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Be The Detective: Using Differential Diagnosis

Be The Detective: Using Differential Diagnosis

Tara Sullivan, PT, DPT, PRPC, WCS, IF sat down with Holly Tanner and The Pelvic Rehab Report to discuss her course, Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab. Tara started in the healthcare field as a massage therapist, practicing for over ten years including three years of teaching massage and anatomy, and physiology. Tara has specialized exclusively in Pelvic Floor Dysfunction treating bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunctions, and pelvic pain since 2012. 

 

Hi Tara, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?
Sure! So I’m Tara. I’ve been a pelvic health rehab therapist for about 10 years now. I started right out of PT school and I got a job at a local hospital where they were looking to grow and build the pelvic rehab program. So of course, I found Herman & Wallace and started taking all of the classes there that I could and just kept learning over the years. Now the program is expanded across the valley, we have nine different locations, and it’s been very successful and fulfilling. It’s my passion.

Recently, I would say the past four to five years of my career, I’ve started getting more into sexual dysfunctions. I was always into pelvic floor dysfunction in general - bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pelvic pain, but I  didn’t get specifically into the sexual medicine side of it until recently. I did the fellowship with ISSWSH that really pulled all of that information together with what I’ve learned through the years.

Can you explain what ISSWSH is and how that combined with the knowledge base that you already had?
I feel like ISSWSH for me, where I came full circle. I finally was like “I get it.” ISSWSH is the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and it’s all the gurus like Dr. Goldstein, Rachel Rubin, and Susan Kellogg that have been around forever doing the research on sexual medicine. I started attending their conferences, became a faculty member, and presented at their annual fall meeting here in Scottsdale. Then I ended up doing their fellowship. Every year I would attend the conference, but it took a couple of years for all of that knowledge to soak in and for me to be able to really apply it.  For example, that patient with that sticky discharge, maybe that is lichen planus – that’s the kind of medical side that you don’t necessarily learn in physical therapy school.

That for me just really helped my differential diagnosis which means that you can get the patient’s care faster. Get them to that resolution faster because you are working with a team of people and we all have our roles. As PTs and rehab practitioners, we have the time to sit with our patients. We are so blessed to have an hour, and the medical doctors don’t, for us to really take that time to figure out the patient’s history and what they’ve been through, and what could be the cause of it. We have the time to be the detective and help them get the care they need. Whether it’s with us, or in conjunction with something else. My goal is to never tell someone that I can’t help them because it’s not muscular.

How has this knowledge helped you in your collaboration with other practitioners in your practice?
I feel like this knowledge was the missing link for me. It brings it all together for the patient. So the patients come here and the urologist says “that’s not my area,” and then the gynecologist says “that’s not my area.” Then they come to you and you’re like “it’s kind of my area, but I can’t prescribe the medication that you need.”

My practice got so much better, just in the sense of the overall quality of care, when I was able to develop those relationships with the doctors. I could pick up the phone and say “Hey, that patient that you sent me – I think they have vestibulodynia, and I think it’s from their long-term use of oral contraceptive pills. I think that they might benefit from some local estrogen testosterone cream.” They would say, I don’t know about that, and I’d respond “let me send you some articles. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.”

Now I can just pick up the phone or send them a text asking them to prescribe so and so. It really helped bridge that gap. The doctors now will say “Ok. I know something’s going on, but I don’t know if it’s muscular or tissue. I don’t have that training, what do you think?” So it’s just been such a collaboration, it’s been so great. Then I’ll go the reverse of that and watch them do a surgery, watch them do a procedure.

For our patients, we need to take that time and work with the physicians and develop that relationship with them, because it’s easy to pass it off as “that’s not my job.” Especially the vestibule! The gynecologist goes right through it and looks into the vaginal canal and then the urologist is like I’m going to look at the urethra but I’m not looking around it, let me just stick that scope in. This knowledge and ability to use differential diagnosis, for me just brings it all together.

Does your course have an online, pre-recorded portion as well as a live component?
Yes. There are about nine lab videos on manual techniques because everyone wants to know what to do. For me, it’s more about what you know. What can you identify and differentiate with the differential diagnosis. Then we have about two hours of just the basic lectures on general pain and overactivity of the pelvic floor so that we can spend our time in the live lecture getting into the very specific conditions that we as PTs are, not necessarily diagnosing, but recognizing and sending for further care. That’s really where I wanted this class to fill the gap between the urologist, the gynecologist, and the PT.

Is your course primarily vulvo-vaginal conditions or are there some penile, scrotal, or other conditions?
It is both male and female dysfunctions, and I have a few transgender cases. I don’t personally treat the transgender population very often so I only have a couple of examples of that. I have a lot of examples where I’m trying to get practitioners to recognize the problem by what the patient is saying and their history, and how to funnel this into their differential diagnosis. Case studies include different types of vestibulodynia and causes, all the different skin conditions…and it’s not necessarily something that they didn’t learn in one of the Pelvic Floor Series courses, but I wanted one class where they could just talk about all the sexual dysfunctions and get into some of the ones that we don’t see as often but are present.

We also talk about PGAD (persistent genital arousal disorder), and with male dysfunctions, we talk about spontaneous ejaculation and urethral discharge, post finasteride syndrome. All of these things that you might not see every day, but when you see them you’ll recognize them so that you can help patients talk to the doctor and get the proper care. There are a lot of random, not as obvious, conditions that are not as prevalent. Then there are the common conditions that we see every single day like lichens.

What is the biggest takeaway that practitioners have who come into your class?
It is really being able to access and effectively use differential diagnosis. A lot of practitioners in the course are like “I always wondered what that was.” I have a ton of pictures that I share, and I’m like, I know have seen this before. I think a lot of it is the differential diagnosis. The feedback that I get from every class is “I feel like I can go to the clinic on Monday and apply what I learned.” “I’m going to go buy a q-tip and start doing a q-tip test because now I know what to do with that information.” They feel that confidence of really being able to apply it, talk to the patient, talk to the doctors, and figure out that meaningfulness.


Course Covers

Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab

Course Dates:
January 14-15, 2023
May 13-14, 2023
September 23-24, 2023

Price: $450
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 15

Description: This two-day course provides a thorough introduction to pelvic floor sexual function, dysfunction, and treatment interventions, as well as an evidence-based perspective on the value of physical therapy interventions for patients with chronic pelvic pain related to sexual conditions, disorders, and multiple approaches for the treatment of sexual dysfunction including understanding medical diagnosis and management.

Lecture topics include hymen myths, squirting, G-spot, prostate gland, sexual response cycles, hormone influence on sexual function; the anatomy and physiology of pelvic floor muscles in sexual arousal, orgasm, and function, and specific dysfunction treated by physical therapy in detail. Including vaginismus, dyspareunia, erectile dysfunction, hard flaccid, prostatitis, and post-prostatectomy, as well as recognizing medical conditions such as persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), and dermatological conditions such as lichen sclerosis and lichen planus. Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to confidently treat sexual dysfunction related to the pelvic floor as well as refer to medical providers as needed and instruct patients in the proper application of self-treatment and diet/lifestyle modifications.

Course Reviews:

  • The instructor offered excellent examples of what can be seen in the patient population and advised good treatment plans to help. She was very thorough in answering questions and very well-informed on all topics presented in this class. I was so thankful to learn more about the hormone component of pelvic floor rehab, as I feel that this is greatly lacking in the Midwest -- we still live on the idea that hormones and HRT are BAD! Looks like I will be doing some heavy marketing soon with research articles! Thank you so much for all of this information!
  • Various topics only glossed over in other courses were covered in detail to meet the various levels of knowledge of all students in the class. On top of this, new and useful material was also introduced and explained very well.
  • Tara gave practical tips for us to start using in clinical practice and her notes to her lecture were KEY!
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The Beauty of Acupressure – An Interview with Rachna Mehta

The Beauty of Acupressure – An Interview with Rachna Mehta

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Rachna Mehta, PT, DPT, CIMT, OCS, PRPC is the author and instructor of the Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health course. Rachna brings a wealth of experience to her physical therapy practice and has a personal interest in various eastern holistic healing traditions.

One of the main reasons I got into Acupressure was because of my complex orthopedic patients. People who were struggling with chronic pelvic pain, and a lot of my patients were doing complementary and alternative medicine ( CAM ) modalities like Acupuncture and Yoga. That got me interested, because as they were going along with those programs in addition to therapy, the question they always asked was what could they do themselves.

I started looking into Acupressure and found that there was such a big knowledge base, but the information was very scattered. If I found a study that talked about Acupressure points, I wouldn’t know where they were located, what they were good for, where I could use them, or how I could integrate them into my practice. I started to piece the information together and that was the conception of this course Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health.

Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health  is a two-day course with about an hour and a half of pre-recorded lectures that go over the history of Acupuncture (because Acupressure draws from that), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concepts, getting our basics down, and terminology. We talk about the meridian channels, Ying and Yang, and where the meridians and Acupoints are located on the body. Next we delve into the scientific and evidence-based perspectives by taking a look at all of the evidence for Acupuncture and Acupressure.

From there we go into how to read the chart and what are the abbreviations. We have 12 main meridians that we look at and out of those there are 4 that we focus more on for pelvic health. Those are the Bladder, the Kidney, the Stomach, and the Spleen meridians - those have the most points that we focus on. There are also other important points all over the body that help and stimulate the nervous system and tap into the peripheral nervous system, the Qi, and improve the physiological functioning of the organs.

Lectures also talk about the fascial and connective tissue networks, and how Acupoints are located along fascial planes. We discuss the connections of the fascia with the peripheral nervous system and how Acupoints have high electrical conductivity on the surface of the skin (there are instruments that can measure this). Next, we tackle the question of how Acupoints tap into the central nervous system and how there are internal connections to the different organs that can help to heal and promote physiological wellbeing. Acupressure can treat conditions like anxiety, incontinence, constipation, dysmenorrhea and a host of pelvic health conditions. Acupressure is good for so many different things.

On day two of class, we dive into Yin yoga. Yin yoga is a very beautiful form of yoga. It’s a quiet, meditative form of yoga, and it connects the Acupressure points by putting the body in specific poses that stress those tension lines along the meridians. It is a mindful way of putting the body in specific positions and supporting the body with props. It is also a meditative state in which we stay in each pose for about  3 to 5 minutes, and we become still. The main principles of Yin Yoga are that we arrive in a pose, become still and stay for time. We get into a pose and basically, we are meeting our body where it is. It’s also a lot of acceptance and mindfulness. Stillness is something that a lot of people have a hard time doing, be it physical or stillness of the mind.

The beauty of us using Acupressure is that we are musculoskeletal specialists and we are so hands on with all of our patients. If we know exactly where the points are, we can work on those points as we are working on other things such as stretching a muscle, doing range of motion, or just working on fascia. There are a lot of things that we can do for our pelvic health patients in particular, but this is applicable to even our orthopedic patients.

Acupressure is truly a mind-body practice that can be taught to patients in their journey towards self-care, holistic healing and wellness.


Acupressure for Optimal Pelvic Health

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Course Dates:
October 15-16, 2022
February 4-5, 2023
June 3-4, 2023
October 14-15, 2023

Price: $450
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 12.5

Description: This is a two-day course that offers 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 channelize 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.

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The Challenges of the Perinatal Period: An Interview with Ken McGee

The Challenges of the Perinatal Period: An Interview with Ken McGee

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This week The Pelvic Rehab Report sat down with faculty member Ken McGee, PT, DPT. Ken (they/he) is a queer transmasculine pelvic health physical therapist based in Seattle whose mission is to bring greater awareness to the pelvic health needs of the LGBTQIA2S community. Their practice, B3 Physical Therapy, centers on transgender and perinatal rehabilitation. Ken also provides peer bodyfeeding support and doula care, and can be found on Instagram at @b3ptcob3ptco.

You can join Ken in their remote course, Perinatal Mental Health: The Role of the Pelvic Rehab Therapist, scheduled for October 22, 2022.

 

Who are you? Describe your clinical practice.
Experiencing inadequate care for my own pelvic health conditions as a teenager motivated me to become a pelvic health physical therapist. Being a member of the queer community further drove me to offer trauma-informed care and develop better access to care through home visits. Currently, I split my time between providing gender-affirming physical therapy and serving as a birth doula.

What lesson have you learned (in a course, from an instructor, or from a colleague or mentor) that has stayed with you?
Very few clients will remember detailed biomechanical explanations or every exercise you teach them. However, each client will remember how you treated them and how you made them feel. Asking clients about their preferences for care and following up go a long way in establishing rapport.

What do you find is the most useful resource for your practice?
One of my favorite resources is Decolonizing Fitness. It is an educational platform by Ilya Parker, PTA, (he/they). It provides a catalog of exercises and trainings for people looking to improve their care of gender-diverse people and People of Global Majority.

What books or articles have impacted you as a clinician?
The healthcare field regularly puts people in boxes to determine care. For example, many providers might determine care based on whether someone is a transgender woman or man. However, gender is actually someone’s individual experience rather than a category. Kate Bornstein’s My New Gender Workbook is a good starting point for understanding gender as uniquely one’s own, rather than part of a treatment algorithm.

What made you want to create this course, Perinatal Mental Health?
I wanted to create this course because, as a parent and physical therapist, I see both the challenges that the perinatal period presents, as well as the ways that rehabilitation providers can support mental health. In developing the content, I drew upon my background as a volunteer for a perinatal mental health warm line.

What need does your course fill in the field of pelvic rehabilitation?
Pelvic rehabilitation providers regularly interact with people who have mental health challenges. However, there are very few courses that specifically address the needs of the pelvic health providers serving folks in the perinatal period. This course looks at perinatal mental health from the perspective of pelvic rehabilitation providers, while offering specific actions providers can take to support their clients.

Who, what demographic, would benefit from your course?
Rehabilitation providers of any experience level would benefit from taking this course. Providers who are new parents or considering becoming pregnant may also find the content personally enriching. While the research discussed in this course focused on the perinatal period, much of it can be extrapolated to other populations.

What is your message to course participants who are just starting their journey?
For people just starting in pelvic rehabilitation, I would recommend focusing on patient education. For me, I find that the greatest amount of client improvement comes through reviewing the basics. It’s okay to still be developing skills in manual therapy.


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Perinatal Mental Health: The Role of the Pelvic Rehab Therapist

Price: $150

Contact Hours: 5.75

Course Date: October 22, 2022

Description: This one-day remote course covers mental health considerations in pregnancy and postpartum and is targeted to the pelvic rehab clinician treating patients in the peripartum period. Topics include common mental health concerns in the postpartum period including depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD, as well as the connectedness between mental health and physical dysfunction. The course will introduce useful screening tools and how to connect patients to resources and diagnosing professionals. Labs will include partnered breakout sessions to practice listening and dialogue skills. The course also includes a review of coping techniques to support mental health and physical symptoms.

 

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An OTs Journey through Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Health

An OTs Journey through Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Health

This week for the Pelvic Rehab Report, Holly Tanner sat down to interview faculty member Erica Vitek, MOT, OTR, BCB-PMD, PRPC on her specialty course Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation. If you would like to learn more about working with this patient population join Erica on June 24th-25th for the next course date!

 

This is Holly Tanner with the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute and I'm here with Erica Vitek who's going to tell us about of course that she has created for Herman and Wallace. Erica, will you tell us a little bit about your background?

Yes. Absolutely. Thanks for chatting with me today about my course! So my course is Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation. I'm just so excited to be part of the team and to be sharing all this great information. How I got the idea for the course is that there was a need for more neuro-type topics related to pelvic health, and individuals were reaching out to me because my specialty is in both Parkinson disease, rehabilitation, as well as pelvic health, and I always talked about the connections and wanting to bring that information to more people. So I wanted to plate all that information together in this great course. 

I got started specializing in Parkinson's back in the early 2000s. I was hired at a hospital as an occupational therapist working with people with Parkinson disease. But when I was in college my real interest was pelvic health. So I kind of got thrown into learning a whole lot about Parkinson disease at that time and I got really interested in how it all related to what I really wanted to do, which was pelvic health. I was able to connect that all, really right from the beginning of my career. Even though I started more on the physical rehabilitation side of Parkinson disease, which I continue to this day. I am able to combine those two passions of mine.

I also am an instructor with LSVT Global(1)and so we do LSVT BIG®(2) course training and certification workshops and I work with them a lot. I also have still a physical rehab background, as well as my connection to the public health background, and I bring that all together in my course Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation. We have two packed-full days of information and I think really it does translate well to the virtual environment.


What are the connections between neuro and pelvic health? Can you talk about what some of the big cornerstone pieces are that you get to dive into with your class?

The beginning of the course on the first day is going back to the basics of neuro in general. Really getting our neuro brains on and thinking about terminology, topics related to neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system. Individuals with Parkinson’s specifically, their motor system is affected but also their non-motor systems. This includes autonomic function, the limbic system, and all of the different motor functions that also affect the pelvic floor in addition to all of the other muscles in the body.

We have all of this interplay of things going on that affect the bladder, bowel, and sexual health systems in individuals with Parkinson's that is a little bit different than your general population. There are a multitude of bladder issues that are very specific to the PD population, for example, overactive bladder. 

This is just one example of the depths we go into right in the beginning on day one where we get into the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of why that is actually happening. This then helps us go into day two where we talk about the practicality of what you do in the clinic about the things that are happening neurologically which is causing all of these bladder, bowel, and sexual health issues.

 

What kind of tools do you give to people to help practitioners understand and implement a treatment program?

People with PD are on very complex medication regimens and many of them are elderly, so the medication complexity is much more challenging in this population. At the end of day one, the last lecture, we go through the pharmacology very specifically for people with Parkinson’s in order to have a base of understanding of how that is interplaying with the pelvic health conditions. 

We set the baseline of getting that information from your patient off the bat, then discuss what you want to be looking for when you start off with that patient and the importance of finding out what kind of bladder and bowel medications they have taken thus far and how that can potentially interplay with their Parkinson’s. Individuals with PD can have potentially worse side effects from some of those medications that are used for bladder issues specifically. We dig into what to look for, we talk a lot about practical behavioral modifications using bladder and bowel diaries and things like that to weed out some things in addition to using our other skills as pelvic health practitioners.


How can people prepare themselves to come to Parkinson Disease and Pelvic Rehabilitation, are there required readings or things that would be helpful for people to catch up a little bit on the pelvic health or neuro side?

I feel like, and I hope, that I did a really good job at the basic review right at the beginning so we can talk through these topics together. I prefer to take a course and not have to spend a lot of extra time on the pre-recordings because sometimes that can be overwhelming with busy lifestyles. When I put together this course I really wanted us to focus together as a group as we start the class to dig into those basics at the beginning and not have a lot of required things to do prior.

So what I did at the beginning of the course is to make a lot of tables, a lot of charts, and a lot of drawings, that we can reference (we don’t have to memorize it) and look at as needed. We can look at a chart and a drawing right next to it in the manual. I spent a lot of time just putting it all down in words, what I’m saying, so you don’t have to take a lot of notes. I think this has really helped practitioners as we get into the course and learn about the details of Parkinson’s and pelvic health.


What is it that makes you so passionate about working with these patients and continuing to learn and share your knowledge?

It is so heartwarming and feels so good to help these individuals. The motor symptoms of PD are really the ones recognized by physicians or even outwardly noticed even by other individuals. These private conditions of pelvic health that we are helping with are things that they might not even mention to their physician. Maybe we find out when we are doing other physical rehab or when colleagues refer them to us because they know what we do, and to help them with something of this magnitude that affects their everyday life - when they have trouble just walking, or moving or transferring. 

Their caregiver burden for these individuals is so high because their loved one - now turned caregiver - is helping them do everything. We can make such an impact on these individuals. I mean, we do on other people too, but when you have a progressive neurologic condition and we can make an effect on shaping techniques they can use to improve their day-to-day. It’s just so great to be able to help them. 

Sometimes these patients with PD can have cognitive impairments, they can have difficulties learning, and that can be helpful for the care partner. It can be a significant reduction in their burdon. I do talk a lot in the course about cognitive impairment and I give a lot of tips about how we can train and some ideas. People with Parkinson’s muscles and minds are a little different so there are some great tips that I can provide and lots of clinical experience. 

I’ve been an occupational therapist for over 20 years, so I have a ton of clinical experience with this population. It’s been the population I’ve worked with my entire career. I hope I can provide the passion that I have for working with these individuals as well as the individuals who take my class.


I’m sure you would agree that we need more folks knowledgeable about Parkinson’s and combine that with pelvic health knowledge as well.

There are over a million people in the United States alone that have Parkinson disease. It’s the second most common neuro-degenerative disorder just behind Alzheimer’s disease. So there are so many individuals dealing with this and I think we can really expand our practices. I don’t think a lot of individuals that work in pelvic health market themselves to neurologists. There is an opening there for additional referrals and more people that we can help.


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References:

  1. SVT Global is an organization that develops innovative treatments that improve the speech and movement of people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. They train speech, physical and occupational therapists around the world in these treatments so that they can positively impact the lives of their patients.
  2. LSVT BIG®: Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease and Similar Conditions. LSVT BIG trains people with Parkinson disease to use their body more normally.
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Be the Detective: Using Differential Diagnosis

Be the Detective: Using Differential Diagnosis
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The following is an excerpt from the short interview between Holly Tanner and Tara Sullivan discussing her course Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab. Watch the full video on the Herman & Wallace YouTube Channel.

Hi Tara, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?

Sure! So I’m Tara. I’ve been a pelvic health rehab therapist for about 10 years now. I started right out of PT school and I got a job at a local hospital where they were looking to grow and build the pelvic rehab program. So of course, I found Herman & Wallace and started taking all of the classes there that I could and just kept learning over the years. Now the program is expanded across the valley, we have nine different locations, and it’s been very successful and fulfilling. It’s my passion.

Recently, I would say the past four to five years of my career, I’ve started getting more into sexual dysfunctions. I was always into pelvic floor dysfunction in general - bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pelvic pain, but I  didn’t get specifically into the sexual medicine side of it until recently. I did the fellowship with ISSWSH that really pulled all of that information together with what I’ve learned through the years.

Can you explain what ISSWSH is and how that combined with the knowledge base that you already had?

I feel like ISSWSH for me, where I came full circle. I finally was like “I get it.” ISSWSH is the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health and it’s all the gurus like Dr. Goldstein, Rachel Rubin, and Susan Kellogg that have been around forever doing the research on sexual medicine. I started attending their conferences, became a faculty member, and presented at their annual fall meeting here in Scottsdale. Then I ended up doing their fellowship. Every year I would attend the conference, but it took a couple of years for all of that knowledge to soak in and for me to be able to really apply it.  For example, that patient with that sticky discharge, maybe that is lichen planus – that’s the kind of medical side that you don’t necessarily learn in physical therapy school.

That for me just really helped my differential diagnosis which means that you can get the patient’s care faster. Get them to that resolution faster because you are working with a team of people and we all have our roles. As PTs and rehab practitioners, we have the time to sit with our patients. We are so blessed to have an hour, and the medical doctors don’t, for us to really take that time to figure out the patient’s history and what they’ve been through, and what could be the cause of it. We have the time to be the detective and help them get the care they need. Whether it’s with us, or in conjunction with something else. My goal is to never tell someone that I can’t help them because it’s not muscular.

How has this knowledge helped you in your collaboration with other practitioners in your practice?

I feel like this knowledge was the missing link for me. It brings it all together for the patient. So the patients come here and the urologist says “that’s not my area,” and then the gynecologist says “that’s not my area.” Then they come to you and you’re like “it’s kind of my area, but I can’t prescribe the medication that you need.”

My practice got so much better, just in the sense of the overall quality of care, when I was able to develop those relationships with the doctors. I could pick up the phone and say “Hey, that patient that you sent me – I think they have vestibulodynia, and I think it’s from their long-term use of oral contraceptive pills. I think that they might benefit from some local estrogen testosterone cream.” They would say, I don’t know about that, and I’d respond “let me send you some articles. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.”

Now I can just pick up the phone or send them a text asking them to prescribe so and so. It really helped bridge that gap. The doctors now will say “Ok. I know something’s going on, but I don’t know if it’s muscular or tissue. I don’t have that training, what do you think?” So it’s just been such a collaboration, it’s been so great. Then I’ll go the reverse of that and watch them do a surgery, watch them do a procedure.

For our patients, we need to take that time and work with the physicians and develop that relationship with them, because it’s easy to pass it off as “that’s not my job.” Especially the vestibule! The gynecologist goes right through it and looks into the vaginal canal and then the urologist is like I’m going to look at the urethra but I’m not looking around it, let me just stick that scope in. This knowledge and ability to use differential diagnosis, for me just brings it all together.

Does your course have an online, pre-recorded portion as well as a live component?

Yes. There are about nine lab videos on manual techniques because everyone wants to know what to do. For me, it’s more about what you know. What can you identify and differentiate with the differential diagnosis. Then we have about two hours of just the basic lectures on general pain and overactivity of the pelvic floor so that we can spend our time in the live lecture getting into the very specific conditions that we as PTs are, not necessarily diagnosing, but recognizing and sending for further care. That’s really where I wanted this class to fill the gap between the urologist, the gynecologist, and the PT.

Is your course primarily vulvo-vaginal conditions or are there some penile, scrotal, or other conditions?

It is both male and female dysfunctions, and I have a few transgender cases. I don’t personally treat the transgender population very often so I only have a couple of examples of that. I have a lot of examples where I’m trying to get practitioners to recognize the problem by what the patient is saying and their history, and how to funnel this into their differential diagnosis. Case studies include different types of vestibulodynia and causes, all the different skin conditions…and it’s not necessarily something that they didn’t learn in one of the Pelvic Floor Series courses, but I wanted one class where they could just talk about all the sexual dysfunctions and get into some of the ones that we don’t see as often but are present.

We also talk about PGAD (persistent genital arousal disorder), and with male dysfunctions, we talk about spontaneous ejaculation and urethral discharge, post vasectomy syndrome. All of these things that you might not see every day, but when you see them you’ll recognize them so that you can help patients talk to the doctor and get the proper care. There are a lot of random, not as obvious, conditions that are not as prevalent. Then there are the common conditions that we see every single day like lichens.

What is the biggest takeaway that practitioners have who come into your class?

It is really being able to access and effectively use differential diagnosis. A lot of practitioners in the course are like “I always wondered what that was.” I have a ton of pictures that I share, and I’m like, I know you guys have seen this before. I think a lot of it is the differential diagnosis. The feedback that I get from every class is “I feel like I can go to the clinic on Monday and apply what I learned.” “I’m going to go buy a q-tip and start doing a q-tip test because now I know what to do with that information.” They feel that confidence of really being able to apply it, talk to the patient, talk to the doctors, and figure out that meaningfulness.


Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab - Remote Course
SEXMED NL

2022 Course Dates:
July 16-17 2022 and October 15-16 2022

Sexual Medicine in Pelvic Rehab is designed for pelvic rehab specialists who want to expand their knowledge, experience, and treatment in sexual health and dysfunction. This course provides a thorough introduction to pelvic floor sexual function, dysfunction, and treatment interventions for all people and sexual orientations, as well as an evidence-based perspective on the value of physical therapy interventions for patients with chronic pelvic pain related to sexual conditions, disorders, as well as multiple approaches for the treatment of sexual dysfunction including understanding medical diagnosis and management.

Lecture topics include hymen myths, female squirting, G-spot, prostate gland, female and male sexual response cycles, hormone influence on sexual function, anatomy and physiology of pelvic floor muscles in sexual arousal, orgasm, and function and specific dysfunction treated by physical therapy in detail including vaginismus, dyspareunia, erectile dysfunction, hard flaccid, prostatitis, post-prostatectomy, as well as recognizing medical conditions such as persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD), hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) and dermatological conditions such as lichen sclerosis and lichen planus. Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to confidently treat sexual dysfunction related to the pelvic floor as well as refer to medical providers as needed and instruct patients in the proper application of self-treatment and diet/lifestyle modifications.

Audience:
This continuing education course is appropriate for physical therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapist assistants, registered nurses, nurse midwives, and other rehabilitation professionals of all levels and experience. Content is not intended for use outside the scope of the learner's license or regulation. Physical therapy continuing education courses should not be taken by individuals who are not licensed or otherwise regulated, except, as they are involved in a specific plan of care.

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Mission First: Manual Therapy

Mission First: Manual Therapy

This week Ramona Horton sat down with Holly Tanner to discuss manual therapy and her course Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity. The following is an excerpt from her interview.

What do we really know about manual therapy? We have decent evidence that shows that asymmetry matters. The tenet of the myofascial course is an osteopathic tenet called ARTS:

  • Asymmetry
  • Restriction of Mobility
  • Tissue Texture Changes
  • Sensitivity

The whole myofascial course is designed around looking for ARTS. When you find the asymmetry within the myofascial system then that’s where you direct your efforts and energy.

Often patients have already tried breathing, yoga, medication, etcetera – and it’s the manual therapy piece that they often have not had. It’s not that uncommon for me to be someone’s second or third therapist. Some patients may have tried some type of manual therapy but it was more things like ischemic compression where the problem was that the manual therapy was triggering nociception.

So in the myofascial course, we start with ARTS but we also have an idea where we flip ARTS on its head and we go to STAR. In STAR, you take sensitivity and put it at the top of your list. That becomes the highest portion in your paradigm. Then we use simple techniques that are not non-nociceptive. Indirect technique versus direct technique, such as something as simple as positional inhibition.

The whole idea of the myofascial course is to teach people to think and problem solve. Then have a very broad spectrum way of you find an inner articular issue where this joint is moving and this one is not. Learn to not chase the booboo. Just because it hurts on the right doesn’t mean that you’re going to treat the right. It might hurt on the right because there is a hypo-mobility on the left. Let’s treat where the brain is protecting the tissue, and holding, and guarding the tissue. Trust in the belief that the body is a self-righting mechanism. The body will then normalize itself.

In manual therapy, our job is to get the body moving like it's supposed to. It’s not to fix the ‘booboo.’ The issue is not in the tissue. If the tissue is tight, it’s tight because the brain is keeping it that way. The way I teach manual therapy is the fascial system gives us access to the nervous system. By utilizing the fascial system in a non-nociceptive manner, what we’re really doing is just having a conversation with the brain. We’re not fixing the tissue. That’s the whole premise of the course - to get people to understand and change their thinking and their paradigm to ask what the brain is protecting and utilizing the fascial system.


MFRP Satellite Locations
Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer Satellite Locations
Course Date: August 5-7, 2022
  • Self-Hosted - for groups of at least 2 qualified practitioners. 
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Dr. Mia Fine Teaches Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists

Dr. Mia Fine Teaches Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists

DLA NL Cover 1

Congratulations to Dr. Mia Fine (they/she) for achieving their Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology and on their book titled 'From Unwanted Pain to Sexual Pleasure: Clinical Strategies for Inclusive Care for Patients with Pelvic Floor Pain' for their dissertation doctoral project.

Dr. Fine was gracious enough to share a draft of their dissertation with Herman & Wallace and to answer a couple of questions about how this impacts their practice and what they hope other practitioners will take away from their book and course Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists.


Mia's course is for the pelvic rehab therapist and others in the medical profession who work with patients experiencing pelvic pain, pelvic floor hypertonicity, and other pelvic floor concerns and would like to learn applicable skills from the sex therapist's clinical toolkit. The next course date for Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists is August 13-14,

Mia Full 2022 edited

How does Trauma-Informed Care apply to the skills that you teach in your Sexual Interviewing course?

When I utilize the term ‘trauma-informed’ I am referring to therapeutic work that communicates expectations clearly (including prioritizing people’s access needs with this communication), invites clients awareness of their own agency, and is upfront about my scope of practice and my therapeutic approach, offers mutuality in inviting of questions and ongoing conversation about our work together, awareness that an individual can end therapy at any time, and share information at any time in our therapeutic space. 

The modalities I utilize when working with clients who have experienced trauma include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Polyvagal Theory, Somatics, and Developmental Theory. While I integrate various theories and modalities into my work with clients, the methods above are empirical in their data to support healing from trauma wounds.  

Trauma-informed means humility regarding cultural, racial, gender, sexual, and other minority experiences. I will not know all of the things but I will do my best to self-educate and not leave that responsibility to my clients. When I make a mistake I will appropriately, directly, and compassionately apologize for the harm I caused and invite opportunity for repair should the client be interested. Trauma-informed means collaboration in exploring therapy together, co-creating a space that feels safer to the client and checking in with them when I notice non-verbal cues that indicate activation, honoring a client’s pacing, and bringing awareness to the reality that as a therapist I hold power and while I don’t know a person’s full story there is always the potential for me to unintentionally activate a client so to share this possibility with clients and continuously check in about how our therapy is working for them. I keep my client’s well-being at the forefront of our work and I center their needs at all times while maintaining boundaries that keep everyone as safe and secure as possible. 

It is up to us as trauma-informed and inclusive providers to explore a person’s experience of pain by asking questions about onset, process, location, and impact, in addition to offering psychoeducation about anatomy, physiology (arousal, interest, desire), and self-regulation. This must be done alongside commitment to our patient’s co-regulation, normalization, and informed consent concerning the therapeutic process—all of which are needed for comprehensive trauma-informed care. 

Can you explain how expanding what 'normal' is to practitioners can impact the patients and clients that they work with?

Sex is not supposed to be painful. How many people have come to me having had painful sexual intercourse for years and reported “pushing through”? The first time having intercourse does not necessarily have to be painful, but when our cultural narratives tell us “the first time having sex is painful for everyone” we end up ignoring the signals our bodies are offering because we have convinced ourselves that the pain is both okay and normal. The “pushing through” is a reflection of misogyny: people assume the first experiences people have with penetration are supposed to be painful. How is this misogynistic? Well, who benefits from a person “pushing through” pain? The partner with the penis. Important to note here as well is that enthusiastic consent is ableist and ignores the mind-body connection because it does not take into account masking or fawning which are common experiences for many.

A quarter of people who experience sexual health concerns share this with their providers. Why such a small fraction? Fear. Fear of embarrassment and shame. Fear that there is something “abnormal” about them that mutates into the shame humans tend to experience in response. Fear that the concern won’t be held or taken seriously by their provider. Fear that, if it is addressed, will be at such a high financial cost that the treatment will be unaffordable. Fear that there’s not enough time or that they won’t be taken seriously. Fear of exclusivity, feeling othered, or misunderstood by their provider. Fear of the unknown because the reality is that people are afraid of what we don’t understand. 

One of the major cultural issues we have in the US is the perpetuation of sexual stigma which is largely associated with a lack of comprehensive sex education. People don’t have access to basic information about their own bodies which influences our beliefs about sex, pleasure, agency, communication, and self-awareness. Sex education should be a birthright, and yet we are so far behind the curve that it sometimes feels impossible to break down the barriers.

When I first started in this career it would often take clients months of working with me to feel comfortable enough to talk about where they felt pain during sex, but in developing the tools to co-create safety in our therapeutic relationship and the skills to ask the important questions with compassion and patience, I learned how to better hold space for healing.

Patients don’t often know what information is important for them to share with us (which is why offering visuals of where the pain is located is important). How could they know what information is important to offer when mental and sexual health are so deeply stigmatized? The stress of shame and embarrassment that people feel about their bodies is emotional pain that further exacerbates the physical pain that they came to therapy to address in the first place. It’s a terrible and self-perpetuating cycle. 

I teach people the difference between a vulva and a vagina one thousand times a year. If a client does not know the terminology for labia, vulva, vagina, and clitoris, how are they supposed to know when their sexual health is of concern? If a person enters sex therapy with “sexual pain” but is unable to distinguish the difference between their labia and vagina (that they are different body parts, where they are located, and what their functions are) we cannot expect them to accurately articulate the location of pain or comprehend potential solutions. “What is your hygiene process when cleaning your vulva?” may activate the fight or flight response in clients if they do not know what their vulva is or that there could be a good hygiene process, in addition to the shame of not knowing. How are they supposed to know where or to whom they may ask for help?

An online search for “anatomical vulva”, “pelvic floor pain”, “vaginismus treatment” and 99% of the images and figures you will see are those of hairless, slender bodies with white/light skin and small labia. Racism and white supremacy are present everywhere. The anatomical depictions of vulvas are of white bodies, the people modeling in vaginismus treatment advertisements are white, and the language is geared toward and written for white people. I was intentional about not featuring white vulvas in this book because white bodies should not be the default of what is mainstream. This lack of diversity in skin tone and variation of body type is another reflection of racism called “colorism”. White and light skin bodies are viewed as more ‘normal’ and when we continue to center white bodies in visuals “because that is what is available” we perpetuate white supremacy. One goal is to disrupt the idea and practice of whiteness as the default. This is what it means to practice anti-racism and attempt to divorce ourselves from white supremacy. 

The impact of shame shows up in the pervasive erotophobia rampant in our society. Erotophobia can be broadly defined as a “fear of sex” or more specifically a “fear of intercourse”. When erotophobia is judgment as a result of societal shame and stigma, we can navigate it by deconstructing the etiology and impact of messages received; when it is a result of a mental health condition such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we do deep trauma and/or anxiety/exposure work. Because of the vast impact of shame, people fear sharing sensitive information about themselves with others,  including therapists who are trained to help them. Often, therapists are untrained in sexual health which also can contribute to erotophobia and shame. When therapists have not done their own work on sexuality, and remain untrained in these areas, they may be afraid to discuss sex with their clients which reinforces the belief that topics regarding sex are shameful. 

When people do not have the language to articulate what is happening in their body, as significant as the pain or discomfort might be, talking about sex with a provider is often the last item on a long list of concerns they bring to a medical appointment. Symptoms of sexual pain may be hidden by other “more pressing” concerns such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or sleep issues. While these are of course vital for a medical provider to know, having 20 minute appointments with a physician who will prioritize the “presenting concern” that they came in to seek treatment for leaves very little time to discuss unwanted sexual pain. After 15-20 minutes of a medical appointment (if it goes well), a patient might feel comfortable enough to bring up their sexual concern, but this might leave 1 minute for it to be acknowledged and no time to conduct a comprehensive assessment or develop an intentional plan. We call these last-minute oh-by-the-way’s “door-knobbing” for a reason. This is a call for medical clinics to have training in sexual health so they can create intake documentation that explores clients’ sexual health and ask the questions that are vital to gather necessary information ahead of time. 

In the same way that people lack language and anatomic understanding, people also lack awareness of the mind-body relationship. Due to the ableist sex-negative culture in which we live, people are often not taught to have knowledge of or listen to our own body. We’re not taught that pain is a signal from the body telling us that something’s wrong. 

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The Menstrual Mentor: Niko Gaffga Discusses Women's Health and Menstruation

The Menstrual Mentor:  Niko Gaffga Discusses Women's Health and Menstruation
MENS2

The following is an excerpt from an interview between Niko Gaffga, MD, FAAFP, MPH (NG) and Holly Tanner (HT) about why he is interested in women’s health and the menstrual experience. Niko and Amy Meehan, PT, DPT, MTC have co-authored a specialty course for H&W all about Menstruation and Pelvic Health – to learn more join us in the upcoming remote course on July 16th-17th, 2022. You can watch the full video interview below, or on the Herman & Wallace YouTube Channel.

HT – So menstruation as a topic, what is it that got you so passionate about this particular topic?

NG -Throughout my career and my training, women’s health and OB have been one of my favorite parts of my job. In recent years there was a patient who really inspired me. I came into the room, and she was sitting in the corner in the exam room of the clinic where I worked and she was crying. I came in and I asked, she only spoke Spanish…and  I asked her “ How are you doing? What’s happening?” and she was very reluctant to say anything.

I found out through a little bit of discussion that she was feeling pain, and she couldn’t make the pain go away. That she had seen many doctors about it and no one had been able to help her. She was reluctant to show me where on her body – maybe it’s because I’m a man, or maybe it was because she was from a different country – she didn’t feel secure. So I drew a little picture on a piece of paper, and I said “Just point to me on this paper where you feel the pain.” After a while of pointing, talking, and smiling I got to a point where she could explain to me what was happening.

 It turns out that she had painful bladder syndrome, or interstitial cystitis, and we worked over the months to get that better. And I have to say, that the next time that I walked into that the next time that I walked into that same room and she was there – she was smiling. She stood up and she gave me a hug – and I said to myself, “This is why I do medicine.”

I think really the breakthrough came when I met her where she was. I took the time to talk to her in her language, show her a piece of paper, and wait for her to say what she felt. Cause many doctors, you know how they only have two or three minutes to talk with their patients. When I met her halfway, she was able to talk to me about the pain she was feeling, about her menstrual cycles – which I don’t think she had ever discussed with any doctors before.

So that started me down the road in being interested in what can I do – what more can I do to help women. When I see women in the clinic a lot of them don’t want to say anything about their menstrual cycle, and again maybe it’s because I’m a man. Maybe it’s because it’s just a difficult topic to discuss, but I realize that in society we don’t have a lot of chance as men or women to talk about the menstrual cycle.

I feel that it is a disservice to women that they don’t have a chance to talk about things that genuinely interest them, are concerning to them, or have questions and are curious about. I feel that there is a stigma, and I think that this course will begin to address it within a small group. But I think eventually, training and working with healthcare providers is one step in making that message available to other people, and to other patients all around the country. So that is how it evolved for me.

One of the most important things for me is that talking about the menstrual experience and women’s health, in general, allows me to change, to give people information, to make decisions in their life that are in alignment with the way that they see the world. I think that not many professions can say that. You know medical professions, physical therapists, doctors, and many other professions - we help people do what they want to do for themselves, and that’s powerful. That’s very powerful.

I think that the most important thing is that I can make a difference in someone else’s life. I’ve seen it when talking to women in the clinic who I’ve seen before. Discussing their menstrual cycle and having them tell me this is the first I’ve spoken about to anyone, much less to a female or a male provider. Hearing someone say that is meaningful. It is a lot of trust that they place in someone to tell them these kinds of things because they are difficult topics. Seeing that you can make a difference in someone else’s life...it means a lot to me, and this is the reason why [I’m so passionate about women’s health and the menstrual experience].


MENS1

Menstruation and Pelvic Health - July 16-17 2022

The Menstrual cycle is one of the most natural of all human processes and is experienced by half of the population of the world. At any given time, 800 million individuals are menstruating. The Menstrual cycle occurs roughly once a month for roughly 35 to 40 years in a lifetime. That ends up being almost 3000 days, or about 8 years of menses. Many menstruators experience “period shaming” and other forms of socialized stigma around the menstrual experience. It is therefore important to become familiar with this experience and provide care to patients that takes into account their Menstrual Experience.

This two-day remote continuing education course is designed for clinicians who want to obtain advanced knowledge and skills to educate patients on non-hormonal, non-surgical, and non-prescription interventions for improving the Menstrual Experience. Developed by Nicholas Gaffga, MD, MPH, FAAFP, and presented together with Amy Meehan, PT, DPT, MTC, this course is geared toward the pelvic rehab provider looking to impart Menstrual Interventions that:

  1. Put control in the hands of people who menstruate to identify and carry out the interventions that are appropriate to them
  2. Use a holistic approach and advanced knowledge and familiarity with body and mind
  3. Emphasize healthy practices that can positively impact the Menstrual Experience and beyond, in areas such as mental health and chronic diseases
  4. Discover root causes of issues, rather than quick fixes, to have benefits that are sustainable across the lifespan.

 

 

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What Are Your Core Values in Pelvic Health

What Are Your Core Values in Pelvic Health

Ethics

Mora Pluchino, PT, DPT, PRPC sat down this week with Holly Tanner in an interview to discuss her new courses, Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals and Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens. She is a pelvic therapist who works in an outpatient clinic, has her own side company (Practically Perfect PT), has written 2 books available on Amazon, and is a senior TA and faculty member with Herman & Wallace. Mora joins the Herman & Wallace faculty with her new course series in ethics: Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals and Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens

What are your core values as a pelvic health practitioner? Depending on your practitioner license these may include (1):

  • Accountability - Active acceptance of the responsibility for the diverse roles, obligations, and actions of the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant including self‐regulation and other behaviors that positively influence patient and client outcomes, the profession, and the health needs of society.
  • Altruism - The primary regard for or devotion to the interest of patients and clients, thus assuming the responsibility of placing the needs of patients and clients ahead of the physical therapist’s or physical therapist assistant’s self‐interest.
  • Collaboration - Working together with patients and clients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields to achieve shared goals. Collaboration within the physical therapist‐physical therapist assistant team is working together, within each partner’s respective role, to achieve optimal physical therapist services and outcomes for patients and clients.
  • Compassion and Caring - Compassion is the desire to identify with or sense something of another’s experience; a precursor of caring. Caring is the concern, empathy, and consideration for the needs and values of others.
  • Duty - The commitment to meeting one’s obligations to provide effective physical therapy services to patients and clients, to serve the profession, and to positively influence the health of society.
  • Excellence - The provision of physical therapist services occurs when the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant consistently use current knowledge and skills while understanding personal limits, integrating the patient or client's perspective, embracing advancement, and challenging mediocrity.
  • Integrity - Steadfast adherence to high ethical principles or standards, being truthful, ensuring fairness, following through on commitments, and verbalizing to others the rationale for actions.
  • Social Responsibility - The promotion of mutual trust between the profession and the larger public that necessitates responding to societal needs for health and wellness.
 

Annual CEU requirements for license renewals don’t just look at hands-on skills. Many states also require a number of ethics credits including California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Utah (2).  In her interview, Mora Pluchino explains that one day she and her colleague were at lunch talking about course options for their ethics CEU requirement. They had taken the same course over and over at Stockton University and wanted to do something different this time. This led to Mora reaching out to Herman & Wallace and Holly Tanner who helped her start writing the course. Mora’s new courses focus on this ethics requirement, provide 6 contact hours, and registration is $175.00 for each: 

What should you expect from an ethics course? Mora breaks down the Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals course and shares that there is about an hour of pre-course video lectures to watch, then the live course involves “a little bit of lecture in relation to pelvic health and ethics, and then there will be some case studies and group work. After this, an ethical expert will come in and do live question/answers with us.”

These courses are to really make practitioners comfortable with these ethical and moral issues. Mora explains, “I really want practitioners who take this course to understand and know where to find information about those issues that come up with their boss, their organization, their patients, or themselves. A lot of times, ethical situations just make us just know instinctively that something doesn’t feel right.” Holly follows up with “Sometimes these situations can make us feel embarrassed, and maybe we contributed or didn’t contribute in the right way to a scenario. We don’t always bring them up to other people out of this embarrassment, or we just don’t know which pathway to take.”

A lot of common questions have an ethical component such as “How do I bill for this,” “How do I tell my boss I can’t do this,” or even “Can I reuse a biofeedback sensor?” Mora shares, “Sometimes, as a practitioner you can feel pressured to do (or not do) something, and you don’t know how to say no. With these courses, you will be able to give clear reasons such as it’s in my guidelines, in my practice act, and core values as being a PT or OT.” She further expands on this, “We have all of these people working for us in the APTA and AOTA that are creating all of these ethical guidelines and all of this information to give us the support.”

The ethics topics are broken down into two courses, with the first course Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals focused specifically on people who treat pelvises scheduled for June 18, 2022. The second course, Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens, is scheduled for December 10, 2022, and deals with the legalities and rights of health care providers. Some questions that are touched on during lectures include abandonment of care and discrimination.  Mora also shares that a lot of the ethics courses she has taken are “from the perspective of therapists that are abusing their patients, but when you work in pelvic health world you realize it can go the other way too, or it can be a back and forth kind of thing.”

To learn more, and fulfill that ethics CEU requirement, join H&W and Mora Pluchino this summer in Ethical Concerns for Pelvic Health Professionals on June 18th or this winter in Ethical Considerations from a Legal Lens scheduled for December 10th.


Resources:

  1. APTA. Core Values for the Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist. HOD P06‐19‐48‐55. 9/20/2019. https://www.apta.org/siteassets/pdfs/policies/core-values-endorsement.pdf. Accessed 5/30/2022.
  2. Fraticelli, T. PT Progress. Physical Therapy Continuing Education: PT CEU Requirements by State. October 8, 2018. https://www.ptprogress.com/physical-therapy-continuing-education-requirements-by-state/. Accessed 5/30/2022.

Additional Resources:

• Core Values of Your Profession:
• The Core Values Self Assessment.
o This measure was created for Physical Therapists/ Physical Therapy Assistants but it has value for all health care professionals. If you are another type of health care professional, please just imagine the questions apply to your profession. https://www.apta.org/your-practice/ethics-and-professionalism/professionalism-in-physical-therapy-core-values-self-assessment
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Special Considerations for Pregnant and Postpartum Athletes - A Conversation with Emily McElrath

Special Considerations for Pregnant and Postpartum Athletes - A Conversation with Emily McElrath
PPHIA

This week The Pelvic Rehab Report sat down with new faculty member, Emily McElrath PT, DPT, MTC, CIDN, to discuss her pelvic rehab journey and her new course, Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations for High-Intensity Athletics. Emily is a native of New Orleans, is highly trained in Sports and Orthopedics, and has a passion for helping women achieve optimal sports performance. Emily is also certified in manual therapy and dry needling, which allows her to provide a wide range of treatment skills including joint and soft tissue mobilization. She is an avid runner and Crossfitter and has personal experience modifying these activities during pregnancy and postpartum.

McElrath 2022

Hi Emily! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your clinical practice?

My name is Emily McElrath, and I am an orthopedic and pelvic floor PT. I spent the early years of my career in sports medicine and primarily worked with high school and collegiate athletes, as well as weekend warriors. I myself am a distance runner and Crossfitter and have always had a love for sports. After the birth of my second child, I had a hard time returning to Crossfit due to significant pelvic floor dysfunction and pain. At that time, I became a pelvic floor patient and quickly realized how valuable this specialty was. This began my journey to becoming a pelvic PT.

Since that time almost 4 years ago, I have been blending my orthopedic and pelvic health knowledge and skillset to help women return to the sports they love without pain and pelvic floor dysfunction.  My main goal as a clinician is to educate and empower my patients to feel in control of their own bodies, and to feel confident in daily and recreational activities.

 

What has your educational journey as a pelvic rehab therapist looked like and how did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?

It was really a matter of personal experience leading me to the field of pelvic health. I knew the specialty of pelvic health existed, but until I was a patient I did not truly appreciate how valuable it was. Seeing firsthand how significantly pelvic floor physical therapy could improve the quality of a patient’s life gave me a desire to become a pelvic PT. Once I got into my course work with Herman & Wallace, I realized that my background as an orthopedic PT would blend well with pelvic PT. It also gave me a lot of perspective into how significant of a role the pelvic floor plays in the entire kinetic chain. I would even say that my pelvic floor education has helped me be a more thorough orthopedic clinician. It has helped me think outside the box and enabled me to be more thorough in my critical thinking when evaluating patients.

 

What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?

I have two patient populations that I find most rewarding. The first is HIIT athletes. I find this population so fun to work with. They are some of the most dedicated and compliant patients I have. Their love of their sport is often a driving force for them to get and stay healthy. Many of these athletes will even come to my clinic without having pain or dysfunction. They are strictly coming for education and prevention, which I love. After all, PTs as a profession are huge proponents of wellness and prevention.  I also love teaching a patient that they can, in fact, continue doing exercises they may have been previously told were not safe to do during pregnancy or postpartum. Giving them hope that they can continue doing what they love after they were afraid they may not is very rewarding.

The second population I love working with is my childbirth prep patients. I LOVE education. I feel like these sessions really highlight that part of physical therapy. These sessions not only address any current concerns a patient is having but also provide education to give them the confidence to birth the way they want. I review everything from what to expect during labor, to different positions for pushing, and how to push. I even have partners come to the sessions so they can learn how to best support the patient during delivery. Hearing from patients that their birth experience was beautiful and just as they had hoped always gives me a lot of joy. I feel honored to be able to be a part of that journey.

 

What do you find is the most useful resource for your practice?

I find other practitioners the most valuable resource in my practice. There is so much that can be gained from collaborating with other pelvic PTs, doulas, midwives, OB/GYN, sex therapists, etc. Pelvic rehab is so multifaceted, that I believe it truly requires a collaborative approach to provide the best patient outcomes.

 

What books or articles have impacted you as a clinician?

There was a recent article that came out about the prevalence and significance of Levator Ani avulsion tears. This was an interesting article because I have seen this more and more clinically, but there is very little research on the matter. My favorite books as a clinician are: “The Body Keeps the Score”, “Come As You Are”, and “Pelvic Pain Explained”.

 

What lesson have you learned in a course, from an instructor, or from a colleague or mentor that has stayed with you?

 I think the biggest thing I have learned is that the objective findings of our evaluations are only a small part of the puzzle. Pelvic rehab is an intimate type of physical therapy, and many of our patients may have had trauma that is still raw to them. If most of your evaluation is spent talking with the patients to ensure they feel comfortable, that’s ok. I have realized that it’s ok if I don’t get to every objective test and measure in the first session. In this line of work, patient comfort is most important. Building a rapport with your patient must take precedent.

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What made you want to create this course, Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations for High-Intensity Athletics?

I wanted to create this course because I saw a need in the Crossfit community for more education on how to safely train pregnant and postpartum athletes, and I feel physical therapy is a great place to start, after all, PTs are experts in the musculoskeletal system. We are seeing more and more of these HIIT athletes becoming moms and wanting to maintain their athleticism throughout pregnancy & postpartum, and I think that’s great!

With that being said, I think there are nuances to training this athletic population. There are so many hormonal, anatomical, and structural changes to consider during pregnancy & postpartum, and that may affect how well an athlete can tolerate strain. However, most of these changes are not contraindications to training. Therefore, we as rehab practitioners and physical therapists need to fully understand the demands of  HIIT, as well as the specific considerations for this population so that we can keep them safely and effectively doing what they love.

 

What need does your course fill in the field of pelvic rehabilitation?

By and large, people do not fully understand the demands of HIIT activities like Crossfit unless they personally partake in these activities. This includes healthcare professionals like physical therapists. However, many of our pregnant and postpartum athletes will require the care of a  PT (especially pelvic) at some point throughout their pregnancy, and postpartum journey.

My course, Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations for High-Intensity Athletics bridges the gap between education and experience, for those healthcare professionals who do not personally participate in HIIT to understand the demands of the sport. It also helps those physical therapists who do not specialize in pelvic health to understand the unique demands of this athlete population from a pelvic health perspective.

 

Who, what demographic, would benefit from your course?

Any PT, PTA, PT student, OT, COTA, or OT student who is looking to better understand the demands of HIIT,  the special considerations for pregnant and postpartum athletes who participate in HIIT, and how to safely train and treat these athletes to help them continue to do what they love.

 

If you could get a message out to physical therapists about pelvic rehab what would it be?

Oh man, where do I start? There are so many things I want to shout from the mountain tops about pelvic PT. It truly is a gem in the field of physical therapy, and I think is often a missing link in traditional physical therapy care. Pelvic rehab is so much more than urinary leakage and kegels. It can be so impactful to the quality of life of a patient. There is no other area of the body that is critical to so many functions but is also so vastly overlooked and undertreated. The need for research, education, and development in this field is critical if we are going to have a true “whole body” approach to treatment.


Join H&W and Emily McElrath on May 21st to learn more about this patient demographic in Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations for High-Intensity Athletics
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