Amanda Davis, PT, DPT, PRPC can be found online at https://www.makeandmanifest.com/. She has generously shared her recent blog with The Pelvic Rehab Report. "Got 30 Minutes? 4 Underestimated Daily Practices to Make Your Lunch Break More Life-Giving" can be found in its original post on her website here: http://www.makeandmanifest.com/blog-lunchbreak/.
Hey there, I'm Amanda. Pelvic rehab therapist, endo warrior, girl mama (despite that whole endo thing), and creator of this space where I'm sharing the story of practicing what I preach and the wins and losses I gather along the way. I love early morning espresso, podcast binging, yoga pants, and scrolling Pinterest for my next obsession (heyyyy fellow libras!). My mission is to help women see the difference between "common" and "normal" and to take their physical, mental, and emotional health beyond the "that's just the way it is" mentality.
Hats off to my fellow 9-5ers who head home after a long day to jump right into their 5-9. If you’re like me, that second “career” includes (but definitely is not limited to) caregiver, dog walker, master gardener, professional organizer, chef, and housekeeper to name a few. Add in friendships that need energy, relationships that need time, those hobbies you swore you’d keep alive, and self-care you promised yourself you’d do…aaaaand the whole multi-passionate, multi-talented, multi-hyphenate thing can get overwhelming quick.
After a glorious five-month maternity leave, I’ve officially been a working mom for a year. I love my job and I love my girl, and while trying to fit both in a 24 day is challenging and exhausting, it’s what’s right for me in the season I’m in. Plus there’s something about pursuing my calling outside of the home and knowing Sloan’s watching me do it.
We’ve all chased that ultimate goal of a *perfect* balance and ~seamless~ blend between work and home, but in full disclosure, I’ve gotta tell ya— it’s hard for me to do. I’ve found myself coming home drained, dying for a break, wishing I could just lock myself in a quiet room, and feeling guilty for all of the above. Being with my daughter is the best part of my day, but I’m often just too depleted to enjoy it.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe you’re also trying to work to live but find those words flipping themselves around more than you care to admit.
I recently took an online course called Boundaries, Self-Care, and Meditation for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist, Part 1 (part 2 is on June 12). As a PT I’m required to take continuing education to keep my skillset relevant and knowledge fresh, but the pending burnout I shared with you above led me to [this] course instead. To put it simply, it was [insert explosion sound here] mind-blowing; and call me dramatic, but I consider my practice, my patients, and myself as a person and professional forever changed because of it.
While I could write at least ten posts on all the things I learned in this class, the concept that’s been most life-altering for me was how I spend my lunchtime. Yep!…just a few tweaks to those 30 minutes mid-day and not only are my afternoons more pleasant and productive, but I’m going home refreshed, renewed, and ready to spend my time and energy on alllllllllll the other people and things that mean the most to me.
What you’ll find next is how I structure my lunchtime for life-giving success— a strategy that serves me most. We all have different work environments, different physical and mental needs, and different priorities. As long as your cup feels full(er) at the end of your break, I can confirm you’re doin’ it right.
SHUT YOUR DOOR
I fully realize that not everyone has an office door they can shut during lunchtime, but as long as you can get somewhere semi-quiet and remotely alone, that should do the trick (heck…I’ve been known to go out to my car in a pinch). Creating a calm and centered environment has proven paramount to taking a true “break” from the day and will make all of my recommendations to follow that much more enjoyable.
If you’re worried about appearing “selfish” or “standoffish”…I was too. But after a week’s worth of lunches behind a closed door, I realize the positives of this practice far outweigh the negatives I was creating in my head. I’m still a team player. My coworkers still know where I am if they need me. But I’m a better colleague the other eight hours of the day when I take these 30 minutes to myself, and to my knowledge, there have been no complaints so far.
STOP TO EAT
To my fellow multi-tasking queens— if you only read one part of this post, let [this] be it as I believe this one change has made the biggest difference.
I used to spend my lunch catching up on paperwork, tending to emails, paying bills, online shopping, and then resort to scrolling social media if all of that was done. But I was eating during all of it and realized that not only was it taking me twice as long to complete tasks, but I wasn’t tasting, appreciating, or ultimately enjoying my food, all huge components of appetite, digestion, and ultimately nutrition and health.
My lunches aren’t anything fancy; in fact, 99% of the time they’re leftovers from earlier in the week (helloooooooo my trusty 3-day-old grilled chicken). But stopping to eat with intention and nothing other than a little music or podcast playing in the background has surprisingly, but positively, affected how much I consume, how my gut feels afterward, and the amount of energy I have for the rest of the day.
PS- What you eat can make a huge impact here too. I aim for whole, quality foods full of healthy fats and filling proteins to set me up for success. I’m someone who can eat the same thing again and again, so you’ll typically find my lunchbox full of that good ol’ grilled chicken, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, and rice noodles if I’m feelin’ feisty.
On top of that podcast I have playing while I eat, I’ve started spending ten to fifteen minutes learning during lunch. I literally set a timer, pull out a book, and read about something that fuels my brain.
In order to make these minutes a 10/10, here’s a few tips to uplevel the experience:
When I became a mom I went from devouring a few books a month to being able to count my yearly reads on one hand. Reading on my lunch break has made me excited to learn again and reminded me of who I am outside of motherhood too (in turn making me a better mama). Even if reading isn’t your “thing”, at least give this one a try. Bonus if you utilize your local library because their books just smell better and we’re going for indulgent here…remember?
Eat…ten minutes. Learn…ten minutes. If you’re like me and have ten more minutes to spare, then I encourage you to move your body with that time. While the options are endless, I try to avoid sweating too much in the middle of the work day, so walking, stretching, and even deep breathing exercises are more my speed. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have the shoes, yoga mat, or whatever it is you need ready to go.
Not only does research show that movement improves your mood and elevates your energy, but there are also the physical benefits (duh!) and mental resilience that comes with knowing you’re taking care of yourself when you could be doing something else. Once fearful of wasting precious energy, I now consider my mid-day movement the boost I need to ensure I’m ready to go when I get home because let me tell ya…one year olds don’t quit.
One look at my Pinterest boards and you’ll see I’m a girl who has a lot she wants to accomplish (I see you dream house, list of must-reads, vacation itineraries, and yummy recipes just dyyyyyying to be made). But with a 24-hour day divided in thirds between work, sleep, and “other”, I have to use my time wisely to see success in a life where I’m more often than not choosing the option of (D) ALL OF THE ABOVE.
I don’t mean to be dramatic, but hacking my 30-minute lunch has ~literally~ changed my life and I’m a better physical therapist, caregiver, dog walker, master gardener, professional organizer, chef, and housekeeper (to name a few) because of it. There’s a saying that if you can’t go big, go home, but this is an instance where you can’t underestimate the power of a few minutes spent intentionally where it counts.
I’d love to hear in the comments what you do for work, if these strategies work for you, and ways you’ve made them your own. And don’t hesitate to share this one with a coworker who could use these strategies too! Nothing makes me happier than picturing us all spending half an hour in that 11-2 time frame-filling our cups for full-day success. I have a feeling you’ll be surprised at the impact this can have, and I can’t wait to watch you grow one lunchtime at a time.
This course focuses on personal and professional growth for the participant, with a deeper dive into meditation and self-care practices. Yoga is introduced as a means of mindful movement and energy balance. Participants will learn to identify unhealthy relational patterns in patients and others, and skills on how to use language and boundaries to create shifts that keep the clinician grounded and prevent excessive energic and emotional disruptions. There is a lecture on using essential oils for self-care and possibly patient care. Learning new strategies to preserve energy, wellness, and passion while practicing appropriate self-care and boundaries will lead to helpful relationships with complex patients. This course also includes a discussion of energetic relationships with others as well as the concept of a "Higher Power". The discussion will also include refining life purpose, mission, and joy potential, unique to the individual participant. The goal is that the participating clinician will walk away from this experience equipped with strategies to address both oneself and one's patients with a mind, body, and spirit approach.
Rachna Mehta PT, DPT, CIMT, OCS, PRPC, RYT 200 has a personal interest in various eastern holistic healing traditions, and she noticed that many of her chronic pain patients were using complementary health care approaches including acupuncture and yoga. Her course Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health brings a unique evidence-based approach and explores complementary medicine as a powerful tool for holistic management of the individual as a whole focusing on the physical, emotional, and energy body.
There is worldwide concern over the increasing rates of pharmacologically induced labor, opioid use, and operative birth. Women are seeking holistic non-pharmacologic options to avoid medical and surgical interventions in childbirth which has led to the popularity of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies. Despite CAM existing outside of conventional heath systems, a substantial number of women have been found to use CAM to manage their health during pregnancy1.
Among CAM therapies, Acupuncture and Acupressure have been found to be helpful for pregnancy-related symptoms such as nausea, breech presentation, and labor induction with post-partum recovery considerations as well. Acupressure has roots in Acupuncture and is based on more than 3000 years of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM supports Meridian theory and meridians are believed to be energy channels that are connected to the function of the visceral organs. Acupoints located along these meridians transmit Qi or the bio-electric energy through a vast network of interstitial connective tissue connecting the peripheral nervous system to the central viscera.
A systematic review published by Smith et al2 looked at the use of Acupuncture or Acupressure for pain management during labor. They noted that the pain women experience during labor can be intense, with body tension, anxiety, and fear making it worse. The data included a total of 3960 women and found that Acupressure may reduce pain intensity in women experiencing labor pain.
Another RCT published by Levett et al included 176 nulliparous women with low-risk pregnancies, attending hospital-based antenatal clinics. They incorporated six evidence-based complementary medicine techniques: Acupressure, visualization and relaxation, breathing, massage, yoga techniques, and facilitated partner support. Randomization occurred at 24–36 weeks’ gestation, and participants attended a 2-day antenatal education program plus standard care, or standard care alone.
The study found a significant difference between the two groups with the study group having decreased epidural use (23.9%) compared to the standard care group (68.7%). The study group participants also reported a reduced rate of cesarean section and length of the second stage among other measures.
An article published by Debra Betts3 discusses several key considerations for promoting physiological Labor with Acupuncture. Multiple studies have cited the effectiveness of Acupressure by stimulating these powerful Acupoints as well. The author states that the suggestion of Acupoints cited below are based on both her clinical practice and midwifery feedback and are by no means an exhaustive list. The practitioner is encouraged to explore Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote efficient physiological labor in women.
Key considerations for promoting natural physiological labor include:
Is the baby in an optimal anterior position? The author states “Women can become involved in their own treatment by learning proactive positioning. This involves a woman keeping her knees lower than her hips when sitting, in order to assist gravity in moving her baby into the best possible position. Bucket‑type seats such as car seats and comfy sofas, therefore, need to be abandoned in favor of birthing balls, sitting astride chairs (with the arms resting on the back).” Key acupuncture points that can be stimulated include Bladder 60 ( BL 60), Spleen 6 (Sp 6), and Bladder 67 (BL 67). Bladder 60 (BL 60) is considered an empirical induction point. Midwifery feedback suggests that this is a useful point for promoting an optimal position of the baby for birth. Bladder 67 (BL 67) is considered an extremely important point if the baby is not in an anterior position.
Is the woman emotionally prepared for labor? While most women have some level of underlying anxiety or fear about the approaching birth, it is essential to address any significant emotional disharmony. The hormone oxytocin is released several weeks prior to labor, initially stimulating uterine contractions at night, with increasing production then aiding the transition into labor. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline have a direct inhibiting effect on natural oxytocin release, and therefore play a very significant role in inhibiting contractions2. Key acupuncture points that can be stimulated include Kidney 1 (KD 1), Liver 3 (Liv 3), and Pericardium 6 (P6) among others. Kidney 1 (K1) is useful for women who are experiencing fear of induction or childbirth itself. Liver 3 (Lv 3) is helps in improving Liver chi. Pericardium 6 (P6) is helpful for nausea, regulating the heart and calming.
Is the woman physically prepared for labor? Women may be physically exhausted or have pre-existing physical conditions that, once addressed, will help to promote physiological labor2. Key acupuncture points that can be stimulated include Bladder 43 (BL 43) and Stomach 36 (St 36). Bladder 43 ( BL 43) is A point that tonifies and nourishes the Lung, Heart, Kidneys, Spleen, and Stomach. Stomach 36 (ST 36) is a useful point to reinforce if the woman is exhausted, due to its qi-tonifying and blood-nourishing properties.
Stimulating contractions: Debra Betts also notes that key points of the Bladder meridian that are located on the sacrum are crucial in initiating contractions. While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does consider some Acupuncture points like Large Intestine 4 (LI 4), Gall Bladder 21 (GB 21), and Spleen 6 (Sp 6) should not be stimulated in pregnant women, the opposite is true when we want to initiate labor and these points can be additionally used to assist in stimulating contractions.
Acupressure can also be used in the post-partum period for overall generalized well-being, promoting a sense of bonding with the baby, calm, and relaxation.
Acupressure can be used to stimulate key energy points also known as Acupoints in various meridians and as hands-on musculoskeletal specialists, we can use and teach this modality to our patients. Acupressure requires no equipment, is easy for clinicians to teach and for patients to self-administer when taught correctly, and is an empowering self-care tool to promote optimal health outcomes.
The course Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health focuses on powerful Acupressure points in key Meridians including the Kidney, Bladder, Spleen, and Stomach meridians. It also explores Yin Yoga as an integrative intervention with Acupressure. Yin Yoga, a derivative of Hath Yoga is a wonderful complimentary practice to Acupressure. Yin Yoga is a slow and calm meditative practice that uses seated and supine poses that are held for three to five minutes with deep breathing. It stimulates the energy flow through the meridian channels by creating tension along specific meridian lines.
This course is curated and taught by Rachna Mehta. To learn how to integrate Acupressure into your clinical practice, join the next scheduled remote course on June 25- 26, 2022.
Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health
Instructor: Rachna Mehta PT, DPT, CIMT, OCS, PRPC, RYT 200
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 12.5
This continuing education course is a two-day seminar that offers participants an evidence-based perspective on the application of Acupressure for evaluating and treating a host of pelvic health conditions including bowel, bladder, and pelvic pain issues. The course explores a brief history of Acupressure, its roots in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and presents current evidence that supports the use of complementary and alternative medicine as an adjunct to western medicine. TCM concepts of Meridian theory and energy channels are presented with scientific evidence of Acupoints transmitting energy through interstitial connective tissue with potentially powerful integrative applications through multiple systems.
Lectures will present evidence on the use of potent Acupressure points and combinations of points for treating a variety of pelvic health conditions including chronic pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, constipation, digestive disturbances, and urinary dysfunctions to name a few. Key acupoints for decreasing anxiety, and stress and bringing the body back to a state of physiological balance are integrated throughout the course.
Participants will be instructed through live lectures and demonstrations on the anatomic location and mapping of acupressure points along five major meridians including the spleen, stomach, kidney, urinary bladder, and gall bladder meridians. Key associated points in the pericardium, large intestine, small intestine, lung and liver meridians as well as the governing and conception vessels will also be introduced. The course offers a brief introduction to Yin yoga and explores Yin poses within each meridian to channel energy through neurodynamic pathways to promote healing across multiple systems. Participants will learn how to create home programs and exercise sequences and will be able to integrate acupressure and Yin yoga into their orthopedic and pelvic health interventions.
Special Considerations and Lab materials
The labs for this course will involve external whole-body palpation and mapping of acupressure points. Please wear fitted t-shirt and leggings or yoga pants for acupressure point mapping. Participants should buy a pack of 1-inch diameter white circle stickers to be used in Labs for mapping acupressure points.
Participants are encouraged to use a Yoga mat if available and any other props they may have at home including yoga blocks, small blankets, towels and pillows to be used in the guided Yin Yoga Lab portion of the course.
Recommended resources: It is recommended that participants purchase an Acupressure Point Chart for ease of following the course work and labs in this course. Since the accuracy of points and content may vary on different charts, it is recommended to buy a copy at https://acupressure.com/products/acupressure-charts/
This continuing education seminar is targeted to rehabilitation professionals who use manual therapy as a treatment modality. Knowledge of acupressure points with specific anatomical landmarks will enable clinicians to add to their toolbox skills for treating a variety of pelvic health conditions related to the bowel, and bladder and treatment of pelvic pain.
It is recommended that the participants have a working knowledge of the functional anatomy of pelvic floor muscles as well as various associated pelvic health conditions. Pelvic Floor 1 through Herman & Wallace is strongly recommended.
Kelly Sammis, PT, OCS, CLT, AFDN-S is a physical therapist, educator of dry needling and all things pelvic, Pilates instructor, wife, and mama living and working in Parker, Colorado. She specializes in the treatment of male and female pelvic floor dysfunction, athletic injury/return to sport, sports performance, and persistent pain. Her formal education took place at Ohio University (2007) and The University of St Augustine for Health Sciences (2010). Kelly serves as the lead faculty developing and teaching dry needling and pelvic health courses nationwide. Kelly co-instructs the Herman & Wallace Dry Needling courses along with site fellow faculty member Tina Anderson, MS PT.
Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a common and relevant condition that affects many patients worldwide. According to our evidence, PFD can affect approximately 20-25% of women and men in the United States1, contributing to decreased participation in preferred daily, work and recreational activities due to high incidences of lumbopelvic pain, abdominopelvic pain, incontinence, prolapse, and/or other urologic and urogynecologic symptoms.2 These symptoms have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and mental health status.2
While PFD is common, the general public has not been fully educated that these dysfunctions are not normal. As clinicians, we have a duty to educate our patient population that PFD is not a normal, nor acceptable, part of the postpartum experience or aging process. These dysfunctions are very debilitating but are also very treatable.
Common, not normal. Common, but treatable.
Pelvic floor pathology comes to us as clinicians in a variety of diagnoses, etiologies, and presentations2. Patients are often referred to physical therapy with medical diagnoses such as chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS), interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, dyspareunia, pudendal neuralgia, bowel and urinary incontinence, and chronic prostatitis.3-5 Symptom presentation is quite varied but often will include bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunctions. That being said, a multidisciplinary approach is crucial to tailor treatment specific to each patient’s pathology, symptomatology, and clinical presentation.6 Many of these patients have seen a variety of gynecologists, urologists, and gastroenterologists without successful symptom mitigation and are being referred to pelvic health practitioners as a last resort. This is unfortunate, as a primary contributor to these symptoms is the neuromusculoskeletal system…and who better to treat the neuromusculoskeletal system than rehabilitative clinicians?!
Multimodal practice is key.
A well-rounded, multimodal treatment approach that is tailored to meet the patient’s specific goals is an important step in successfully treating PFD. Patient education can be a very powerful modality, which many clinicians tend to overlook. Research suggests education may help to address central nervous system upregulation and may help to retrain the brain in how it is processing input.7,8 While it is incredibly powerful to be able to influence pain processing, it doesn't stop with education. As clinicians, we also need to provide non-threatening, nourishing input to the tissues.
Manual therapies may help to desensitize the peripheral nervous system and surrounding soft tissues by providing neural input to alter the source of the pain and disruption.9,10 These techniques, including joint mobilization, soft tissue release, myofascial techniques, tool-assisted therapies, or any other manual approach, are likely addressing local tissue issues that may be perpetuating chronic pain or tissue dysfunction.
Dry needling is another effective and efficient technique that pelvic health practitioners can utilize to modulate the central nervous system, peripheral nervous systems and local tissues, including the pelvic floor directly.10 Dry needling encompasses the insertion of solid filament, non-injectate needles into, alongside or around muscles, nerves or connective tissues with or without mechanical and/or electrical stimulation for the management of pain and dysfunction in neuromusculoskeletal conditions.
While the detailed mechanisms of dry needling are not well known, we have seen more and more evidence that has provided us with an understanding on how to best utilize this technique in our clinical practice. Overall, it is thought that dry needling may address hypersensitive neural structures and spinal segments5, enhance treatment of myofascial pain and trigger points in the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature, and assist in the facilitation and/or inhibition of abnormal muscle tone and motor recruitment patterns.10-23 Dry needling has the ability to assist in addressing bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction alongside addressing pain syndromes in our patient population that is impacted by PFD.
Dry needling is one of the most effective tools we have as rehabilitative practitioners to reset dysfunctional tissue, providing effective and efficient functional changes for our patients. Ultimately, we are able to facilitate a more balanced resting tone, healthy motor recruitment patterns, and optimal neuromuscular utility to re-establish ideal function in our patients. The power of the tissue reset that dry needling provides has changed my clinical outcomes for the better and has also positively impacted and changed the lives of many of my clients. Want to add this tool to your clinical practice? Check out our course offerings with Herman & Wallace:
Sarah Clampett, PT, DPT, is Head of Clinical Operations at Origin, a leading provider of pelvic floor and whole-body physical therapy with a special focus on pregnancy and postpartum. After studying Kinesiology and Psychology at the University of California, Sarah stayed on to earn her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. As a clinical leader at Origin, she’s as passionate about helping PTs love the work they do as she is helping patients feel good in their bodies.
Shortly after I started physical therapy school, I realized that being a physical therapist is a fantastic conversation starter. People’s eyes tend to light up when they hear I’m a PT because almost everyone has had an experience with physical therapy — and even if they haven’t, they’ve had an injury. They want to tell me about the physical therapy they did in high school for their scoliosis or that time they tore their ACL skiing. They even seek advice for that pesky low back pain that hasn’t fully resolved since throwing their back out six months ago.
I love to hear people’s stories and genuinely enjoy engaging in casual conversations about injuries. When I’m done explaining that core strength is important when dealing with back pain, I go on to say that while I started my career in ortho, I’m now a pelvic floor PT. That’s when one of two things happens: 1) They stare at me blankly, then quickly change the subject, or 2) Their eyes light up even brighter and they start asking questions. That’s when the conversation gets really fun. “What exactly do you do?” “What do you treat?” and “How did you get into that?”
Where My Passion for Ortho Started
I decided to go to PT school for a couple of reasons. I’ve always loved sports and consider sports a large part of my upbringing. (Fun fact: I only listened to AM sports radio until I was about 13). And, like many PTs, I discovered physical therapy as a patient. In my case, it was after injuring myself in high school playing volleyball.
I loved going to PT, not only because I was getting better — I loved seeing all the other patients getting better around me. It was a very sports-oriented PT clinic and my first and only experience with PT, so when I declared Kinesiology as my major and started my pre-PT coursework in college, I had my heart set on being a sports/ortho PT. It felt like the perfect fit at the time. I was a student athletic trainer for 2.5 years in college to learn as much as I could about the sports rehab world before heading into PT school.
Fast forward to my final semester and clinical rotation at PT school: I was at an ortho clinic with a large population of athletes. I loved it. After I graduated, I was hired as a PT at that same clinic and started my career as a working PT. I began working a few days a week to build my caseload with the plan to transition to full-time as my schedule filled. That clinic happened to also own a women’s health clinic that treated primarily prenatal and postpartum patients. A few weeks after starting, I was asked if I wanted to work additional days by filling in at the women’s health clinic. As a new grad who needed to pay rent, I said yes because more days meant more money. It was supposed to be temporary.
My Journey to Becoming a Pelvic Floor PT
As soon as I walked into the women’s health clinic, something clicked. I fell in love with the patient population and helping them feel better. I remember early on, a patient with such severe pelvic pain that they could barely walk to the bathroom. At their next visit, they said they could walk without pain again. The ability to help people going through pregnancy and postpartum felt especially meaningful. I spent a year and a half working in both clinics and then transitioned to treating women’s health full time.
After working in women’s health for a couple of years, I eventually got tired of referring my patients with pelvic floor conditions to colleagues who treated pelvic floor and decided it was time to start treating it myself. To be honest, I was hesitant at first and definitely nervous about taking my first course. But as soon as I started treating the pelvic floor, something clicked again.
Even more so than in the past, I connected deeply with my patients and their goals. Giving someone the confidence to leave the house without wearing a maxi-pad or carrying extra underwear because they’re no longer worried about leaking was amazing. So many people suffer in silence from pelvic floor disorders and are resolved to just live with them. I’m lucky enough to provide a safe space to talk about it and assure them that it can get better. How cool is that?
Advice for an Ortho PT Curious About Pelvic floor
Take a course! Just because you take the course does not mean you are committing to a career change. Even if you decide it’s not the right time to switch or you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would, you’ll still learn valuable information that you can immediately incorporate into your practice. That overworked, stressed patient with lingering hip pain might need pelvic floor lengthening to get that last bit of pain to resolve.
Most ortho PTs who make the shift are nervous they won’t be able to use their ortho skills when treating the pelvic floor, and that simply isn’t true. My time in ortho has definitely shaped the pelvic floor PT I am today.
In ortho, you treat the whole body. If your foot hurts, you look at the knee, the hip, the low back, and how everything works together to figure out what’s causing the foot pain. Pelvic floor PT is no different. You must look at the whole body and figure out how all the parts are working together to get the results you need. I continue to use many of the same exercises now that I used back when I was working as an ortho PT.
Lastly, the pelvic floor is a group of muscles. If it’s weak, it needs to strengthen. If it’s overactive, it needs to lengthen. If it’s uncoordinated, it needs to be retrained. Yes, treating pelvic floor dysfunction requires special training, but at the end of the day, muscles are muscles.
This article was originally posted on the Medbridge Blog site: https://www.medbridgeeducation.com/blog/2021/11/six-actionable-ways-to-be-a-better-lgbtq-ally/.
Brianna Durand, PT, DPT earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy at Texas Woman’s University in Houston, TX. During graduate school, she led and co-founded PT Proud, a Catalyst Group within the Health Policy and Administration Section of the APTA, to improve the education, equity, and inclusion of LGBTQ+ patients, students, and clinicians. Brianna owns and operates Empower Physiotherapy, a private practice in Seattle. As a competitive powerlifter, Brianna enjoys working with strength athletes who experience pelvic floor dysfunction, especially stress incontinence. She is passionate about providing care to individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, including those undergoing hormonal/surgical transition. Brianna's additional clinical interests include prenatal/postpartum care for trans and gender-nonconforming folx and pelvic floor care for patients that are intersex. Brianna curated and teaches LGBTQ+ cultural competency for practitioners in her course - Inclusive Care for Gender and Sexual Minorities.
LGBTQIA2S+. Does it seem like that acronym is ever-growing? That’s because it is!
As our society evolves, more people are feeling safe and comfortable to live as their authentic selves, and every day there is more evidence to support that.
According to Gallup polls, the percentage of people in the U.S. that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender has increased to 5.6 percent.3 That is three times the entire population of Colorado! These numbers are even higher amongst younger generations—up to 20 percent in Gen Z and millennials by some estimates. In 2019, nearly 80 percent of surveyed Americans state that they personally know someone who identifies as LGBTQIA2S+ or queer.2 And while the word “queer” has a nasty history as a derogatory slur, it is increasingly used by folks in the LGBTQIA2S+ community to describe those who do not identify as cisgender or heterosexual.
Recent years have provided a groundswell of awareness building around this community—from representation in entertainment, discussion about participation in athletics, and changes occurring at the legislative level. However, one area of society in which awareness is still lacking is in modern-day medicine, so let’s explore the significance of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as it pertains to healthcare.
As a medical professional, you may wonder “Can’t I simply treat all people the same?” While this idea may be filled with good intentions, the unfortunate reality is that we do not yet have access to this utopian future. There are real, measurable differences in the health of all marginalized communities, including gender and sexual minorities (GSM).
In 2020, 1 in 10 LGBTQIA2S+ Americans faced some form of mistreatment from a healthcare professional.1 These negative experiences strongly correlate with postponing or altogether avoiding medical care in the future, further contributing to the collective LGBTQIA2S+ fear of discrimination. The statistics are even worse when specifically looking at queer and trans people of color.
While the system and the education that trains our clinicians could benefit from a renovation, here are six actionable steps you can take now to facilitate a safer space for your LGBTQIA2S+ patients:
As healthcare professionals, we have some degree of inherent privilege. With this privilege comes the capacity to inflict harm, intentional or not. While intentions matter, they do not supersede the impact your words or actions have on another. Assumptions matter, too. While assumption making is common and normal—an evolutionarily advantageous adaptation of the brain—they are not facts, and they are not harmless. Erroneous assumptions about a person’s gender or sexual identity by a medical professional can lead to behaviors that cause discomfort in and discrimination towards LGBTQIA2S+ patients and clients, even if inadvertently.
By recognizing the power differential that exists in the patient/provider relationship and the implications that come with it, we are likely to be more aware of our words and actions when they come up, and more willing to address them when they do. And by taking a position of genuine care and curiosity rather than assumption, we can affirm the relationship between the person whom we are helping and their body.
Always use the correct pronouns and name of the person with whom you are working. One easy way to do this is simply by mirroring the language they use when describing themself. However, if you are meeting someone for the first time, you may unintentionally use language that is not in line with your patient or client’s identity. For example, you may use someone’s dead name (the name assigned to them at birth) which may still be listed on their legal and medical documentation.
You can preempt this kind of unintentional harm by including areas for clarification on intake paperwork. This will allow you the opportunity to affirm the pronouns of the person in your care upon your first interaction. While pronoun affirmation may seem like a small action, it has shown to be effective in reducing suicidal ideation and depression.4 Another way to update your language for greater inclusivity is by using the term “spouse” or “partner” when inquiring if a patient has someone at home that can help with their activities of daily living or rehabilitation. Additionally, when referring to pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum care, practice saying “pregnant person” or “birthing parent” rather than “pregnant woman” or “mother.”
Shaming someone’s behavior is unlikely to result in positive change or self-reflection. Instead, we can follow the steps of stopping, educating, and being proactive to foster learning in our colleagues. This kind of dialogue offers the opportunity for the individual to participate in the discussion by learning about their behavior, rather than feeling pushed out of the conversation which could limit their chance to grow.
It is important to note the significance of taking this action even if the LGBTQIA2S+ person was not present for the encounter. This breaks the notion that harmful language is acceptable so long as the subject of the harm is not privy to it. If the LGBTQIA2S+ person is present for the encounter, it is best to first pull them aside to check in with them, make sure they are alright, and ask if they want your help. Some folks prefer to avoid drawing attention to themselves. It is also a skill of allyship to know when not to talk.
When an LGBTQIA2S+ person, or a person from any marginalized group for that matter, corrects your language or behavior, practice saying “thank you” rather than “sorry” and avoid explaining yourself. It is a privilege to learn about oppression rather than to experience it for yourself. When someone corrects you, not only are they bravely honoring their authentic identities, but they are doing emotional labor on your behalf, and in the age of freely available information, it is never the responsibility of marginalized folks to educate others for free. These interactions are opportunities for personal growth—don’t let them pass you by!
Does your workplace have gender-neutral bathrooms? Many LGBTQIA2S+, queer, and trans people avoid using public restrooms to avoid harassment and violence. Such aggressions can have very tangible consequences to their physical health, such as pelvic floor dysfunction. If there aren’t any inclusive restrooms in your workplace, make a suggestion to change that.
How inclusive are the brochures in your waiting room? Do the patient education materials that you provide to a patient after evaluation use language and imagery that include the LGBTQIA2S+ community? These are areas that can be improved upon with the suggested language updates we discussed above in action step two.
Are there symbols or graphics that will welcome GSM, such as safe space signs, flags depicting an upside-down rainbow triangle, or “all-gender” verbiage in lieu of gender-specific? Both would make easy additions that signal to patients they are in an inclusive space. However, it is important to distinguish the difference between saying a space is safe, and actually making a space safe. A space can only be safe if the entire team of providers and office staff are on board. Labeling a space as safe when it is not has the propensity to cause further harm. Be sure before these indicators are put up in your practice, everyone is ready to support such efforts.
Any etymologist will tell you that languages are living things that are constantly evolving. Developments such as these can make it challenging to stay current on which terminology is most beneficial to our growing society. Sometimes just the fear of making a mistake can be intimidating enough to discourage people from trying. What is most important is not how well you use updated language but that you are trying. Your effort matters, and it is what will move the needle in the right direction. Cultural responsiveness is not knowing every nuanced detail of every demographic group. Cultural responsiveness is being willing to reflect and modify your viewpoints when presented with information that differs from what you previously held to be true. Try to accept that just with learning any new skill, mistakes are bound to happen. When they do be prepared to learn, and then move forward with that new knowledge in mind.
with instructor Brianna Durand, PT, DPT
When it feels overwhelming and nuanced, it can be tempting to avoid uncomfortable topics altogether. However, attendees for this course can expect to be gently guided into the sometimes confusing realm of gender and sexual orientation, and identity. This course will provide a safe space to ask all the questions about caring for LGBTQ+ patients and practicing the skills needed to help advance your practice. Although this course will cover pelvic floor physical therapy specifically, it is appropriate and useful for any medical professional as we all have patients in the LGBTQ+ community.
Blog by Deanna Vaughn, PT, DPT who practices at Core and Pelvic Physical Therapy Clinic in Conway, Arkansas, this article was originally located at https://whatsupdownthere.info/colorectal-cancer-the-gut-and-the-butt/.
Colorectal cancer refers to cancerous cells within the colon or rectum. Need a quick anatomy review? Keep reading then!
The colon is another name for the large intestine, which is the long tube (nearly 5 FEET!) surrounding the small intestines (that snaky, jumbled tube in the middle of our bodies, which you can see below in the picture). It’s comprised of segments: the cecum (the little pouch that joins the small intestine to the large intestine) in the right lower abdomen, the ascending colon starting at the right lower part of your abdomen (coming off the cecum), and up to about the right side of your ribcage; the transverse colon that loops underneath the stomach and ribcage from right to left; the descending colon that extends down from the left side of your ribcage to the lower part of your left abdomen; and then the sigmoid colon that loops (in an s-shape) along the lower abdomen to the center of the body. At the end of the colon is the rectum, which pretty much connects the colon to the actual anus/anal opening for wastes to leave the body.
That being said, colorectal cancer can affect any part or segment of the colon and the rectum. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, or if you have an inflammatory bowel disease (like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), then you may be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer. Other risk factors are the same for virtually any other health condition – genetics, no regular physical activity, poor diet, tobacco use, high alcohol consumption, etc.
So how would we know if it’s colorectal cancer – or precancerous cells, and how do we decrease our risk?
That’s where screening comes into play! Just like how someone may see their gynecologist annually and undergo the PAP smear every 1-3 years to check for any gynecological cancer (like cervical or labial cancer), someone may see their colorectal or gastrointestinal (GI) provider to check for colorectal cancer or disorders. Regular screening takes place around age 45 (although a person may be screened earlier if they are at higher risk or had a previous history of cancer).
What does screening look like?
There are a few tests that screen for colorectal cancer. These tests include stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy.
Stool tests – This pretty much involves you taking a sample of your stool via test kit provided to you, and returning it to your doctor/lab, where your stool is checked for any blood or other abnormal findings.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy – A thin, short tube with a light is inserted into the rectum. This allows your doctor to see any polyps or cancer within the rectum and lower part of the colon.
Colonoscopy – This is like the sigmoidoscopy, but with a longer tube. The longer tube allows your doctor to check for polyps/cancer inside the rectum and the entire length of the colon. Your doctor can also remove some polyps during this procedure if indicated.
Most people without any symptoms, abnormal findings or outstanding personal or family history of colorectal cancer will have these screening tests performed anywhere from 5-10 years.
What are the symptoms?
This is not an exhaustive list, but some symptoms may include:
Now what are our treatment options?
Besides preventative measures – such as getting regular physical activity, improving our diet, etc., treatment looks similar to any other cancer treatment. This may look like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and/or surgery. Surgery may be indicated to remove polyps/tumors, or parts of the colon or rectum to eliminate cancerous growths. Thankfully though, regular screening of the colorectal region can find precancerous/cancerous cells early. Oftentimes, such as during a colonoscopy, your colorectal provider may go ahead and remove polyps that are abnormal or deemed precancerous at that time!
Now what about pelvic physical therapy? Can it possibly help?
Well, this is another condition (like Pelvic Congestion Syndrome in the previous blog post), where pelvic physical therapy is not the initial go-to or main treatment option. Individuals with colorectal cancer vary in several ways depending on staging/severity and overall health. Once again, pelvic therapy is a nice resource to utilize if you’re needing or wanting ways to manage your bowel symptoms.
Ways that pelvic PT CAN help may include: Teaching appropriate toileting – positioning to straighten out the anorectal angle and allow stool to pass more easily from the rectum; mechanics, such as exhaling smoothly when pushing for a bowel movement to prevent straining; Improving pelvic floor muscle function (strength, endurance, coordination) so that your body can delay defecation as needed and calm down bowel urges; and overall promoting health bowel habits by supporting your nutrition and keeping bowel movements regular.
Whether or not you (or someone you know) have colorectal cancer, developing healthy and safe bowel habits is key to a better quality of life. Working with your doctor and/or your team of providers is important in making sure your needs are addressed, but feel free to reach out to your local pelvic PT if you want more resources or guidance – even things like, “So, how SHOULD I be pooping??”
References & Resources
Brenner H, Chen C. The colorectal cancer epidemic: challenges and opportunities for primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Br J Cancer. 2018;119(7):785-792. doi:10.1038/s41416-018-0264-x
Kuipers EJ, Grady WM, Lieberman D, et al. Colorectal cancer. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2015;1:15065. Published 2015 Nov 5. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2015.65
Leslie A, Steele RJC. Management of colorectal cancerPostgraduate Medical Journal 2002;78:473-478. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/pmj.78.922.473
Mármol I, Sánchez-de-Diego C, Pradilla Dieste A, Cerrada E, Rodriguez Yoldi MJ. Colorectal Carcinoma: A General Overview and Future Perspectives in Colorectal Cancer. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(1):197. Published 2017 Jan 19. doi:10.3390/ijms18010197
You YN, Lee LD, Deschner BW, Shibata D. Colorectal Cancer in the Adolescent and Young Adult Population. JCO Oncol Pract. 2020;16(1):19-27. doi:10.1200/JOP.19.00153
This is the second installment in our 3 part pediatric blog series written by Amanda Moe DPT, PRPC treats women, men, and children with disorders of the pelvis and pelvic girdleAmanda enjoys assistant teaching with the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute in her free time as well as working out, practicing yoga, and spending time with her family. You can find Amanda online at www.pelvicphysicaltherapyandmore.com and on Instagram @amandampelvicpt.
Just as Mora from @PracticallyPerfectPT mentioned in the previous blog post, Big Issues for Tiny Humans, pelvic health specialists treat pelvic floor and pelvic girdles for all humans of all ages. This blog post aims to introduce why pre-teens and teenagers could need pelvic floor therapy for pee problems!
Pelvic girdle-related dysfunction in young children often manifests as bowel or bladder complaints such as constipation, poo leakage (fecal incontinence or encopresis), and day or nighttime pee leakage (incontinence or nocturnal enuresis). Young children can be potty-trained with NO pee or poo complaints for several years then suddenly develop these very same symptoms in the pre-teen or teenage years! Occasionally there is a cause for the change in pee or poo symptoms such as trauma, the birth of a sibling, moving to a new city, divorce, or other changes in family situation. However, oftentimes there isn’t a signifying event attributed to the onset of these symptoms—which is where assessment and treatment from a skilled Pelvic Physical Therapist (or Occupational Therapist) may be beneficial!
Pediatric Pelvic Physical/Occupational Therapy
Pelvic Physical and Occupational Therapy in pre-teens and teenagers focuses on a whole-body assessment and treatment. Specifically, the Pediatric Pelvic Therapists will look at pelvic girdle influences on bowel and bladder complaints such as:
Common Urinary Complaints in Pre-Teens and Teenagers
Potty-training regression can occur and is commonly seen in Pediatric Pelvic Therapy. Below is a list of other pee problems commonly seen in pre-teens and teenagers (often addressed in Pelvic Therapy).
Urinary leakage during sport or physical activity (SUI) can commonly arise in the pre-teen and teenage years. A recent systematic review determined that SUI occurs in 18-80% or an average of 48.58% of adolescent female athletes (7). While stress incontinence is common in women after childbirth, it doesn’t have to be considered “normal” for women OR children. This is where Pediatric Pelvic Therapy comes into play to determine the factors (such as those listed above) that are impacting a child's leakage during sport or activity!
The Lower Urinary Tract (LUT) symptoms listed above and specifically daytime pee leakage are prevalent in 10–17% of children (2, 4, 8). Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction such as constipation is commonly associated with these LUT dysfunctions in pre-teens and teenagers. Research has shown constipation in 22-37.5% of children with LUTS (3, 5) with an additional study reporting that greater than 50% of children with LUT symptoms had some type of functional defecation disorder (1). This is why Pediatric Pelvic Therapists often address the GI system when pre-teens and teenagers present with pee problems!
To learn more about the GI systems in adolescents and how these symptoms influence pee problems in Pediatric Pelvic Therapy, check out Dawn Scandalcidi's interview on Friday! Herman & Wallace also offers two pediatric courses featuring assessment and treatment of urinary and bowel functioning:
This week The Pelvic Rehab Report is featuring faculty member (and senior TA) Mora Pluchino, teaching assistant Amanda Moe, and faculty member Dawn Sandalcidi on the topic of pediatric issues from infancy through adolescence. Our first guest blogger, Mora Pluchino, PT, DPT, PRPC has published two books. The first of which is titled The Poop Train: Helping Your Child Understand Their Digestive System. This is a rhyming, kid-friendly book to help children understand how their poop is made. It has resources in the back to help parents and caregivers manage a child's digestive system for optimal function including proper voiding positions, ideas for activities to help voiding, fiber recommendations, fiber-filled food options, and belly massage instructions. Her second book, Practically Perfect Pelvic Health 101: A Visual Tour of the Pelvic Floor is a visual tour of the pelvic floor to help all genders and all ages understand general pelvic health. You can find Mora online at https://www.practicallyperfectpt.com/ and on Instagram @practicallyperfectpt.
As a pelvic health specialist, I treat the pelvic floors for all humans of all ages. I am frequently asked the question “Why would a child need pelvic floor therapy?” The response is “So many reasons!”
Colic, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), and constipation are the top reasons for visits to a pediatrician in the first year (Indrio Et Al, 2014). As the mother of a child that struggled with all of these things, I can attest to the quality of life impact these diagnoses can create. A pelvic health specialist can help caregivers to manage these conditions with manual therapy, gross motor development assistance, and other infant care ideas to help manage the infant’s gastrointestinal system for better comfort and function.
Sillen (2001) reports that the neonatal bladder is controlled by neuronal pathways connecting with the cerebral cortex. The neonatal bladder function is characterized by small, frequent voids of varying volumes (Sillen 2001). Preterm infants had slightly different results thought to be due to an immature nervous system and this interrupted voiding disappeared for most as the children approached potty training age (Sillen, 2001). Still, infants born prematurely may be more at risk for pelvic floor issues!
What does this mean? There is a certain point in every child’s life where the bladder function, nervous system, and cognitive awareness match up. Ideally, this allows them to learn to hold and then void waste on a toilet. When toddlers are seen for pelvic floor issues, it is usually due to problems that arise during the potty training phase if they haven’t carried along with another pelvic floor issue from infancy. Pediatric pelvic floor issues, if not addressed early on, can continue on into preschool and elementary-aged children.
Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, instructed by Dawn Salicidi, reviews the basics of pediatric pelvic floor treatment. Pediatric pelvic floor issues can be divided into three categories: storage, voiding, and “other.” Storage issues include things like: increased or decreased voiding frequency, continuous incontinence, intermittent incontinence, enuresis, urgency, nocturia, constipation, and encopresis. Voiding dysfunctions present with hesitancy, straining, weak stream, intermittency, and dysuria. Other pediatric pelvic floor issues include symptoms like excessive holding, incomplete emptying, post micturition dribble, spraying, and pain in the bladder/ urethral/ genital areas.
Pediatric pelvic health requires the knowledge and skills used for treating adults with the additional abilities to relate to the child and their caregivers to help them manage and improve their symptoms. There is no age limit on the benefits of pelvic floor treatment!
Join us on Wednesday for the next installment of the pediatric pelvic floor three-part series: Pee Problems in Pre-Teens and Teens by Amanda Moe, DPT, PRPC. Amanda has written a book, Pelvic PT for ME: Storybook Explanation of Pelvic Physical Therapy for Children. You can find Amanda on Instagram @amandampelvicpt. The series will conclude on Friday with an interview with long-time faculty member, Dawn Sandalcidi PT, RCMT, BCB-PMD. Dawn Sandalcidi is a trailblazer in the field of Pediatric Bowel and Bladder Disorders and can be found on Instagram @kidsbowelbladder.
Faculty member Christine Stewart, PT, CMPT began her career specializing in orthopedics and manual therapy and became interested in women’s health after the birth of her second child. Christine joined Olathe Health in 2010 to further focus on women’s health and obtain her CMPT from the North American Institute of Manual Therapy. She also went through Diane Lee's integrated systems model in 2018. Her course, Menopause Transitions and Pelvic Rehab is designed for the clinician that wants to understand the multitude of changes that are experienced in the menopause transition and how they affect the aging process.
Menopause. The M-word, the second puberty, is the final frontier of a hormonal roller coaster when there are twelve consecutive months with no menstruation. A time of celebration, right? No more cramps, hygiene products, menstrual cups, or moodiness – FREEDOM! Not so fast my fellow clinician!
The body goes through some serious, hormonal loop-the-loops leading up to the cessation of ovulation. Perimenopause is the stretch leading up to the final cycle and this stretch can feel like yoga on steroids. It can last TEN years, not including symptoms experienced after the transition takes place. Changes in cycle length, flow, anovulation, and yes, even ovulating twice are all stages of perimenopause. (Hale et al., 2009). These changes translate into symptoms: sleeplessness, brain fog, anxiety, palpitations, fatigue, painful intercourse, and joint stiffness are just a few things that can be experienced during this time (Lewis, 2021).
This transition can begin for patients during their mid-thirties, more commonly it begins during their forties, but eventually, all people that ovulate will experience it. For some, perimenopause can be much more challenging than after menopause. The perimenopause hormone guessing game begins. Some months, progesterone makes an appearance. The next month, mostly estrogen, and some months - neither are around very much at all. If there is an abrupt change in ovulation, such as with a complete hysterectomy, the symptoms will most likely be intensified due to the abrupt loss of hormones. (Gunter, 2020). Dealing with the changes of menopause can be challenging in a variety of ways (like a two-year-old wailing for a candy bar in the checkout line), but many things can help ease this transition.
With fluctuating hormones also comes changes to many systems in the body. Estrogen receptors are everywhere, and when hormone levels are changing, so does the body’s internal workings. Glucose metabolism, bone physiology, brain, and urogenital function are just some of the systems affected (Shifren et al., 2014). Perimenopause is not just a time of altered periods. It is also a critical time in a person’s health where an increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and bone loss can begin (Lewis 2021).
Preparing for menopause should be on our radar for patients in their twenties, thirties, and early forties before the process starts. Establishing healthy habits earlier instead of later can help for a more successful transition, however, it is never too late! Knowing the signs and symptoms of this phase can help us guide patients and ourselves to a better understanding of what is happening with the body in this adaptation. We can make recommendations on lifestyle, exercise, and meditation, as well as refer them to other knowledgeable providers when needed.
I have had countless patients sent to me for urinary frequency, incontinence, or painful intercourse who are in this transition, but no one has talked to them about what is happening to their bodies. You may be thinking to yourself, these patients have doctors. Why aren’t they getting the information from their physician? After all, these providers have had years of training. The reality is sometimes doctors do not receive the necessary education to treat menopausal patients.
In a survey of postgraduate trainees in internal medicine, family medicine, and obstetrics/gynecology, 90% felt unprepared to manage women experiencing menopause (Reid, 2021). Insert jaw drop here. As pelvic health providers, we can help to fill this knowledge gap and be a conduit to explaining the process. We can empower patients with education, treatments, and recommendations to flourish in this critical phase of life.
The menopause transition can be a time of great uncertainty. Not only are patients’ lives transforming as their children grow and their parents age, but their bodies are changing as well. We can ease their burden in this period of adaptation. By calming their fears through education, we can assure them that indeed, they are not losing their minds.
Knowledge is power, and I am all in when it comes to empowering patients. They can learn that menopause is a phase and does not define who they are as a person. It is possible to survive and come out on the other side still thriving, while learning how to cope during the process. There is hope!
Menopause Transitions and Pelvic Rehab is an excellent opportunity to understand the physiological consequences to the body as hormones decline, in order to assist our patients in lifestyle habits for successful aging. Lecture topics include cardiovascular changes, metabolic syndrome, bone loss and sarcopenia, neurological changes (headache, brain fog, sleeplessness), Alzheimer’s risk, urogenital changes, as well as symptoms and treatment options. These include hormone replacement, non-hormonal options, dietary choices, and exercise considerations.Menopause Transitions and Pelvic Rehab course dates include April 9-10th and August 27-28th.
Dustienne Miller, CYT, PT, MS, WCS instructed the H&W remote course Yoga for Pelvic Pain. Dustienne passionately believes in the integration of physical therapy and yoga in a holistic model of care, helping individuals navigate through pelvic pain and incontinence to live a healthy and pain-free life. You can find Dustienne Miller on Instagram at @yourpaceyoga
Research demonstrates multiple benefits of a yoga practice that extend beyond the musculoskeletal system. These benefits include improved mood and depression, changes in pain perception, improved mindfulness and associated improved pain tolerance, and the ability to observe situations with emotional detachment.
Do the brains of yoga practitioners vs non-practitioners look different?
A study by Villemure et al looked at the role the insular cortex plays in mediating pain in the brains of yoga practitioners. They included various styles of yoga to capture the essence of yoga across multiple styles - Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Kripalu, Sivananda, and Iyengar.
Rewind back to neuroanatomy class - remember the insular cortex? The insular cortex is responsible for sensory processing, decision-making, and motor control by communicating between the cortical and subcortical aspects of the brain. The outside inputs include auditory, somatosensory, olfactory, gustatory, and visual. The internal inputs are interoceptive (Gogolla).
Villemure et al found several interesting objective differences. The practitioners had increased grey matter volume in several areas of the brain. This increase in grey matter specifically in the insula correlated with increased pain tolerance. The length of time practiced correlated with increased grey matter volume of the left insular cortex. Additionally, white matter in the left intrainsular region demonstrated more connectivity in the yoga group.
Other differences were seen in strategies utilized to manage pain. Most folks in the yoga group expected their practice would decrease reactivity to pain, which it did. The yoga group used parasympathetic nervous system accessing strategies and interoceptive awareness. These strategies were breathwork, noticing and being with the sensation, encouraging the mind and body to relax, and acceptance of the pain. The control group strategies were distraction techniques and ignoring the pain.
The authors determine that the insula-related interoceptive awareness strategies of the yoga practitioners being used during the experiment correlated with the greater intra-insular connectivity. Therefore, the authors conclude that the insular cortex can act as a pain mediator for yoga practitioners.
The more strategies our patients have for pain management, the better! Yoga is one of several non-invasive modalities our patients can add to their healing toolbox.
Yoga for Pelvic Pain was developed by Dustienne Miller to offer participants an evidence-based perspective on the value of yoga for patients with chronic pelvic pain. This course focuses on two of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path: pranayama (breathing) and asana (postures) and how they can be applied for patients who have hip, back, and pelvic pain.
A variety of pelvic conditions are discussed including interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, vulvar pain, coccydynia, hip pain, and pudendal neuralgia. Other lectures discuss the role of yoga within the medical model, contraindicated postures, and how to incorporate yoga home programs as therapeutic exercise and neuromuscular re-education both between visits and after discharge.
Gogolla N. The insular cortex. Current Biology. 2017; 27(12): R580-R586.
Villemure C, Ceko M, Cotton VA, Bushnell MC. Insular cortex mediates increased pain tolerance in yoga practitioners. Cereb Cortex. 2014 Oct;24(10):2732-40. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht124. Epub 2013 May 21. PMID: 23696275; PMCID: PMC4153807.