349-57
Gluten free, soy free, low FODMAP… It’s amazing how many diets there are out there that really can provide people with symptom relief. If you are suffering with chronic pain you may be confused on where to start, or what is right for you. You also may have tried out a bunch of different ways of eating, not seen results, and got really frustrated. If this sounds like you, I highly encourage you to come to our next pelvic health seminar on October 4th at 7pm “Does my diet really matter”.
This seminar will be hosted by a special guest speaker, nutritionist Jessica Drummond, MPT,CCN,CHC. Jessica Drummond is a former pelvic floor physical therapist who now specializes in nutrition for those suffering with pelvic floor dysfunction. This seminar has been a huge hit and is a great starting point for those considering adding nutrition as part of their healing journey.
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?
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!
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.
Being able to get pregnant is sometimes a little harder than society will have us believe. The female reproductive system is a complex and intricate part of our bodies and there are many factors that go into fertility. If having children is a goal of yours, do not miss our free reproductive health seminar on April 27th at 7pm with physical therapist, Melissa Stendahl. Melissa will be discussing how both nutrition and pelvic and abdominal tissue health can optimize your reproductive function and help with painful reproductive conditions like endometriosis and pain with intercourse.
By: Fiona McMahon, DPT
Hey Ladies!!! In our next installment of our Pelvic Health 101 course, we are hosting a women’s only session to allow for a safe and non-threatening place to discuss many issues that can affect the health of your pelvic floor. This class one of Stephanie Stamas’s (the founder of PH101’s ) favorites and is definitely not to be missed. Join us at 7pm on April 20th, 2017 Please register at pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com.
Sex should feel good… really, really good. But when it doesn’t, you may start to wonder, what’s wrong with me? Am I broken? Am I a prude? Am I frigid? Painful sex isn’t something we talk about. No one would look at you twice if you walked into work complaining of pain in your elbow, but if you walk into work complaining about pain in you vagina or penis, you may end up having a meeting with HR.
On April 13th, at 7pm, we at Beyond Basics are breaking down those taboos and having an educational seminar, followed by an optional question and answer session at the end. We will discuss the many causes of sexual pain and how physical therapy can help. The event will be hosted by one of our therapists, Stephanie Stamas, DPT, ATC. Stephanie will give a detailed seminar about pelvic health and take time to clear up some common misconceptions many people have concerning their bodies and sexual function.