Aparna Rajagopal, PT, Mhs, PRPC, and Leeann Taptich, PT, DPT are the authors and instructors of the Breathing and the Diaphragm remote course. Aparna and Leeann bring a wealth of experience to this course.
Aparna: About 10-plus years ago I had a patient who had a large para esophageal hernia which had been surgically repaired. She had been referred to therapy because of general debility and weakness and she couldn't do endurance-based things like gardening or walking for long periods of time. She was in her mid-sixties. She had seen 2 or 3 therapists and they couldn’t figure things out. She had the same complaint that she couldn’t breathe and every time she said she couldn’t breathe the therapist would obviously refer her back to the doctor who would run cardiac tests, and all kinds of other tests and say she was cleared from a medical standpoint and then send her back to therapy. So in this process, the patient came to me and one of the first things she said was that she had difficulty taking in a breath of air -that she felt like she couldn’t expand - not that she couldn’t breathe.
Based on that complaint, I started my assessment. I started looking at the thoracic spine and found that she actually couldn’t expand from the rib cage at all because of her surgery to fix her large para esophageal hernia. One of the things we know about para esophageal hernias is also that it can be associated with increased intraabdominal pressure - related to things like chronic severe constipation, chronic cough, etc. She got better. She healed, and I realized that this was something that patients needed. In the process of treating her, my interest in breathing and the diaphragm developed.
Leeann: I started at Henry Ford Health Systems, where Aparna and I currently work together, about 7 years ago. Around that time, Aparna did a one-hour lecture on dysfunctional breathing and breathing to help us understand the mechanics of the pelvic floor and the abdominals, and the diaphragm. I’ve always looked for my missing link in my treatment, specifically in my lumbar/low back pain patients. The lecture was a lightbulb moment for me, and it made sense to me. What I used to focus on at that time was Transverse Abdominis engagement and it didn't always work for all patients.
I call Aparna my missing link. So, it started off with the one-hour lecture that she delivered. Then we collaborated and worked on developing a four-hour course on the same topic that ended up with eight hours worth of content because of how much great research there was available about the topic. Gradually the four-hour class transitioned into what we have now - a full weekend course. It’s a great mash-up of ortho and pelvic floor approaches for both of us and has really helped both of us treat our patients better from both a pelvic standpoint and an orthopedic standpoint.
Aparna: We work together. We are able to treat patients jointly, bringing in the diaphragm/breathing aspect, incorporating the sports and manual training that Leeann has and the pelvic knowledge that I have. We are able to tie everything together and treat our patients in a very holistic way.
Leeann: My big thing is that we try to incorporate more of the regional interdependence model. When patients come in with symptoms in an area, we look above, below, and beyond to see how the whole system is functioning together. We like to see how the body moves as a whole instead of focusing on just one part of it. That’s where most of our treatment is derived from and how we work together.
Experience Level: Beginner
Contact Hours: 14
Description: This remote course is designed to expand the participant's knowledge of the diaphragm and breathing mechanics. Through multiple lectures and detailed labs, participants will learn how the diaphragm, breathing, and the abdominals can affect core and postural stability through intra-abdominal pressure changes. As an integrated approach, the course looks at structures from the glottis and the cervical region to the pelvic floor and helps in understanding a multi-component system that works together. Optimal function of the diaphragm and breathing patterns are key to a healthy pelvic floor, a normal functioning core, and postural stability. Evidence-based methods to assess the diaphragm and breathing mechanics are presented along with easy-to-apply practical intervention strategies.
This course includes assessment and treatment of the barriers by addressing thoracic spine articulation and rib cage abnormalities in the fascial system of muscles related to breathing and the diaphragm. The assessment concepts and treatment techniques can easily be integrated into a therapist's current evaluation and intervention strategies.
The hip flexor muscles include the Iliopsoas group (Psoas Major, Psoas Minor, and Iliacus), Rectus Femoris, Pectineus, Gracillis, Tensor Fascia Latae, and Sartorius. When the hip flexors are tight it can cause tension on the pelvic floor. This can pull on the lower back and pelvis as well as change the orientation of the hip socket, lead to knee pain, foot pain, bladder leakage, prolapse, and so much more. The ramifications of iliacus and iliopsoas dysfunctions are discussed in a contemporary and evidence-based model with Steve Dischiavi in the Athletes & Pelvic Rehabilitation remote course.
A common issue with the iliacus and hip flexors is that they can shorten over time due to a lack of stretching or a sedentary lifestyle. When this happens, the muscle adapts by becoming short, dense, and inflexible and can have trouble returning to its previous resting length. A muscle that resides in this chronic contraction can become ischemic, develop trigger points, and distort movement in the body.
If you are treating patients with pain in their lower abdomen, sacroiliac joint, or that wraps around the lower back and buttocks, it could be because the hip flexors are tight. Traditional testing performed by medical practitioners tends to come back negative as many tests do not evaluate soft tissue issues. The best way to diagnose these concerns is through assessment with skilled palpation and structural evaluation.
One assessment test, the Thomas Test used for measuring the flexibility of the hip flexors, is discussed in the Athletes & Pelvic Rehabilitation course. In this test, the patient is supine while flexing the unaffected, contralateral leg at the hip until lumbar lordosis disappears. The length of the iliopsoas is determined by the angle of hip flexion displayed by the patient. The test is positive when the patient is unable to keep their lower back and sacrum against the table, the hip has a posterior tilt (or hip extension) greater than 15°, or the knee is unable to meet more than 80° flexion. A positive test indicates a decrease in flexibility iliopsoas muscles.
Treatment plans for the iliacus and hip flexors include stretching. An example includes the hip extension stretch or other active isolated stretches. Manual therapy, including trigger point release, can be used in conjunction with stretching to help muscle adhesion and release muscle tension. As with all treatment, the practitioner should discuss the risks, benefits, and treatment options, and obtain consent with patients. Prior to proceeding with manual therapy treatment make sure to establish a pain scale, assess the patient's range of motion and strength, and (if needed) perform the appropriate neurologic testing.
To learn more about treatment philosophies for the pelvis and pelvic floor and global considerations of how these structures contribute to human movement you can join Steve Dischiavi in the Athletes & Pelvic RehabilitationRemote Course.
You may be interested in attending this course if you have taken:
Yoga for Pelvic Pain
Sacroiliac Joint Current Concepts
Mobilization of the Myofascial Layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity
Weightlifting and Functional Fitness Athletes