In today’s interview, Sandra discusses some of the intricacies of working with transitioning patients, her path in working with the LGBTQ+ community, and her new course with H&W. Transgender Patients: Pelvic Health and Orthopedic Considerations is a remote course created by Sandra Gallagher and Caitlin Smigelski. This course provides specific content aimed at teaching pelvic health therapists how to expand their skills for working with people of all gender identities.
Sandra Gallagher has served on varied committees and boards at the state and national level, most recently as the chair of the CAPP-OBC committee for the Academy of Pelvic Health of the APTA. She has presented on the role of PT in gender-affirming vaginoplasty at UCSF Transgender Health Summit, APTA Combined Sections Meeting, and at the 2018 international meeting of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
In a research study that Sandra facilitated with other colleagues, it was concluded that “Pelvic floor physical therapists identify and help patients resolve pelvic floor-related problems before and after surgery. We find strong support for pelvic floor PT for patients undergoing gender-affirming vaginoplasty.”(1)
Often therapists think of genital surgeries and sexual function when contemplating work with transgender people. However, therapists have far more to offer transgender patients. For providing optimal care, knowledge of the intricacies of gender transition is essential.
Join H&W on October 30th for Transgender Patients: Pelvic Health and Orthopedic Considerations to learn more about gender-affirming genital surgeries and medical interventions that people transitioning might choose.
Inclusive Care for Gender and Sexual Minorities is a remote course created by faculty member Brianna Durand. This course is for anyone, even if you are unsure about the pronouns or the terminology to use. Brianna created this course to provide the basic foundational knowledge around inclusive and gender-affirming care. The second day of the course provides detailed physiological considerations from the pelvic health and general health standpoint for folx undergoing medical transition.
Brianna became interested in pelvic health research pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community when she was in grad school. She was struck by how the community was not mentioned in most formal education and wanted to meet this knowledge gap.
Gender-affirming care describes ideal medical, surgical, and mental health services sought by transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. This can range from hormone therapy, to top or bottom surgery, facial hair removal, modification of speech, reduction thyrochondroplasty (tracheal cartilage shave), and voice surgery (1). Also common is the practice of genital tucking or packing, and chest binding. All of which the World Professional Association for Transgender Health lists as medically necessary procedures(2).
Hormone therapy is a common medical intervention and allows for the acquisition of secondary sex characteristics which are more aligned with the individual's gender identity. Research, such as that by Gómez-Gil et al, concludes that there are psychological improvements after gender-affirming treatments such as hormone therapy and surgery (3). Likewise, the denial of access to gender-affirming care is associated with worsened psychological health and high-risk behaviors (4).
Inclusive Care for Gender and Sexual Minorities attendees can expect to be gently guided into the sometimes confusing realm of gender and sexual orientation and identity. This course will provide a safe space to ask all the questions about caring for LGBTQ+ patients and practicing the skills needed to help advance your practice.
Inclusive Care for Gender and Sexual Minorities is scheduled for October 9-10 and covers pelvic floor physical therapy specifically, however it is appropriate and useful for any medical professional as we all have patients in the LGBTQ+ community.
This week The Pelvic Rehab Report sat down with senior teaching assistant and author, Mora A Pluchino, PT, DPT, PRPC, to discuss her new book “The Poop Train”. Mora works at the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation and in 2020, she opened her own "after hours" virtual practice called Practically Perfect Physical Therapy Consulting to help meet the needs of more clients. She has been a guest lecturer for Rutgers University Blackwood Campus and Stockton University for their Pediatric and Pelvic Floor modules since 2016, as well as a TA with Herman and Wallace since 2020 with over 150 hours of lab instruction experience!
What or who inspired you to write this book?
My nine-year-old daughter has had issues with constipation since she was two. Our household is no stranger to talking about poop and all things related to poop to manage her tummy issues. I always tried to explain to her the purpose of habits like eating fiber and drinking water, as well as how poop moves through the body. One day my daughter started telling me that her “poop train wasn’t ready to leave the station” and I got the idea for the story!
Can you tell me about your book and the title?
I wanted a title that would be silly but interesting to a child. My goal was to create a book to be easy to read and understand the story about how food enters and leaves our body with resources within and after the book for parents to help manage their child’s bowels. I wanted it to be something that would be fun to read while on the potty, preparing for potty training or if a child is having an issue.
What does your daughter think of “The Poop Train”?
I just asked her and she took my computer over to answer. “I think that you are crazy and you talk about poop way too much! I also think that your book is super cute and even kind of funny. Kids and adults alike are going to love it because it talks about all the parts it needs to but it is not creepy or embarrassing.” - Nina P.
What’s your favorite thing about your book?
I am honestly in love with the illustrations. I had this idea for a few years and couldn’t do anything with it because I’m not good at drawing. I finally connected with the sister of a dear friend who shares my love poop talks and happens to be a talented artist. She brought my idea to life in adorable, inclusive, and simple images!
How do you think writing this book has impacted you as a PT and parent?
Taking Pelvic Floor Level 1 changed my life as a parent. This career path gave me the tools to help my daughter manage her constipation and resultant pelvic floor issues like post-void dribbling and bed-wetting. I wrote this book to help other parents who had similar struggles.
Were there any surprises along this book journey?
Funny story, I proofread my book multiple times along with my husband and a friend. My daughter read the book for the first time and found a TYPO! At that point, it was too late so my book became practically perfect. Hint - the typo is in the resource section!
What advice do you have for other PTs who are interested in writing?
I’d encourage anyone interested in writing something to go for it. Take your idea and nurture it until you can create it! Talk to others if you get stuck. I did this and found the illustrator of my dreams shortly after. And proofread a million times!
Do you think you’ll write another book?
I am finalizing the manuscript for my second pelvic health book. I was so happy with how Elizabeth Wolfe was able to capture the style I wanted that I asked her to work on a second project a few days after we finished our first. “Practically Perfect Pelvic Health 101: A Visual Tour of the Pelvic Floor” will be going to print soon!
How do I get a copy of this book?
Mora Pluchino (She/Her)
This week The Pelvic Rehab Report sat down with Kate Bailey, PT, DPT, MS, E-RYT 500, YACEP, Y4C, CPI to discuss her career as a physical therapist and upcoming course, Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists, scheduled for September 11-12, 2021. Kate’s course combines live discussions and labs with pre-recorded lectures and practices that will be the basis for experiencing and integrating restorative yoga into physical therapy practice. Kate brings over 15 years of teaching movement experience to her physical therapy practice with specialties in Pilates and yoga with a focus on alignment and embodiment.
Who are you? Describe your clinical practice.
My name is Kate Bailey. I own a private practice in Seattle that focuses on pelvic health for all genders and ages. I work under a trauma-informed model where patient self-advocacy and embodiment are a priority. My dog, Elly, assists in my practice by providing a cute face and some calming doggy energy. My patients often joke that they come to see her just as much as to see me, which I think is great. In addition to being a physical therapist, I’ve been teaching Pilates for nearly 20 years and yoga for over 10. They are both big parts of my practice philosophy and my own personal movement practice
What books or articles have impacted you as a clinician?
I have a diverse library of Buddhist philosophy, emotional intelligence, trauma psychology, human behavior, breathwork/yoga, and sociology and, of course, a bunch of physical therapy pelvic floor books. I also love a children’s book on emotional regulation or inclusion, even for adults. One of my favorite finds is the Spot series that gives kiddos different ways to use their hands to help deal with different emotions. I’ve used it for adults who need physical self-soothing options. There are so many, and I find that it's the amalgamation of information that really impacts my practice the most.
How did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?
I have a deep interest in the human experience and how culture and dissociation create mass-disembodiment and how hands-on work can be profound in how we experience our body. Pelvic rehab allowed me the opportunity to work more closely with people on areas that bring up the most shame, disembodiment, and trauma, and therefore have some pretty amazing possibilities to make an impact not only in their lives but how they act in culture. In many ways, I see my work in pelvic rehab as a point of personal activism in creating a more embodied, empowered, and powerful culture.
What has your educational journey as a pelvic rehab therapist looked like?
I knew I wanted to go into pelvic health from my second year in PT school. I’ve always been at bit…well, let’s call it driven. I did an internship with great therapists in Austin and then only considered full-time pelvic floor positions once licensed. I took as many courses as I could handle in my first couple years of practice, which worked well for me, but understandably is not the right path for all those entering this field for a number of reasons. I went through the foundational series, and then into visceral work as well as continued my yoga and Pilates studies. I continued my education in trauma and emotional intelligence which is both a personal and professional practice. I found that a blend of online coursework and in-person kept me satisfied with my educational appetite.
What made you want to create your course, Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists?
I was a yoga teacher long before I became a PT. When I found my way into the specialty of pelvic floor physical therapy, this particular part of my yoga teaching became incredibly useful for patients who had high anxiety, high stress, and difficulty with relaxation and/or meditation. This course was a way for me to share some of my knowledge of restorative yoga with the community of health care providers, where it could not only be used as a means of helping patients, but also as a means to start valuing rest as a primary component of wellbeing.
What need does your course fill in the field of pelvic rehabilitation?
Learning about yoga as a full practice and understanding that it has many components is very useful in deciding which component would be a good match for a pelvic health patient. Is it strengthening from an active practice? Is it meditation or pranayama (breath manipulation)? Or is it supported rest? This particular course focuses on the lesser-known aspects of the yoga platform: breath, restorative practice, and a bit of meditation. I have clients all the time struggle with meditation because their nervous systems aren’t ready for it. So we look at breathing and restorative yoga both as independent alternatives, but also as a way to get closer to meditation. Learning how to help people rest, the different postures, how to prop, and how to dose is an important component of this class. As a bonus, giving the clinicians another skill for their own rest practice can be useful when feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out. All this under a trauma-informed, neuro-regulation-focused model is a lovely way to deepen one’s physical therapy practice.
What demographic, would benefit from your course?
People who are stressed out or who work with people who are stressed out. In particular, clinicians who work with people who have pelvic pain or overactivity in their pelvic floors.
What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
I love working with female-identifying patients that struggle with sexual health or those who are hypermobile and trying to figure out movement that feels good. I love working with all genders generally and do so regularly. There’s nothing quite like helping a male-identifying patient find embodiment and understanding of their pelvis in a new way. I think for me, working to dismantle female normative structures for those identifying as female, particularly in the realm of sexual health feels inspiring to me because it combines physical, emotional, spiritual health with going against the cultural standards of how those identifying as women fit into society, and being able to sit with the trauma of all types that so many people face.
What do you find is the most useful resource for your practice?
A pelvic floor model is great. The most important part of my practice is a conversation about consent, not only for internal work but for everything I offer during visits and also for patients to understand that they can give or retract consent with any medical provider for just about any service. Emergency procedures are a smidge different, but I hope my patients walk away with the understanding that the medical community is here to serve their embodied experience. My newest favorite resource is a series of metal prints that depict the emotional intelligence grid used in the RULER syllabus. I have a magnet that patients can use to identify how they are feeling and help develop their language for emotional and then somatic or interoceptive knowledge.
What has been your favorite Herman & Wallace Course and why?
There was nothing quite like PF1. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. The instructors were Stacey Futterman Tauriello and Susannah Haarmann. I was still in grad school prepping for my internship and ended up being the model for labs which falls squarely in line with my upbringing as a dancer who wanted to understand everything from the inside out. It was a challenging weekend on pretty much every level. I went through phases of dissociation and total connection. It made me realize that my decision to enter health care after having a career in movement was the right one.
What lesson have you learned from a course, instructor, colleague, or mentor that has stayed with you?
Meet the patient where they are at first and validate that they live in an incredibly intelligent body. I think sometimes it’s so exciting to see the potential that patients have because, as clinicians, we’ve seen the progress of others. In yoga, there is a practice of the beginner’s mind. It asks the student to sit with an empty cup of knowledge and experience each practice with the curiosity of someone just being introduced to yoga. I have knowledge that may be helpful to patients. Patients have so much knowledge of their own body from their life experiences, some of which are conscious and so much of which is subconscious. The fun part is seeing how my experience and their experience match (or don’t sometimes) to then assess how to craft the care plan.
If you could get a message out to other clinicians about pelvic rehab what would it be?
That it's so much more than pelvic rehab. We get to talk to people about things that aren’t talked about and normalize the human experience. Pelvic rehab gives safety to patients to experience their bodies in all the sensations that come from having a nervous system: from sadness to joy to relief to fear. It's all in there and when we learn about those sensations from pelvic rehab, my hope is that it can flood into other areas of life.
What is in store for you in the future as a clinician?
Refining, learning, and seeing what else comes. Hoping to publish a book of cartoon organs shortly. But most importantly to create a safe space for patients to feel cared for and supported in my corner of Seattle.
Kate Bailey (She/Her)
Mia Fine, MS, LMFT, CST joins the Herman & Wallace faculty in 2020 with her new course on Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists! The new course is launching this April 4-5, 2020 in Seattle, WA; Lecture topics include bio-psycho-social-spiritual interviewing skills, maintaining a patient-centered approach to taking a sexual history, and awareness of potential provider biases that could compromise treatment. Labs will take the form of experiential practice with Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual-Sexual Interviewing Skills, case studies and role playing. Check out Mia's interview with The Pelvic Rehab Report, then join her for Sexual Interviewing for Pelvic Health Therapists!
Tell us about yourself, Mia!
My name is Mia Fine, MS, LMFT, CST and I’ve been a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist for four years. I am an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and my private practice is Mia Fine Therapy, PLLC. I see these kinds of patients: folks with Erectile Dysfunction, Pre-mature Ejaculation, Vaginismus, Dyspareunia, Desire Discrepancy, LGBTQ+, Ethical Non-monogamy, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, Relational Concerns, Improving Communication.
What can you tell us about the new course?
This course will offer a great deal of current and empirically-founded sex therapy and sex education resources for both the provider as well as the patient. This course will add the extensive skills of interviewing for sexual health. It also offers the provider a new awareness and self-knowledge on his/her/their own blind spots and biases.
How will skills learned at this course allow practitioners to see patients differently?
Human beings are hardwired for connection, intimacy, and pleasure. Our society often tells us that there is something wrong with us, or that we are defective, for wanting a healthy sex life and for addressing our human needs/sexual desires. This course will broaden the provider’s scope of competence in working with patients who experience forms of sexual dysfunction and who hope to live their full sexual lives.
What inspired you to create this course?
This course was inspired by the need for providers who work with pelvic floor concerns to be trained in addressing and discussing sexual health with their patients.
What resources were essential in creating your course?
Becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Medical Family Therapist requires three years of intensive graduate school. Additionally, a minimum of two years of training to become an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and hundreds of hours of direct client contact hours, supervision, and consultation. I attend numerous sex therapy trainings and continuing education opportunities on a regular and ongoing basis. I also train incoming sex therapists on current modalities and working with vulnerable client populations.
How do you think these skills will benefit a clinician in their practice?
It is vital that providers working with pelvic floor concerns have the necessary education and training to work with patients on issues of sexual dysfunction. It is also important that providers be aware of their own biases and be introduced to the various sexual health resources available to providers and patients.
What is one important technique taught in your course that everybody should learn?
Role playing sexual health interview questions is an important experience in feeling the discomfort that many providers feel when asking sexual health questions. This offers insight not only into the provider experience but also the patient’s experience of uncomfortability. Role playing this dynamic illustrates the very real experiences that show up in the therapeutic context.
Sexuality is core to most human beings’ identity and daily experiences. When there are concerns relating to our sexual identity, sexual health, and capacity to access our full potential, it affects our quality of life as well as our holistic well-being. Working with folks on issues of sexual health and decreasing sexual dysfunction encourages awareness and encourages healing. Imagining a world where human beings don’t walk around holding shame or traumatic pain is imaging a world of health and happiness.
Herman & Wallace is excited to announce an upcoming course on pelvic rehab for the gender diverse patient, written and instructed by Dr. Laura Meihofer, DPT, ATC. As Dr. Meihofer indicated in a recent blog, "[t]he number of individuals who identify as transgender is growing each year. The Williams Institute estimated in 2016 that 0.6% of the U.S. population or roughly 1.4 million people identified as transgender (Flores, 2016)... With the rise of individuals who identify as transgender, gender non-binary and intersex, healthcare professionals have equally seen an influx of patients who require care throughout their discovery and transition."
The new course from Dr. Meihofer is called "Gender Diversity and Pelvic Health: Comprehensive Care for Transgender Men and Women", and it will be debuting on May 29-31, 2020 in Livingston, NJ.
Dr. Meihofer was kind enough to share some thoughts about the new course, her practice, and herself with The Pelvic Rehab Report. Thank you, Laura!
Tell us about yourself, Laura!
My name is Laura Meihofer and I’ve been a physical therapist for 7 years. I work at Mayo Clinic and I see patients throughout the gender spectrum who most commonly struggle with pelvic floor dysfunctions relating to overactive muscles such as: chronic and acute pelvic pain, urinary frequency/urgency/incontinence/hesitancy, constipation, pain with intercourse, low back and hip pain.
What can you tell us about your new course, "Gender Diversity and Pelvic Health"?
Currently there are roughly 1.25 million transgender identified individuals in the United States and this number is growing. This course will help to dispel the idea of “other” when treating this demographic and demonstrate how much sameness there is when treating pelvic floor dysfunction.
These skills will greatly benefit any practice as this population is so underserved, they are looking for allies that are not just nice but competent. When you are able to successfully treat gender diverse patients, they spread the word about the great care they received and you now have a strong referral base. Taking this course opens up a whole new referral base of amazing people.
This course will not only feature videos from thought leaders in the field but will also highlight testimonials from patients and caregivers who have undergone their own gender transitions.
What essential skills does your course add to a practitioner’s toolkit?
I think the most important technique that attendees will learn will be how to assess a trans women and trans man after they have undergoing genital reconstruction surgery. Attendees will gain competence in the care of the gender diverse patient at any stage during their gender transition.
What was your inspiration to create this course for trans-identified patients?
Working at a major medical institution, I found that it was difficult finding providers in a patient’s area that were competent in care of a transgender patient. As I talked more and more with various physical therapists I realized they were thirsty for knowledge on how to serve these individuals. So I created the course!
What prepared you to create this course?
The most important thing I have done for this course is treat hundreds of patients who are trans identified throughout their gender journey. This allowed me to not only see all the medical interventions they went through but also to hear their personal journey of transition. These experiences expanded my empathy for what they go through and inspired me to search within myself on how I can be better for them. This desire to improve opened a creative well inside of me from which this course grew.
Discuss the effect conditions covered in your course have on a patient’s quality of life, your experience treating patients with this condition, and how their quality of life has increase after successful treatment.
Individuals who identify as transgender suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction just like our cis gender folks. There is no current data to capture the prevalence of pelvic floor issues in this specific population to date, however there is research to support the overall lack of care these individuals receive. Based on the results from the U.S. Transgender Survey which surveyed 28,000 respondents, the numbers in the health care field were staggering.
33% of respondents had at LEAST one negative experience with a health care provider in the last year due to being transgender. Negative experiences were qualified as verbal harassment, refusal of treatment or having to teach the health care provider about transgender people to receive appropriate care. 23% of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to due to fear of being mistreated as a transgender person.
This course aims has two primary aims:
1) Educate providers on the unique concerns that transgender individuals experience related to hormone replacement and surgical techniques.
2) Equip attendees to provide competent care for this demographic
Join Dr. Meihofer for Gender Diversity and Pelvic Health this May 29-31, 2020 in Livingston, NJ!
The following is our interview with Jose Antonio (Tony) Rodriguez Jr, COTA. Tony practices in Laredo, TX where he is also studying Athletic Training at the Texas A & M University. He recently attended Pelvic Floor Level 1 and plans to continue pursuing pelvic rehabilitation with Herman & Wallace. He was kind enoguh to share some thoughts about his experiences with us. Thank you, Tony!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a COTA in Laredo where I was born and raised. My goal is to provide pelvic floor therapy to my community. I have been in school for quite some time. I have associate's degrees as a paramedic and occupational therapy assistant. I studied nursing briefly (finished my junior year). My bachelors is in psychology. I’m currently studying athletic training in Texas A & M International University in Laredo. My ultimate academic goal is acquiring my doctorate in physical therapy.
What/who inspired you to become involved in pelvic rehabilitation?
I first came across pelvic floor when reading the description of a CE course where it mentions its relation to SI joint dysfunction so I figured I could use this as a trouble shooting tool for those athletes that had recurrent low back pain or suspected SI problems. I figured at the very least I would know when I was confronted with something that I needed to refer. Little did I know how important of a “puzzle piece” this type of knowledge would become in helping me see a more complete picture of the human body. I was often confronted with athletes that would have recurring lower back pain, hip pain, glute tightness, sciatic nerve pain, adductor tightness or pain, and felt I was missing something to be able to help them. Even with a basic understanding of pelvic floor rehab I was able to help athletes with the previously mentioned complaints. As my understanding grew, I felt it was necessary I take these Herman & Wallace courses so that I could actually treat my patients in a holistic manner.
What is your clinical environment like, and how can you implement pelvic rehab into your practice?
My clinical environment varies between outpatient pediatrics, outpatient geriatrics, and D2 university athletics. I use my pelvic rehabilitation tool box at the university. Mostly I am still learning but I try to screen for and educate my athletes on the important role the pelvic floor muscles play in every activity they carry through out the day. I try to convey the importance not just in sports but also in activities of daily living such as any difficulty with going to the bathroom to pain during sex. I figure the more young people I educate about pelvic floor therapy the better they’ll be to make an informed decision today or later on in life.
Do you feel your background and training as a COTA brings anything unique to your pelvic rehab patients?
I could probably say that my COTA training makes it easier to pick up on some of the behaviors people might be relying on to carry out their day while dealing with pelvic floor issues. They may or may not be aware they have a pelvic floor dysfunction but simply think that’s just how they are. Behaviors such as avoiding social events because such activities don’t fit well with their voiding schedule.
How does your background as a COTA influence your approach to patient care?
My approach as a COTA would force me to see a balance in life. I would have to ask myself all the ways pelvic floor dysfunction may affect my client's daily activities from the basics like voiding, resting, sleep, to enjoying their leisure activities. A person cannot rest adequately if they’re in pain. He or she cannot enjoy social activities being worried of an urge.
What patients or conditions are you hoping to start treating as you continue learning pelvic rehab?
I wish to continue learning and exposing myself to different areas pelvic floor rehabilitation may take me. I wish to look at this therapy through a wide lens. This way I can learn, help many, and keep myself a well-rounded therapist. If in the future I feel more drawn to a specific area I wish to pull from all the different areas I should have learned by then.
What role do you see pelvic health playing in general well-being?
I often tell my athletes that there is probably not a single gross motor movement that doesn’t cross the pelvic region directly or through fascia connection. It is simply how we are built. To try and pretend or ignore the importance of the pelvic floor is just leaving our patients out of the appropriate care they need. And now that I know about the role pelvic floor muscles have in our body it would be unethical not to advocate for my patients’ COMPLETE well-being, pelvic floor muscles included.
What's next for you and your practice?
My short-term goal is acquiring my athletic training state license. After that continue with the last four or five prerequisite classes I need to apply to a DPT program. The DPT is my ultimate goal within the next five or six years.
Adina Leifer, PT, DPT, PRPC recently passed the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification exam and was kind enough to discuss her career with us. Adina Leifer, PT, DPT, PRPC practices at ABLe Pelvic Physical Therapy in Atlanta, GA. Thank you for the interview, Dr. Leifer, and congratulations on earning your certification!
How did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?
After graduating from Touro College, and receiving my Doctorate of Physical Therapy. I began to work in an outpatient sports rehab setting. While looking for continuing education courses, I happened upon Herman and Wallace through the Touro College website. They were hosting PF1 at their New York City campus. I knew nothing about pelvic health and rehabilitation at that time. Holly Herman and Tracy Sher taught that first class, after 3 days of class, I was hooked. I knew that pelvic health and wellness was my calling. It has been 9 years since I took that first course and I could not be happier.
What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
Not sure I can pick one diagnosis or patient population as my favorite. I feel that with each patient that comes to see me, they have either lost ability or do not have normal function of their bladder, bowel or sexual functioning. When I can treat them successfully and educate patients in proper strength and mobility of their pelvic muscles. When I can provide them with the tools so that they can function in their lives, there is nothing more rewarding then that.
Describe your clinical practice:
I currently have my own outpatient practice in Atlanta, GA. I treat adult men and women with any and all pelvic muscle dysfunction and diagnoses.
What has been your favorite Herman & Wallace Course and why?
My favorite course from Herman & Wallace was the capstone course given by Nari Clemons and Jennafer Vande Vegte. I felt this course was informative with practical hands on information for everyday patient treatment. As well as, really helping me to prepare for the PRPC exam.
What motivated you to earn PRPC?
Having practiced for over 9 years and taken many courses through Herman & Wallace, I felt my knowledge and experience made me a specialist. As I was building my own practice, I felt that I wanted the credentials and letters after my name to prove that I was truly a specialist in this field.
What advice would you give to physical therapists interested in earning PRPC?
Go for it! Study the coursework and anatomy. Trust in the knowledge that you have and take the test! You will be very happy that you did.
Certified Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioners have experience treating a wide variety of pelvic floor dysfunction conditions in men and women throughout the lifecycle. Each certified practitioner has passed a comprehensive exam, and has directly treated pelvic patients for more than 2,000 hours. To learn more about the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification, visit our certification page.
In July of this year, I was invited to present in Christchurch, New Zealand as part of a teaching tour that took in Singapore, Australia and Tasmania. The topic of my class was female pelvic pain, so we discussed Endometriosis, Vulvodynia, Sexual Health and many other sub-topics but we had several discussions about the effects of trauma on pelvic pain. For those who have visited Christchurch, it is a beautiful city but it is still reeling from a series of massive earthquakes, that started in September 2010. The most devastating was in February 2011, when 185 people were killed and 6600 people were injured. Everywhere you go in Christchurch, there are reminders – from the constant buzz of ongoing construction, to structures that are waiting demolition, like the beautiful old cathedral that was beside our hotel. Usually, when I teach, we do some ‘housekeeping’ announcements about fire drills and exits; in Christchurch it was ‘In the event of an earthquake…’. I wondered how the near constant reminders were affecting the inhabitants, so I read of how ‘…people called living with continual shaking, damaged infrastructure, insurance battles and unrelenting psychological stress ‘the new normal’. There are several ongoing research studies, looking at the effects of this trauma and how it is still having an effect on the people of Christchurch.
If you’ve attended Pelvic Floor Level 1 with Herman & Wallace, you’ll remember we quote a study from Van der Welde about the effects of perceived danger on muscle activity in the upper trapezius and pelvic floor muscles. We also discuss the work of Levine, of ‘Waking the Tiger’ fame, who explores the somatic effects of trauma in our bodies – and how trauma, much like pain, is whatever we say it is.
I became intrigued with the topic, so I was delighted to hear that Lauren Mansell has created a course to deal exactly with this topic. I was even more delighted when she sat down for a chat with me to explore the nuances of trauma awareness, boundary setting and self-care for therapists, especially pelvic therapists, who work with those who have experienced trauma of any kind.
I hope you find this conversation as interesting as I did! Here is our conversation:
1. ‘Vaginismus, a Component of a General Defensive Reaction. An Investigation of Pelvic Floor Muscle Activity during Exposure to Emotion-Inducing Film Excerpts in Women with and without Vaginismus’ van der Velde, J & Laan, Ellen & Everaerd, W. (2001)
2. ‘Waking The Tiger’ by Peter A. Levine (1997)
Lee Sowada, PT, DPT, PRPC is a newly minted Certified Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner (PRPC) who treats patients in rural Wyoming. Within her community, she relishes the chance to bring pelvic rehab to a more rural environment and provide care that many people in the community didn't know existed. Dr. Sowada was kind enough to share her story with us. Thanks, Lee, and congratulations on earning your certification!
How did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?
I fell into pelvic health rehab by accident as a student when I was placed in a “Women’s Health” rotation at the last minute. Initially I was disappointed as this was my last clinical rotation and among the longest. However, I fell in love with this line of work almost right away. It was evident from the start that pelvic rehab makes an enormous impact on a person’s life in a way that most outpatient rehab doesn’t. The impairments were private and sometimes embarrassing and they often resulted in social isolation and loneliness with the inability to share it and the assumption that nothing could be done. It was so rewarding to provide support, information and much needed treatment. After that, I never looked back.
What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
While I’m continually fascinated and challenged by nearly all pelvic rehabilitation, I really love treating pelvic pain. I love the problem solving and detective work with a required knowledge of urology, gynecology and gastro-intestinal health (along with the musculoskeletal system). I always look at the body as a whole and study functional alignment, myofascial restriction, strength and tone asymmetries, and try to connect the patient with the other appropriate health care providers. I work in a rural area with little access to pelvic health and these patients are always so grateful for any help.
What has been your favorite Herman & Wallace course?
I really enjoyed the Capstone course. I was blown away by all the great minds attending and teaching the course. The discussions were extremely beneficial and the material addressed many of the questions that had developed, including thorough education regarding diet, hormones, inflammation and chronic disease processes. It was very helpful and I left all the more inspired to treat complicated patients.
What motivated you to earn PRPC?
I was motivated to earn the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC) for a few reasons. First, there were details about the anatomy, physiology and pharmacology that I had to research, even after thousands of patient care hours. I wanted those details to be very accessible to me in treatments. I found that studying always improved my patient care. I was able to deliver information about current research that I’d forgotten along the way. Secondly, I wanted to be the clear choice for my referral sources. I was proud of my knowledge base and experience but, to many of them, nothing separated me from other PTs who dabbled in pelvic health. I wanted my commitment to this line of work to be obvious.
Interested in becoming a certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner? The next testing window is May 1 - May 15, 2017. Learn more at https://www.hermanwallace.com/pelvic-rehabilitation-practitioner-certification.