Electrical Stimulation as part of a treatment program for urgency urinary incontinence

Electrical Stimulation as part of a treatment program for urgency urinary incontinence

Today's blog is a contribution from Kristen Digwood, DPT, CLT, of the Elite Pelvic Rehab clinic in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Urgency urinary incontinence (UUI), which is the involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency, is a common health problem in the female population. The effects of UUI result in limitations to daily activity and quality of life.

Current guidelines recommend conservative management as a first-line therapy in urinary incontinence, defined as "interventions that do not involve treatment with drugs or surgery targeted to the type of incontinence".

By Yeza - Own work, GFDLElectrical stimulation is commonly used as part of a treatment program for women with UUI. There are several methods and parameters that can be used to improve urge incontinence, however the magnitude of the alleged benefits and best parameters is not completely established. Studies have suggested that the use of electrical stimulation to inhibit an overactive bladder functions to modulate unwanted detrusor contractions by way of sensory afferent stimulation of S2 and S3. This causes parasympathetic inhibition.  In addition to this effect, contraction of the pelvic floor muscles results in inhibition and relaxation of the detrusor muscle which reduces urinary urgency.

Common methods of electrical stimulation include suprapubical, transvaginal, sacral and tibial nerves stimulation.

As with any medical treatment, practitioners seek the most effective methods and parameters to achieve the patient’s goals. A recent systematic review of electrical stimulation in the treatment of UUI included nine trials to treat UUI were included with total of 534 female patients. Most patients in the trials were close to 55 years of age. Five articles (total of nine) described a frequency of twice-weekly therapy and sessions of 20 minutes. Twelve weeks was the most common duration of therapy. All the studies applied an intensity of stimulation below 100 mA, with four of them (4/9) using 10 hz as the frequency. Intervaginal electrical stimulation showed the greatest subjective improvement and was the most effective.

The most frequent outcome measure was bladder diary, used in all papers; subjective satisfaction was used in 8; and quality-of-life questionnaires in 6, from a total of 9 papers.

The study noted that reports about electrical stimulation generally lack information on its cost-effectiveness. This is an important point, especially because in therapies with similar benefits cost may be one of the factors to indicate the most appropriate treatment. If we consider the relatively few adverse effects, low cost, and similar effectiveness when compared to medication, intravaginal electrical stimulation, according to available data, appears to be a good alternative treatment for UUI.

1. Thüroff JW, Abrams P, Andersson KE, Artibani W, Chapple CR, Drake MJ, et al.: EAU guidelines on urinary incontinence. Eur Urol. 2011; 59: 387-400.
2. Kralj B. The treatment of female urinary incontinence by functional electrical stimulation. In:Ostergard DR, Dent AD (eds). Urogenecology and Urodynamics. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins; 1991.
3. Eriksen, BC. Electrical Stimulation. In: Benson JT editor. Female pelvic floor disorders: investigation and management. New York:Norton, 1992; 219-231.
4. Lucas Schreiner  , Thais Guimarães dos Santos  , Alessandra Borba Anton de Souza, et al. Int. braz j urol. vol.39 no.4 Rio de Janeiro July/Aug. 2013.


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Grounding in Mountain Pose

Grounding in Mountain Pose

Today on the Pelvic Rehab Report, we hear from Dustienne Miller. Dustienne wrote and teaches the Yoga for Pelvic Pain course, which is available in Cleveland, OH on July 18-19, and in Boston, MA on September 12-13.

"It feels like my pelvic floor just sighed."

Grounding in Mountain Pose

As musculoskeletal professionals, we have a sharp eye for postural dysfunction. We explain to our patients that the ribcage is sheared posteriorly to the plumb line and how gravity magnifies forces at specific structures. Some physical therapists perform the Vertical Compression Test (VCT) to allow the patient to feel the difference between their typical habitual posture and a more optimally aligned posture. This works well to “sell” your patients on why their newly aligned posture allows for more efficient weight transfer through the base of support. In addition to the VCT, I utilize Tadasana, or Mountain Pose as an additional kinesthetic approach to postural retraining.

Last week in the clinic, I was teaching my client postural awareness using Tadasana. I asked her to close her eyes, or lower her gaze if she was not comfortable closing her eyes. Working from the ground up, we started bringing awareness to her base of support. She noted that she was standing with her weight mostly in her heels. When I encouraged her to bring her weight forward, hinging from the talocrural joint, she had an “aha moment.” She said, “It feels like my pelvic floor just sighed.” She was unaware that her habitual posture was to stand with her weight mostly posterior to plumb line, thus encouraging her posterior pelvic floor to remain in an overactive state. Once she balanced her body from the ground up, she felt a major release in her holding patterns.

At our follow-up session, the client remarked that her postural awareness increased dramatically. She was surprised at how often her pelvic floor was in a habitual pattern of over-firing. Additionally, she reported increased awareness while practicing standing yoga postures during class. She feels more in control of her body after experiencing embodied optimal alignment and has had success with carrying over postural awareness outside of the clinic setting. Self-awareness and empowerment are two major goals of my physical therapy practice, and using yoga to achieve these goals makes my clinical practice even more enjoyable.

For more info on the Vertical Compression Test, click here. For detailed instruction on Tadasana, click here.

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Case Study from Peter Philip, PT, ScD, COMT, PRPC

Case Study from Peter Philip, PT, ScD, COMT, PRPC

This post was written by H&W instructor Peter Philip, PT, ScD, COMT, PRPC, who authored and instructs the Sacroiliac Joint Evaluation and Treatment course. The next SI Joint course will be taking place this January in Seattle.

Peter Philip

Patient one:

55 year old female with complaints of pelvic pain. States that her pain is noted along the deep inguinal region, involving her pubis and labia majora. States that intercourse is difficult, and that she is quite anxious to initiate or participate. She denies trauma, only that she’d been increasing her fitness activities as she’s going to Florida for a winter get-away. She denies changes in her bowel and bladder function, other than intermittent SUI with ‘heavy exercise’.

Clinical testing:

ALROM is negative. During forward flexion there was no reversal of the lordosis.

Segmental myotomal and dermatomal testing is unremarkable.

ASLR and PSLR are negative.

Gillet’s and forward flexion are apparently negative.

There are palpable “marbles” to palpation along bilateral SIJ, and the sacrum is ~40? of nutation.

FABER, FAIR and McCarthy tests are negative. Iliac compression is modestly provocative for patient’s symptoms, while the sacral thigh thrust was provocative for ipsilateral symptom provocation.

While in prone, the patient demonstrated a positive Dead Butt Syndrome bilaterally and there were significant restrictions to fascial rolling throughout the lumbosacral region.

The clinical question is: What to do next? What would you do?

I chose to provide a local traction to each SIJ, followed by a mobilization with movement directed at S3 to promote counter nutation. After treatment, the patient arose from the plinth and remarked that her pain was significantly reduced. On follow up, her pain was 10% that of her initial pain at evaluation.

My questions to you are:

1. What caused her “pelvic pain”?
2. Why did her pain subside? 3. Would you have done an internal evaluation?

These and other questions will be addressed at Sacroiliac Joint and Pelvic Ring Evaluation & Treatment in Seattle, Washington January 25th to the 26th.

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Meet the Instructor of Manual Therapy for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex

Meet the Instructor of Manual Therapy for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex

This post features an interview with Eric Dinkins, PT, MSPT, OCS, MCTA, CMP, Cert. MT, who will be instructing the brand new course, Manual Therapy for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex: Mobilization with Movement including Laser-Guided Feedback for Core Stabilization. Pelvic Rehab Report sat down with Eric to learn a little bit more about his course and his clinical approach

Eric Dinkins

Can you describe the clinical/treatment approach/techniques covered in this continuing education course?

During this two day lab based course, clinicians will learn anatomy, assessment techniques, and manual therapy techniques that are designed to minimize pain and restore function immediately. As a bonus, clinicians will be introduced to stabilization exercises utilizing the Motion Guidance visual feedback system for these areas. This system allows for immediate feedback for both the clinician and the patient on determining preferred or substituted movement patterns, and enhancing motor learning to quickly address these patterns if desired.

What inspired you to create this course?

Women's and Men's health patients often have concurrent orthopedic problems that contribute to the pain or dysfunction that they are experiencing in the lumbar spine, pelvis, hips and sexual organs. There are few manual therapy courses offered that are able to bridge a gap between these two topics. This makes for a unique opportunity to offer manual therapy techniques that can address these problems and help improve clinic outcomes.

What resources and research were used when writing this course?

The books and resources I pulled from include:

Mulligan Concept of Manual Therapy 2015

Travell and Simmons Volume 2. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. The Lower Extremities

Principles of Manual Medicine 4th Edition


Why should a therapist take this course? How can these skill sets benefit his/ her practice?

PT's, PTA, DO's and DC's should take this course to give them knowledge and manual skills of pain free techniques to offer their Women's Health, Men's Health, and pregnancy patients with orthopedic conditions.


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Extra-articular Hip Impingement: A New Discovery for Hip Preservation

Extra-articular Hip Impingement: A New Discovery for Hip Preservation

This post was written by H&W instructor Ginger Garner. Ginger will be presenting her Hip Labrum Injuries course in Houston in 2015!

Ginger Garner

There are two accepted forms of hip impingement currently documented in the literature. The two types are 1) CAM type FAI (femoracetabular impingement) and 2) Pincer type FAI. These two types are found inside the joint, meaning they are considered intra-articular bony anomalies.

FAI is a common comorbidity found with hip labral injury (HLI); and in fact, FAI is a risk factor for HLI. Specifically, FAI is a bony impingement that arises in the femoral head-neck function and the rim of the acetabulum (see photo at right). The two types of FAI also generally occur together more than they do in isolation. However, it is possible that, combined with other issues like acetabular undercoverage or hip instability, CAM or Pincer-type FAI can be found a singular diagnosis.

Surgical Intervention

However, the arena of impingement in the hip is now evolving to consider other locations. In the past 5 years there has been buzz about other types of FAI. They aren’t classically considered FAI issues since this new type of identified impingement occurs outside (extra-articular) the joint. One type newly identified is known as anterior inferior iliac spine/subspinal hip impingement (AIIS). In a 2011 study of 3 case reports, AIIS was found and treated with arthroscopic AIIS decompression with positive results. A more recent 2012 study found excellent results at short-term follow up for surgical decompression of AIIS.

Identification & Diagnosis of AIIS

Both personal and professional experience in the area of AIIS has shown that AIIS is not always discovered on an AP (anterior-posterior) radiograph. However, it is possible to see a larger AIIS on an AP film. Another helpful (but not always definitive) diagnostic test is a CT scan with MRI 3D reconstruction (and no contrast). Bony contrast is more reliable with CT scan than the typically preferred MRA (which is better for soft tissue contrast).

In addition, the rectus femoris (RF) could be implicated in AIIS pathology because the same area receives the proximal attachment of the RF. The same 2011 study reported that the morphology and role of the RF in extra-articular impingement is “not well reported at this time.”

Likewise, the identification of AIIS as a primary driver of pathology in intra-articular hip injury (FAI and/or HLI) is rare. Some cases of AIIS are being found during hip arthroscopy to correct identified existing deficits such as FAI and/or HLI. This means that AIIS may be missed and should be included as a potential mechanism of injury, especially for anterosuperior labral tears in the 2 to 3 o’clock region.

Patients who have AIIS may present like a typical HLI patient, which means they may have a positive Thomas test, FADDIR test, or mechanical symptoms such as popping, clicking, grinding or giving way. It is important to note these signs and symptoms and work in a team approach with surgeons and physical therapists who specialize in hip preservation and reconstruction.

To learn more about nonoperative and operative hip labral and FAI management, check out faculty member Ginger Garner's continuing education course on Extra-Articular Pelvic and Hip Labrum Injury: Differential Diagnosis and Integrative Management. The next opportunity to take the course is March of 2015 in Houston.

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Gait Patterns and Intra-articular Hip Injury

Gait Patterns and Intra-articular Hip Injury

This post was written by H&W instructor Ginger Garner. Ginger will be presenting her Hip Labrum Injuries course in Houston in 2015!

Ginger Garner

One of the easiest ways to determine if someone is in pain is to watch the way they move. And perhaps the most commonly observed and universal movement pattern is gait. From a subtle loss of trunk rotation or pelvic translation to a gross loss of reciprocal gait, a dynamic assessment of walking is a very valuable tool in the physical therapist’s toolbox.

In evaluation of the hip, gait assessment is a critical element of the physical therapy exam. Pain-free ambulation is an essential part of measuring a person’s quality of life (QOL) and is a clinically significant functional outcome measure. Loss of hip extension and knee hyperextension prior to or at heel strike are part of several self-limiting patterns that arise from intra-articular hip injury. Dynamic gait assessment can give the therapist distinct clues as to hip pathophysiology etiology.

It was previously assumed that surgery to correct intra-articular pathology, such as in CAM-based femoracetabular impingement (FAI), would result in correction of deficiencies in gait patterning. CAM FAI limits and creates pain in the direction of hip osteokinematic flexion, adduction, and internal rotation range of motion and is caused by a lack of sphericity of the femoral head and neck, causing impingement of the labrum and/or chondral contact at the acetabulum.

A recent study published in 2013 in Gait and Posture, shows that previous assumptions about gait are incorrect. The study compared the gait of healthy controls to those with FAI and hypothesized that gait abnormalities would resolve status post surgery.

Gait measures were obtained both preoperatively and postoperatively. Researchers were surprised to find that gait abnormalities found presurgically did not automatically resolve postsurgically. Another pertinent finding is that the surgical patients not only retained their old faulty antalgic gait patterns and habits, they also adopted new abnormalities that resulted from surgical intervention, such as those arising from scar tissue, soft tissue pathology, neuromuscular patterning, or loss of arthrokinematic motion in the hip. These findings underscores the importance of early intervention via physical therapy for both operative and nonoperative patients if we want our patients to enjoy or return to a high quality of life.

Although the patients in the study who underwent FAI surgery did demonstrate decreased pain, nonoptimal preoperative gait patterns that persist postoperatively can put these patients at risk for reinjury (e.g. labral retears) or related cobmorbidities like pelvic pain, back pain, or sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

Further, a separate study published in 2009 established the presence of altered hip and pelvic biomechanics during gait, finding that those with hip FAI had decreased peak hip abduction, attenuated pelvic frontal ROM or translation, and less sagittal ROM than controls. Soft tissue restriction including scar tissue from previous or current surgeries, myofascial restriction, or neuromuscular patterning problems are, again, all important variables which must be differentially diagnosed for their possible contribution to the loss of ROM and function. Other considerations that can alter gait pattern and increase injury or reinjury risk assessment of capsular mobility, ligamentous integrity, and sacroiliac joint contributions to limited hip ROM and excursion.

To learn more about nonoperative and operative hip labral and FAI management, check out faculty member Ginger Garner's continuing education course on Extra-Articular Pelvic and Hip Labrum Injury: Differential Diagnosis and Integrative Management. The next opportunity to take the course is March of 2015 in Houston.

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Resurfacing after Hip Labral Surgery

Resurfacing after Hip Labral Surgery

This post was written by H&W instructor Ginger Garner. Ginger will be presenting her Hip Labrum Injuries course in Houston in March!

Ginger Garner

Lots of you have reached out with questions about “best care” practices after hip surgery. There isn’t a whole lot in scientific literature written about rehab, and over many months of fielding questions on my closed HIP LABRAL PHYSIOTHERAPY FB page, I am finally ready to share what Best Care Practices after Hip Labral Surgery may look like.

Today is Post 1 of this series, which will follow me day-by-day, week-by-week, through the highs and lows of my recovery and rehabilitation. Here we go!

First, “What IS Hip Labral Surgery?”

A relatively new term, the surgery is presently called “Hip Preservation.” However I like to call a spade a spade – this surgery is a bona fide hip reconstruction.

This surgery is a major undertaking for surgeon and patient and is constantly charting new territory in surgical techniques and discoveries. A brilliant way to preserve the hip joint, a surgeon is charged with essentially piecing the hip back together and reshaping it to work better than before surgery. It comes with risks AND benefits, many of which I will address in posts to come. It requires serious dedication and a wicked good physical therapist to get you back to fighting shape after surgery. But success begins with choosing a good surgeon who is a specialist in this type of surgery (more on that later).

Not a hip replacement, hip labral surgery rarely ONLY consists of repair of the labrum. Most of the time, a torn hip labrum is an issue secondary to a whole slew of hip disorders that make up a quagmire of highly technical and complex systems that converge during hip reconstruction. Whew, that was a mouthful.

A few of those technical things include hip dysplasia, impingement syndromes (and oh are there lots of different kinds we will be discussing), tendinosis, bursitis, pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, snapping hip phenomenon (internal and external), anteversion, retroversion, and well, that’s enough to get us started.

Passion for Hip Labral Rehab

Let me tell you that this surgery was everything I thought it was going to be, and a hell (there’s just no other way to put it) of a lot more. I would have LOVED to avoid surgery, and heck, to avoid the injury that led to surgery – because I don’t know a single person who would prefer to gain clinical expertise by actually suffering through the injury or surgery. But alas, adversity is often what makes us better.

As you may guess, I did experience a single traumatic injury – which then proceeded to give birth to a perpetually poorly behaved, havoc-wreaking monster of a chronic condition. The funny thing was before the injury, my area of clinical expertise was ALREADY orthopaedics and women’s health. You can see I was kind of in for a colossal butt-kicking lesson from the universe. Oh the irony…

I did try to prepare myself for the road to recovery though. Read my post on Shutting Down to Move Forward: The Therapist Becomes the Patient.

But trust me, I would rather NOT have gleaned clinical expertise on hip labral and pelvic injury through personal tragedy.

Nonetheless, I knew that my journey from hip reconstructive surgery back to health, was going to help more than just me. I could use it to help so many others who wrestle with that same monster.

But yea, there are a few challenges to recovery:

  • I am mother. Of three boys. Ranging in age from 3-9.
  • I was/still am trying to finish my doctorate.
  • I completed a book chapter for a colleague’s new text on Fostering Creativity in Rehabilitation and a research manuscript during early post-op.
  • I had to maintain a full teaching schedule that required walking and stair climbing (which I couldn’t do) and lots of standing (which I also could not do).
  • The final straw was, midway through rehab, my oldest son received a special needs diagnosis.

Nevermind having clean laundry and healthy meals to foster healing (and maintain sanity). I mean, a human can only do so much. The point is – I didn’t live tweet or post about my recovery in real time.

The Bright Side

The good side though – is my delay in posting has given me much needed time to reflect on what variables are most critical to the recovery process.

If you are considering hip labral surgery, please read Top Five Must Have Hip Labral Surgery Tips to help you prepare.

Other colleagues I know have released blog series in real time, a chronicle to their injury and recovery. Shelly Prosko and her traumatic Achilles Tendon rupture, is one of those colleagues. Also a physioyogi, I highly recommend Shelly’s series on her recovery. Read here or cut and paste: http://www.gingergarner.com/2014/10/28/medical-therapeutic-yoga-achilles-tendon-rupture-missing-link-rehabilitation/

Now onward and forward, I am (finally) sitting down to write, 5 and a half months AFTER my surgery.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey through Hip Preservation, er, Reconstruction Surgery and that, most of all, you’ll find something that will inspire you to more complete healing and recovery.

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Four “Must Know” Tips for Identifying Hip Labral Injuries

Four “Must Know” Tips for Identifying Hip Labral Injuries

This post was written by H&W instructor Ginger Garner. Ginger will be presenting her Hip Labrum Injuries course in Houston in March!

Ginger Garner

1. Early Intervention Is Key

Acetabular labral tears are reported to be a major cause of hip dysfunction in young patients and a primary precursor to hip osteoarthritis. New technology is helping with improved identification of tears, however the time of injury to diagnosis is still on average 2.5 years, making long-term prognosis for hip preservation poor.

Because of the lengthy delay many patients are still experiencing, the importance of early intervention cannot be overemphasized.

2. Getting the Best Outcomes: Patient Stories & Details Matter

Patient stories, the subjective reports of the individual, are incredibly important in aiding diagnosis of a hip labral tear. Knowing the morphological classification and common areas for tears in the hip labrum is also important, especially when it comes to identifying and managing adverse biomechanical stressors, such as anterior joint loading in the hip. Quite often in conservative treatment of hip labral injury, it is more important to change or retrain nonoptimal movement strategies rather than to issue exercise, strengthen, or elongate tissues.

Up to 55% of active people with mechanical hip pain are typically confirmed as having acetabular hip labral (ALT) tears, which is affirmed across several research studies. And since 2003, the most commonly cited area of hip pain for labral tears is anterior, followed by lateral, then posterior.

3. Study History to Affect the Future

Suzuki, in 1986, described the acetabular labral tear arthroscopically for the first time, while Altenburg, in 1977, documented the first report of “nontraumatic tearing of the acetabular labrum,” according to Groh and Herrara 2009, Schmerl 2005, and Altenburg 1977. And yet, it is possible for an ALT to go undiagnosed and pain-free, since up to 96% of cadaver hips with a mean age of 78 years old are found to have ALT in the anterosuperior quadrant.

A paucity of studies existed on hip disorders from 1977-2011, having located approximately 70 during early research on the topic. Plante et al (2011) and Margo et al (2003) confirm these findings, stating “there is no clear consensus on diagnosis or terminology” (concerning ALT).However, the increasing interest in ALT is a welcome phenomenon, and in a a second literature review from 2011 to present I located and reviewed over 100 new studies relating to ALT and its often comorbid sister condition, femoracetabular impingement (FAI).

4. What Matters Most in Symptomology?

There are some moderately reliable tests that have undergone scrutiny as to their sensitivity (SN) and specificity (SP) for clinical utility and validity; however, that is a discussion for another post. For now, what matters most in diagnosing ALT?

The short answer is the patient story. Listen to a patient’s onset of symptoms and mechanism of injury (if there is one, oftentimes there isn’t unless the mechanism is pregnancy or postpartum-related. For more information, read my post on postpartum hip labral injury risk. Listen carefully the most typical (and reliable) symptomology for a suspected ALT. Those symptoms would include:

  • Pain in the groin (reported 95-100% SN)
  • Mechanical symptoms, which can include sharp pain, clicking, locking or catching, or giving way (reported 85-100% SP, SN, respectively)
  • Minor hip ROM (range of motion) limitations (same SP and SN as above)

Could There Be a Future Hip Labral Injury (HLI) Scale?

The last symptom that can be incredibly telling (read: reveal the degree of functional impairment and degree of ALT), is night pain. Similar to the RTC impingement degrees of impairment (Stages l I, II, and III), ALT injury is similar. Once a patient’s sleep is interrupted, and is accompanied by any of the symptoms found above, the risk of their having an ALT or other intra-articular (internal) hip derangement is high. Night pain could then be characterized by the most impaired stage, Stage III, lending itself to the possibility of a future HLI Scale.

The findings reported in this post are supported by more than two dozen references, which are a part of the literature review included in the Hip Labral Injury and Differential Diagnosis course that Ginger authored and teaches for Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute.

To learn more about nonoperative and operative hip labral and FAI management, check out faculty member Ginger Garner's continuing education course on Extra-Articular Pelvic and Hip Labrum Injury: Differential Diagnosis and Integrative Management. The next opportunity to take the course is March of 2015 in Houston.


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Diastasis Recti Abdominis: A Narrative Review

Diastasis Recti Abdominis: A Narrative Review

The following post comes to us in part from Ginger Garner, PT, ATC, PYT, who teaches three yoga courses for Herman & Wallace; Yoga for Pelvic Pain, Yoga as Medicine for Pregnancy, and Yoga as Medicine for Labor and Postpartum. Check out her poster at the Combined Sections Meeting this weekend in Anaheim!

Maternal health care in the United States is abysmal. Especially wretched is care and support of women post-partum. Our insurance system is partially to blame by dictating that women receive only one visit with the provider who participated in the delivery of their baby 6 weeks after the baby is born, no matter the method of delivery. This is often after most of the scary, unexpected side effects of delivery, like heavy bleeding, nipple pain, urinary incontinence, difficulty with bowel movements, scar pain and tremendous mood swings have begun to ease. Only the women who are the most persistent, or those who have chosen unique care models (like out of hospital births with midwives), seem to get real support post-partum, leaving marginalized and less self-driven women to fend for themselves.

What if research could show that immediately treating some of the side effects of birth, like diastasis recti abdominus, which occurs in 50-60% of post-partum women, could result in improved outcomes in the long run? What if someone could prove that retraining and strengthening the abdominal wall as part of a biopsychosocial model empowering women could change the costly effects of prolapse and urinary incontinence treatment later on in life? What if that research aimed to show that treating women in partnership will all care providers was the most effective? These are big questions, but through research beginning with Diastasis Recti Abdominis (DRA), some Women’s Health Physical Therapists trained in Medical Therapeutic Yoga are hoping to highlight some answers.

At CSM in San Diego next month, these researchers (listed below) are presenting a poster via the Section on Women’s Health showcasing their paper, Diastasis Recti Abdominis: A Narrative Review. They found that good, solid research focusing on the co-morbidities and treatment of DRA is really lacking. Most well-done studies focus on the reliability and validity of measurement techniques, showing that calipers and ultrasound are the most valid and reliable ways to measure the gap. There is not even agreement on what precise measurement technically constitutes a DRA, though most agree that normal inter-recti distance is 15-25mm supraumbilically among parous females with digital calipers. (Chiarello 2013).

Besides the obvious cosmetic and general strengthening concerns, why do we care about physical therapy care for a post-partum DRA? Spitznagle’s retrospective chart review of women presenting for gynecological care with a mean age of 52 found that 52% had DRA and 66% of them had a least one support-related pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Those with DRA were more likely to have pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence. Another study by Parker found a DRA prevalence of 74.4% among women with back or pelvic area pain who had delivered at least one child and sought PT. They found a significant difference in VAS pain levels in those with DRA and abdominal or pelvic pain compared to those without DRA. More well-done, prospective studies are really needed to correlate these sequalea in later life to DRA post-partum.

The topic of how to retrain the abdominal wall to restore optimal function and cosmetic appearance is hot in the blogosphere right now. Does it matter if the width of the diastasis recti is reduced? Or is it a matter of having tension in the linea alba as the clinician sinks his/her fingers toward the spine? Biomechanically we know that in order to improve stiffness in the trunk, we need synergistic and symmetrical firing of the diaphragm, transversus abdominis, multifidus and the pelvic floor with proper timing and contraction of the hip and external abdominal muscles. Benjamin completed a review of the research on the effects of exercise in the antenatal and postnatal periods and concluded that antenatal exercise may be protective against the formation of a DRA, but that the available studies are of such poor quality and varied in the way that abdominal/core strengthening was applied in the post-partum population, that it is impossible to tell how or why exercise may or may not help with DRA!

There is clearly a huge hole in the literature and as usual, new mothers are suffering. Women are spending money on programs they find on the internet that are not backed by solid research, because there is not any! Regarding DRA, post-partum women in our country desperately need well-done, high quality studies promoting a specific and well-described exercise for healing. In addition, in our patriarchal health care model, we need to show without a shadow of a doubt that treating post-partum muscle weakness, body mechanics issues and DRA is essential for saving money in the long run on prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery, as well as decreasing expenditure on back pain treatments.

If our discipline could provide this research, ALL women could have access to personal, post-partum recovery. As an established part of the health care system and with longer treatment times and the chance to get to know our patients better, physical therapists are the IDEAL healthcare practitioners to ensure that post-partum women are getting adequate physical retraining, but also psycho-social support that is so lacking in the United States.

The Women’s Health Poster Presentations at CSM in Anaheim will be on Saturday, Feb 20 from 1-3PM. I look forward to meeting with some of you and visiting about what you are working on to further the cause of improving maternal health care and DRA treatment.

Ginger Garner PT, ATC, PYT, Professional Yoga Therapy Institute, Emerald Isle, NC
Elizabeth Trausch, DPT, PYT Des Moines University, Des Moines IA
Stefanie Foster, PT, PYT Asana with Intelligence, Houston, TX
Paige Raffo, PT, PYT, CPI, Balance+Flow Physio, Bellevue, WA
Janet Drake, PT, LCCE, FACCE, PYT, Central Bucks Physical Therapy, Doylestown, PA
Stacie Razzino, PT, PYT, Free Motion Physical Therapy, Melbourne, FL
Blog post by Libby Trausch, DPT

Spitznagle T, Leong F, Van Dillen L, Prevalence of diastasis recti abdominis in a urogynecological patient population, International Urogynecology Journal. 2007; 18: 321-328.
Chiarello CM, Mcauley JA. Concurrent validity of calipers and ultrasound imaging to measure interrecti distance. Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013; 43(7): 495-503
Benjamin DR, et al., Effects of exercise on diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle in the antenatal and postnatal periods: a systematic review. Physiotherapy. 2014 Mar;100(1):1-8.

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Hyaluronic Acid for Vaginal Dryness

Hyaluronic Acid for Vaginal Dryness

This post was written by H&W instructor Allison Ariail PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, BCB-PMD, PRPC, who will be presenting Pelvic Floor Level 2B in Houston at the end of February.

Allison Ariail

Dyspareunia, or pain during or after intercourse, can be very upsetting and frustrating to a woman. One cause of dyspareunia is vaginal dryness. As estrogen levels decrease, the vaginal tissues can have less moisture, elasticity, and become thinner. This not only can affect postmenopausal women, but also post-partum women, and women who are on estrogen-blocking medication due to cancer or for treatment of fibroids. One of the common and effective treatments for this vaginal dryness includes estrogen creams, or hormone replacement. However, what does a woman do if she is not able to use an estrogen cream, due to an estrogen receptor positive cancer? One possibility is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a substance naturally found throughout connective, epithelial, and neural tissue. You may be more familiar with hyaluronic acid as the substance injected into joints for osteoarthritis. However, there have been some recent published studies comparing the use of hyaluronic acid to estrogen replacement.

In 2011, Ekin et al. published a study comparing the use of hyaluronic acid vaginal tablets with estradiol vaginal tablets. Two groups of postmenopausal women with atrophic vaginitis were studied. One group used estradiol vaginal tablets (n=21) for 8 weeks, while the other group used hyaluronic acid tablets (n=21) for 8 weeks. Outcomes consisted of the degree of vaginal atrophy, vaginal pH, vaginal maturation index, and a self-assessed 4-point scale. Both groups had relief of vaginal symptoms, improved epithelial atrophy, decreased vaginal pH, and increased maturation of the vaginal epithelium. The group on estradiol did have greater improvements, however, it was determined that the hyaluronic acid vaginal tablets was effective enough to be considered an alternative treatment for those who wanted to avoid the use of a local estrogen treatment.

In 2013, Chen et al. published a study comparing the use of hyaluronic acid gel to estriol cream. Women were randomized into two groups, using the hyaluronic acid vaginal gel, or the use of estriol cream (n=72 each group) for 30 days. Outcome measures included a visual analog scale for vaginal dryness, and three other vaginal symptoms. Also measured were lab tests of the vaginal micro-ecosystem, vaginal pH, vaginal US, and incidence of adverse events. Results showed both groups had improvement without a statistically significant difference between the groups.

These two studies show that hyaluronic acid may be an alternative to hormone replacement. This is good news for women who suffer from vaginal dryness and cannot use hormone replacement therapy, or even localized hormone replacement therapy due to the use of anti-estrogen medications! The improvement of vaginal dryness can significantly improve dyspareunia symptoms for many women. To learn more about dyspareunia, as well as other causes of pelvic pain, join me in Houston for PF2B!


Chen, J., Geng, L., Song, X., Li, H., Giordan, N., & Liao, Q. (2013). Evaluation of the Efficacy and Safety of Hyaluronic Acid Vaginal Gel to Ease Vaginal Dryness: A Multicenter, Randomized, Controlled, Open?Label, Parallel?Group, Clinical Trial. The journal of sexual medicine, 10(6), 1575-1584.

Ekin, M., Ya?ar, L., Savan, K., Temur, M., Uhri, M., Gencer, I., & K?vanç, E. (2011). The comparison of hyaluronic acid vaginal tablets with estradiol vaginal tablets in the treatment of atrophic vaginitis: a randomized controlled trial. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics, 283(3), 539-543.

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