Ph101 Why is Pooping so Difficult?

toilet 2

Fiona McMahon, DPT

The number of Americans who deal with constipation issues is massive (4 million!)! It seems like every time I mention that I’m a pelvic floor physical therapist, another friend of a friend pulls me aside with bowel movement concerns. Why is it that so many people have issues? And more importantly – what can we do about it? This is the topic of our next Pelvic Health 101 seminar  on  October 11th at 7pm.

Not only will constipation be discussed but other bowel conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, fecal incontinence, bloating, and hemorrhoids will be addressed. The lecture will also go in depth on the role of fiber, water intake, toilet posture and pelvic floor muscles in having a successful bowel movement. You will even go home with easy techniques that you can implement immediately to help you get that smooth move! Don’t miss out on this FREE event – it’s a MUST for anyone who struggles on the porcelain throne. Seats are going fast!  Light snacks and refreshments will be served.

Register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com  today.

Location

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Check out or upcoming courses!

Pelvic Health 101 Fall 2017

 

Time to PUMP SOME IRON! September is Healthy Aging Month

WeightsFiona McMahon PT, DPT

The idea of strength training can conjure up many images, like the funny images of  Saturday Night Live’s Hans and Frans, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. It can also be intimidating. The idea of walking into a crowded weight room full of young and fit people, who seem to all know what they are doing can stop a newbie in their tracks. But resistance training has so many benefits, for health, function, and longevity. It goes way beyond looking good in a swimsuit, although it certainly can help with that. In honor of September’s Healthy Aging Month we at Beyond Basics are taking a close look at how adding a safe strength training regimen to one’s daily routine at any age, can boost so many indicators of health and quality of life.

Everyone understands that muscles are essential for everyday tasks like rising from a chair, carrying your shopping, and many other instrumental tasks required for independence. The thing about muscles is they are not static, and as we start to age we lose muscle, especially if we do not work to maintain our muscle mass. Believe it or not, we slowly start losing muscle mass at age 30, (bummer, I know), but after 60 is where things get really crazy. After age 60 we start losing muscle mass at a rate of approximately 15% per year. The less active someone is in their life, the quicker this loss occurs. Low muscle mass is called sarcopenia. You will see this term a lot in this blog. The condition of sacropenia brings with it functional impairments from lack of strength and can put a person in a position where they are more likely to require assistance for everyday tasks. Furthermore, when sarcopenia and obesity occur at the same time, which we often see in the elderly, the functional impairments associated with sarcopenia and obesity are greater than either sarcopenia or obesity alone.

But there is hope. Aging isn’t a slippery slope into weakness and frailty. It is what you make it. Even sarcopenic muscle can respond and strengthen in response to proper training. In fact, it adapts to the demands of strength training at the same rate as younger muscle. Weight training can actually reduce fat and build muscle, helping to reverse the condition of sarcopenic obesity. Many studies indicate that resistance training can prevent and or reverse age related losses in function. Even with all the benefits of strength training. Only an estimated 10-15% of older folks regularly participate in strength training exercise, leaving a huge percentage of the population missing out on strength training’s myriad benefits, which we will cover in more detail below.

Benefits of Strength Training

 

Balance and Fall Prevention

Falls are a serious cause of injury, disability, and death in the elderly. People over the age of 60 have a once yearly fall rate of approximately 30%. Resistance training in combination with balance training under the care of a skilled physical therapist can go a long way to reduce one’s risk of falls. If falling is a concern of yours, please check out our other blog on falls and fall prevention.

 

Pain Syndromes

Pain symptoms in individuals with Fibromyalgia Syndrome improved following a 12 week high intensity strengthening program (Mayer).

 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by low bone density, increases a person’s risk of fracture. Fracture brings along with it risks of prolonged pain, depression, issues with function, subsequent fracture, and even death. Individuals with vertebral fracture have a 2.7 increased likelihood of death and are likely to have an additional fracture within a year of the original fracture.

There is evidence supporting resistance exercise as a useful tool to increasing bone density in osteoporotic individuals. With people with extreme cases of osteoporosis, there is increase risk of accidental fracture from dropped weights, poor form in transitions and adjusting weight machines. In these individuals, and all individuals for that matter, it is extremely important to work with a physical therapist to construct a safe and beneficial routine.

 

Function

Many studies have found significant improvements in function following a resistance training program. Physical therapists like to use a few specific tests when getting a general idea of someone’s function. A couple of our favorites are the Timed Up and Go (TUG) and the 6 – Minute Walk Test. They measure the time it takes to rise from a chair and the amount of ground covered in six minutes, respectively. Pretty simple, right? In all of the studies I read that were using these outcomes, both TUG and 6-Minute Walk scores significantly improved following strengthening intervention. These tests are really special because they have incredibly strong correlations to functional independence and risk for falls and hospitalization. On top of improving scores in these tests, patient’s themselves also reported improved mobility in their daily lives.

Frequency and Duration

Out of the studies examined, most advised participating in a resistance routine 3-4x weekly in order to see an increase in muscle mass in 6-9 weeks. Continued training will sustain this effect. Most recommended 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions and 65-85% one rep max. Bands and free weights have found to be effective for strength training in older individuals. As stated before, exercise machines tend to have an increased risk of fracture in those with severe osteoporosis and therefore, should be avoided unless one is certain they can adjust the machine with correct form. Repetitions should be slow and controlled. Cardio and weight training are life long commitments.

So Where To Start?

The first place to stop is at your local and experienced physical therapy office. Your PT will be able to determine if you are safe to exercise and what types of exercise will work best for your body and your goals. Will exercise bands work better for you? What the heck is 80% one rep max? When can I progress? Am I doing this right? All of these questions will be answered by your physical therapist. At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy we work to not only improve strength, but also efficiency of movement to allow our patients to get the most from their time with us as well as their time spent doing resistance training. If you think weight training is right for you and are eager to get started, make a call to us at BBPT or to your local PT, to make an appointment today!

Chen M, Jiang B. Resistance training exercise program for intervention to enhance gait function in elderly chronically ill patients: multivariate multiscale entropy for center of pressure signal analysis. Comput Math Methods Med. 2014

Giangregorio G. Papaioannou A. MacIntyre N. Too fit to fracture: exercise recomendations for individuals with osteoporosis or osteoporotic vertebral fracture

Liao C, Tsauo J, Lin L, et al. Effects of elastic resistance exercise on body composition on body composition and physical capacitiy in older women with sacropenic obesity. Medicine. 2013. 96(23)

Mayer F, Scharhag-Rosenberger F, Carlsohn A. The intensity and effects of strength training in the elderly. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 108(21):359-64

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

The use of Breath in the Pilates Method

Denise Small PT, DPT

The following series of Pilates blog posts will focus on the principles that define the Pilates method.  Joseph Pilates developed his methodology using eight basic movement principles: whole body movement, breathing, balanced muscle development, concentration, control, centering, precision, and rhythm.  Today’s blog will focus on the principle of Breathing.

pilatesBreathing is a natural phenomenon that is performed thousands of times a day. Our daily intake of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide is needed to cleanse our blood, and maintain the functioning of our body systems.  That being said, there are different ways to manipulate one’s breath to help facilitate certain physiological functions. For example, there have been many BBPT blog posts about diaphragmatic breathing, where one breathes into their abdomen to get a stretch of both the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles. Well, Pilates had his own approach to breathing, which was a variation on Diaphragmatic breathing.  Pilates approach to breathing was aimed at getting maximal air intake and release to give the body, what he called, “an internal shower” to rid the body of “toxins”. Pilates focused specifically on lateral expansion of the diaphragm, whereas traditional diaphragmatic breathing focuses on the vertical expansion of the diaphragm. In order to achieve this, Pilates encouraged maintaining the engaged tone of the abdomen, while breathing into the front, sides, and back of the ribcage. See the image below for further explanation.

 

Pilates- Ribcage/ Chest breathing versus Belly/Diaphragmatic breathing

This is an overly simplified view of the actual mechanics. However, both versions are very important. With the ability to differentiate between ribcage and diaphragmatic breathing you can offer your diaphragm a 3-dimensional stretch and the ability to work on abdominal contraction as well as endurance. If you have any questions you can ask them in the comments section. Or come visit me at Beyond Basics for a Pilates Private session!

BBPT Health Tip: Seated Hamstring Stretch

Fiona McMahon DPT, PT

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Fenitra, of BBPT shows the correct way to perform this stretch. Notice how she doesn’t curve her back forward in order to perform the stretch

Seated Hamstrings Stretch

Hello folks! Beyond Basics Physical Therapy’s latest health tip is the seated hamstrings stretch!

Why seated you ask? In selecting this stretch over other hamstrings stretches, I wanted to pick something that most everyone can be able to do. This stretch is particularly beneficial for those of you who have difficulty getting on and off the floor. Although if you do have difficulty getting off of the floor, it is important to go to physical therapy and get the training to do so, as being able to independently get up off the floor is imperative for maintaining independent function as you age.  Another point: if you have any sciatic pain or sitting pain, please seek a physical therapist before attempting this stretch.  

Muscles involved: Hamstrings, gastroc soleus complex ( your calf) and to some extent your sciatic nerve

Stretch Type: Static: Best if performed after workouts on warm muscles. Exercise caution if stretching cold muscle, because unwarned muscle doesn’t stretch as well as warmed up muscles.  

Caution: It is possible to overdo it. Stop the stretch or ease up if you feel tingling in your legs or pain in your low back.

As always: No stretch should ever be painful. If a stretch is painful, stop and consult your physical therapist for modifications.  

 

Directions:  Sitting in a sturdy chair, ( don’t do this on a rolly stool or office chair, please!). Straighten knee of leg to be stretched and point toes up. Lean forward at the hips until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg. Don’t round your back. Keep in mind, for those of us with tight hamstrings, you will feel the stretch without too much of a forward bend.  So take it slow!

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Fenitra demonstrates a straight knee and pointed toe while performing her stretch
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Fenitra demonstrates this stretch

BBPT Health Tip: Eat your Fiber

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Fiona McMahon, DPT, PT

What is fiber?

Fiber, it’s the hot ticket. It is being marketed to us like crazy. But why is fiber is so important? What fiber is best? Should you get more fiber with supplements? Let’s take a closer look into the benefits of fiber in this edition of BBPT’s Health tips.

Fiber is the part of food that we cannot digest. It is separated into two types, soluble and insoluble. Both bulk up the contents of your stomach and colon, which can help you feel more full but after that, the similarities end.

As the name implies, soluble fiber dissolves in water but insoluble does not. Insoluble fiber increases the mass of the stool and helps to get things moving, in terms of passing feces. Soluble fiber absorbs water. The truth is, most people are not getting enough fiber. Less than half of people in the United States consume the recommended amount of fiber. Let’s discuss the benefits of fiber and how to make sure you are getting enough.

So what if you don’t have issues going number 2? What else can fiber help you with?

Fiber has been shown to help with reducing the risk of the following conditions:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Fiber has also been shown to:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity in people who have diabetes
  • Enhance weight loss
  • Improve GI conditions like acid reflux, duodenal ulcers, diverticulitis, constipation, and hemorrhoids
  • Enhance the function of the immune system

How much to eat and where to get it?

Men under 50 years and under should consume at least 38 grams of fiber daily, Women under 50 should consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily. Women over 50 should eat at least 21 grams and men over 50 should get 30.  Those who suffer from constipation may add more to your diet.   We suggest contacting a nutritionist for proper amounts of soluble versus insoluble in these cases and anyone with a history of GI issues.  Also, please discuss with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.  

Adding  fiber to your diet when you are not used to it can sometimes be a little difficult. If you add too much too quickly, you may experience gas and bloating. Start slow and work your way up.  Also, drink plenty of water.

Start by adding in whole wheat items (unless you have a gluten sensitivity), legumes, fruits, and vegetables slowly to your diet. Check out the Mayo Clinic’s full list of fiber rich foods here .

Sources

Anderson J, Baird P, Davis R, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009. 67(4)188-205

Family Doctor.org Decermber 2010: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/food-nutrition/nutrients/fiber-how-to-increase-the-amount-in-your-diet.printerview.all.html. Accessed November 11, 2016.

Medlineplus. Soluble vs. insoluble fiber.https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm. Accessed November 17,2016.  

BBPT Health Tip: Diaphragmatic Breathing

just-breathe-in-cloudsFiona McMahon DPT, PT

WE LOVE DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING! We do, we really do and we hope you will too. What is diaphragmatic breathing you ask? Diaphragmatic breathing is a form of deep breathing where you breath deeply into your stomach. As you breath in, you will actually see your belly extend and get bigger, and as you breath out, your belly will return to it’s old spot. It’s not like our typical breathing patterns where we breath from the chest; it is a much more deep and deliberate breath.

Why We love Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing accomplishes a lot in the body. First of all, it supplies the body with a large dose of oxygen, which is pretty obvious, but it is a much more robust breath than a simple chest breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing also works wonders on the tissues of both the abdomen and the pelvic floor. By taking a big diaphragmatic breath in, the diaphragm lowers and provides a gentle stretch to the tissues and organs of the belly as well as the pelvic floor. As you breath in you are actually providing a nice stretch to the pelvic floor.

Deep breaths can also calm down the nervous system and allow you to better relax. When you are more relaxed your body can attend to the day to day tasks such as digestion and healing. It really is amazing what some deep breaths can do.

How to breathe diaphragmatically

Start off by putting one hand on your chest, at about the area of your breastbone. Place the other hand on your stomach. You can do diaphragmatic breathing just about anywhere, so get in a position that is comfortable for you. Start by slowly breathing in. In order to tell if you are using your diaphragm, you should feel the hand on your stomach move more than the hand on your chest. As you breath in, bring your awareness to your ribs and feel them expand out to the side and back.  Finish by slowly breathing out. The out breather should be longer than the inhale. It is really that easy.

How does one actually use diaphragmatic breathing?

Really you can use it in anyway you need too. Some people find it tremendously helpful to do 10 diaphragmatic breaths every hour, while others employ deep breathing techniques in times of stress or pain. The important thing about diaphragmatic breathing, or any exercise for that matter is consistency. Try to at least get in 20 deep breaths a day.