Tag Archives: Pelvic Physical Therapy

Managing a Holiday Flare-Up

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First, and foremost, a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING! from all of us at Proaxis Pelvic PT! We are so thankful to you–our patients, readers, and friends for all you do to support the work we do, and for allowing us to be a part of your health journey. We are very grateful to be a part of your life.

Now, every year around the holidays, an interesting scenario happens. Many patients come in worried, stressed, and often disappointed as their symptoms tend to go a little “backwards” through the holiday buzz. Often times, they don’t necessarily connect the two together, but instead, come in to their appointment frustrated that things are not going well. And it could be anything– people struggling with bladder control may be leaking more, people with constipation may be having more difficulty, and people experiencing pain may see their pain spike. But, why does this happen? Sometimes, we can’t identify a cause—it just does But during the holidays, there are often a few key things that I find will contribute to a change in symptoms:

  • Stress: Holidays are wonderful, awesome times to be with those we love and celebrate together. However, it is very common for this wonderful season to be accompanied by stress– planning, cooking, eating–spending lots of time with family, etc. Stress is often accompanied by increased muscle activity, increased sympathetic nervous system output, and thus can lead to a spike in pain or changes in bowel and bladder.
  • Diet: I shouldn’t need to explain this (we LOVE eating over the holidays), but many people will change their diets significantly throughout the months of November and December. We eat more rich foods, change our eating routines, and very likely consume slightly different fluids than we typically do. As you may remember from previous posts, the bowels love routine and changing this will likely impact the system.  In addition, both our bowel sand bladder are influenced by the fluids we take in and may become irritated if we are consuming fluids that are acidic, carbonated, caffeinated, artificially sweetened or containing alcohol (Jenna wrote a great post about that last year)
  • Inconsistency in Routine: Even the most compliant and consistent person may have difficulty staying in a healthy routine over the holidays. Often times, people will find it difficult to get in their recommended exercises, and may find themselves slipping from the habits recommended to them by their healthcare team. This can often lead to a worsening of symptoms (bladder, bowel and pain).

So, what to do when this happens?

  • First, do your best to stay calm and stay positive. I know it can be very frustrating when you are hurting/leaking/etc, but realize that this is likely just a small “hiccup” in your progress. Try not to let stress take over (see above), and instead, try to take a proactive approach to calming down the “flare,” whether it be bowel, bladder or pain problems. Check out this great post from Pelvic Health & Rehabilitation Institute for more great info on “How to not freak out during a flare”.
  • Next, evaluate the previous few days and take note of any of the items mentioned above. Did you have a few glasses of wine with dinner last night? Did you skip the fiber for the potatoes and turkey at Thanksgiving? Did that one relative show up at dinner and make you crazy? Have you forgotten to drink your normal water amount with all that Black Friday shopping?
  • Finally, make a plan to get back on track. Fill up that water bottle and start getting fluid. Skip the leftovers for a big salad for lunch. Spend some time doing a guided meditation or breathing routine to calm your body. Take a few minutes to do your exercises. Use an icepack to calm down painful areas.

Most importantly, remember to keep positive. It is easy to go down a negative road when symptoms seem to worsen suddenly, but remember that your journey to better health is in fact a journey. There will be ups and downs, but you are not alone. E-mail your PT if you need to for a little encouragement. Take a deep breath, and enjoy this holiday season.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Jessica Powley Reale, PT, DPT, WCS

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Is Running Bad for a Woman’s Pelvic Floor?

As some of you may know, I recently completed my second half-marathon. To make it even better, I completed it with my amazing and wonderful husband Andrew:

4 miles in to our first half marathon!

4 miles in, and feeling great!

This was my second half marathon in 1 year, and my third *big* athletic event—the other two being the Disney Princess Half Marathon and the Ramblin’ Rose Sprint Triathlon. I started out 2013 with the goal of being healthier and developing strategies for life-long fitness, and I really am proud to say that as I approach the end of 2014, I am well on my way to better fitness.

Disney princess half

Disney Princess Half Marathon with my awesome sister, Tara and wonderful colleague, Jenna

After completing my last half-marathon, I received the following question from a previous patient of mine,

“Ok, I have to ask, after seeing your race pictures,

isn’t running bad for a woman’s internal organs??”

My initial thought was to respond quickly with a, “Not always, but sometimes…” type of response. But then it got me thinking, and inspired me to really delve into the issue with a little more science to back my thought—although honestly, the gist will stay the same.

So… Is running bad for the pelvic floor? Let’s take a look.

When someone initially looks at the issue, there may be the temptation to respond with a resounding, “YES!” We initially think of running and think of “pounding the pavement,” identifying large increases in intra-abdominal pressure and assuming that this pressure must make a woman more likely to experience urinary incontinence and/or pelvic organ prolapse.

But, what does the research really show?

1. Urinary incontinence during exercise is common and unfortunate.

  • Jacome 2011 identified that in a group of 106 female athletes, 41% experienced urinary incontinence. However, they also found that UI in those athletes seemed to correlate with low body mass index.

2. High impact athletes often may require more pelvic floor strength than non-athletes.

  • Borin 2013 found that female volleyball and basketball players had decreased perineal pressure when activating their pelvic floor muscles compared to nonathletes which they concluded placed these women at an increased risk for pelvic floor disorders and especially UI.

3. Over time, physically active people are not more likely to have urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse that non-active individuals.

  • Bo 2010 found that former elite athletes did not have an increased risk for UI later in life compared to non-athletes (although she did find that women who experienced UI when they were younger were more likely to experience UI later on in life).
  • In another study, Bo (2007) found that elite athletes were no more likely to experience pelvic girdle pain, low back pain or pelvic floor problems during pregnancy or in the postpartum period compared to non-athletes.
  • An additional study by Braekken et. al. 2009 also did not find a link between physical activity level and pelvic organ prolapse. However, they did find that Body mass index, socioeconomic status, heavy occupational work, anal sphincter lacerations and PFM function were independently associated with POP.

Is your head spinning yet?? Let’s make some sense of this research…

First, it does seem like UI is a common problem in athletes—the cross-fit video that had all of my colleagues up in arms identified this problem really well—and honestly, runners are no exception to this. Every week, I work with women who experience urinary leakage when they run or may have even stopped running due to leakage, and I can assure you this causes a huge impact to these women’s lives. I also can assure you that there are many women out there dealing with leakage during running or other exercises who suffer in silence, too embarrassed to get help or somehow under the impression that leakage with exercise is normal.

With that being said, I am not ready to throw away running or really any other form of exercise all together (other than sit-ups…let’s never do those again). Running has amazing benefits—weight control, cardiovascular improvements, psychological improvements/stress reduction—and these should not be cast aside due to a fear that running could cause a pelvic floor problem.

As a pelvic floor physical therapist working in a predominantly orthopedic setting, I see many men and women enter our clinics with aches and pains—and injuries—that began while starting or progressing a running program. Often times, our amazing PTs identify running gait abnormalities, areas of weakness, or biomechanical abnormalities which can be contributing to hip/knee/foot/etc. pain with running. Improving those movement patterns and improving those individual’s dynamic stability seems to make a huge difference in allowing the client to participate in running again without difficulty.

To be honest with you, I see pelvic floor problems in runners the exact same way. When a woman comes into my office complaining of urinary leakage during running, I look to identify running gait abnormalities, areas of weakness or biomechanical abnormalities which are impacting her body’s ability to manage intra-abdominal pressure during running. I also make sure I am managing other things—identifying pelvic organ prolapse when it may be occurring and helping the woman with utilizing a supportive device (tampon, pessary—with collaboration with her physician, or supportive garment), managing co-existing bowel dysfunction or sexual dysfunction, and making sure the patient has seen her physician recently to ensure she is not having hormonal difficulties or medication side effects which could worsen her problems.

We know that intra-abdominal pressure is higher when running. A poster presentation at the International Continence Society in 2012 identified that running does in fact increase intra-abdominal pressure compared to walking—but not as much as jumping, coughing or straining (Valsalva). And not as much as sit-ups…which I hate.

Kruger et. al. ICS Poster Presentation, "Intra-abdominal pressure increase in women during exercise: A preliminary study." 2012

Kruger et. al. ICS Poster Presentation, “Intra-abdominal pressure increase in women during exercise: A preliminary study.” 2012

As you know by now if you follow my blog posts, I do not believe that the pelvic floor is the only structure involved in controlling intra-abdominal pressure increases in the body. (This is why I get so annoyed with all of the studies trying to look at the effectiveness of pelvic floor muscle exercises used in isolation in treating pelvic floor dysfunction). The most current anatomical and biomechanical evidence supports the idea that the pelvic floor muscles work in coordination with the diaphragm, abdominals, low back muscles as well as even the posterior hip muscles to create central stability and modulate pressures within the pelvis. In order for a runner to not leak urine or not contribute to prolapse or pelvic floor dysfunction when she runs, she needs the following(well really, more than this…but let’s start here):

  • Properly timing, well-functioning, flexible pelvic floor muscle group.
  • Properly timing diaphragm—that is used appropriately as she runs so she is not participating in breath holding during her exercise
  • Strong and adequately timed abdominals and low back muscles to assist in stabilizing her spine/pelvis and assist in controlling IAP.
  • Flexible and appropriately firing gluteal muscles to support her pelvis during each step as she runs
  • Appropriate shoes to support her foot structure and transfer the loads through her legs
  • A great sports bra to help her use good posturing while running

Now, is there a time when a woman shouldn’t run?

Yes, I do actually think there are times when running does more harm than good and it may be advantageous for a woman to take some time off from running to restore the proper functioning of structures listed above.

  • If a woman has pelvic organ prolapse, for example, she may need to take some time off from running and participate in other exercises emphasizing functional stability with less of an increase in IAP prior to resuming an exercise program. Some women can return to running in the meantime using a supportive device like a pessary or tampon to help support her organs; however, this may not ultimately mitigate the harm if a person is not stabilizing properly as she runs.
  • I also recommending taking a break from running if a woman is leaking significantly during running or experiencing pain with running. I generally believe that once these structures are appropriately restored to function, women can return to running with less difficulty.
  • The other time I will often recommend waiting is when a woman is further along in her pregnancy or early post-partum. At this time, the increased weight on the pelvis as well as the loss of stability occurring due to hormonal changes places a woman at a higher risk for pelvic floor dysfunction. This, of course, varies based on the individual, but in many cases it may be helpful for these women to choose alternative exercises until after they deliver their children.
  • And lastly, I do recommend a woman holds off on running immediately after gynecological surgery (no-brainer here folks). The research does not indicate that said woman should never return to running—but again, I do think she should allow her body to heal and build up the appropriate strength and coordination needed to support her organs and her pelvis when running.

This post got a little longer than I originally anticipated… so to sum it up… is running bad for your female organs? Not always… but sometimes.

Many of my colleagues have some fantastic blog posts regarding exercise and pelvic floor dysfunction. Check out a few of them below:

Vlog by Julie Wiebe providing an alternative to running:

https://www.juliewiebept.com/video/integrative-programming-for-female-runners-with-incontinence/

Safe exercise for those with pelvic pain:

http://www.pelvicpainrehab.com/pelvic-floor-physical-therapy/2058/pelvic-pain-and-exercise-general-fitness-tips/

Tracy Sher, “Pelvic Guru” on Leaking during exercise:

http://pelvicguru.com/2013/06/22/dear-crossfit-and-crossfit-gynecologist-im-appalled-theres-help-for-peeing-during-workouts/

Seth Oberst’s 4-post series on the Diaphragm:

http://www.sethoberst.com/blog/category/breathing

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Written by: Jessica Reale, PT, DPT, WCS

References:

Bo K, Backe-Hansen KL. Do elite athletes experience low back, pelvic girdle and pelvic floor complaints during and after pregnancy? Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2007 Oct;17(5):480-7. Epub 2006 Dec 20.

Bo K, Sundgot-Borgen J. Are former female elite athletes more likely to experience urinary incontinence later in life that non-athletes?

Borin L, Nunes F, Guirro, E. Assessment of pelvic floor muscle pressure in female athletes. PM R. 2013 Mar;5(3):189-93. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Feb;20(1):100-4

Jácome C, Oliveira D, Marques A, Sá-Couto P. Prevalence and impact of urinary incontinence among female athletes. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2011 Jul;114(1):60-3.

Sexuality during Pregnancy, Part 2: When will I be in the mood while I’m pregnant?

 

We’ve all heard that at some point during pregnancy women can have heightened sexual desire (Remember that scene from the movie Knocked Up?). Interestingly enough, this does tend to vary per person and is based on everything from hormones, to stressors, pain, and other pregnancy symptoms. For some women, pregnancy creates a new “spark” in their sexual relationships and for other women, the mood totally disappears.

Today’s post is Part 2 in a 3 Part Series on Sexuality during Pregnancy written by our awesome intern, Kerry McLaughlin, SPT. Please stay tuned next week for Part 3 on Sex during the Postpartum period.

Pregnant mother
 

Going along with our conversation last week on common questions regarding sex during pregnancy, many women find huge variances in sexual desire and arousal during pregnancy. These fluctuations vary during each trimester, but here are some great general things to know:

First Trimester: Most women experience a decrease in desire during the 1st trimester because of their primary symptoms of nausea and fatigue. Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to be “in the mood” when you’re constipated and about to vomit.

Second Trimester: The second trimester is where desire varies the most from woman to woman. Women can experience any of the three: increase, maintenance, or decrease (all of which are normal) during the second trimester. This is often attributed to increased blood flow to the pelvic region, increased sensitivity to the genitals and breasts, and increased vaginal discharge and moistness, all of which could add to pleasure during sex. Plus, this is the time when most of that nausea from the first trimester is decreasing, which would make anyone feel a little more ready for sexual intimacy.

Third Trimester: Women most often experience a decrease in both desire and function during the 3rd trimester. This is attributed to symptoms such as back pain, fatigue, hemorrhoids, decreased clitoral sensation, difficulty achieving orgasm, ligamentous laxity, and general discomfort that women feel towards the end of their pregnancy. At this point, the baby is growing significantly and those bellies are getting bigger each day. These changes can often play a huge role in comfort during sexual activity.

Emotional factors also take a toll on sex drive. Concerns about a woman’s pregnancy, the future with the new addition to your family, and changes in self-image all may weigh heavily on the minds of expecting women and may contribute to decreasing sex drive.

So, what about you? Did you find these changes occurring during your pregnancy?

Stay tuned next week as we continue this discussion with sexuality postpartum! Have a great week!

RESEARCH UPDATE: Exercise may reduce perception of pain

New post published by the New York Times this week highlights how exercise may reduce perception of pain. The post focuses on a new study published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In this study, researchers found that people who exercised had less perception of pain when a stimulus was applied to their arm compared to people who did not exercise. See the full article in the New York Times Here!

Aerobic exercise is often something we recommend here at Proaxis Pelvic PT for men and women struggling with chronic pelvic pain, and many do find it to be helpful. What do you think? Have you found exercise helpful in reducing your pain? Let us know in the comments!

exercise Exercise is the Best Preventive Drug (Study)

 
 

Pelvic Physical Therapy in the News!!

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We are always SO excited to see Pelvic Physical Therapy mentioned in the news, and this has been a great week for that to happen! 

Yesterday, Elle Magazine published an excellent interview with Amy Stein, author of Heal Pelvic Pain and excellent clinician treating pelvic floor dysfunction in New York.  Although this article highlights treating pelvic pain, Amy discusses several of the diagnoses we regularly treat! She also highlights the reasons many physicians do not refer patients as often as they should. Amy states,

“Well, OB/GYNs go to school to deliver babies, and they know about hormonal changes and menopause, but they really don’t know how to assess the pelvic floor muscles, or that that’s even an option. When they see these patients, they don’t know what to do with, so [they say] “It’s in your head” or “Go have a glass of wine.” I honestly think it’s just a lack of education—they should know the right questions to ask so that they can refer out.”

Thankfully, there are excellent physicians who do exactly that; however, we still have room to go! Thank you Amy & Elle Magazine for bringing this issue to the public! Read more: Pelvic Floor Issues – Amy Stein Interview on Treating Pelvic Dysfunction – ELLE 

2. To make this week even better, The Today Show spoke about Pelvic Physical Therapy in their “Gross Anatomy” Q&A session this morning! We were quite pleased to see physical therapy among the first treatment options discussed to help with urinary leakage! The physicians on the show also encouraged women to seek treatment sooner rather than later–there is no reason a person should leak urine for 10 years without getting help! Check out the video clip: http://www.today.com/id/49063771/ns/today-video/#52809239 

Let’s keep the news coming and work to continue spreading awareness! 

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