Beat those winter blues by getting up to stretch with Marzena Bard, PTA. When you can't get to the gym, these easy stretches are great to begin and end the day or to break up sitting all day at the computer.
Watch the video tutorial below.
Get a glimpse of Connect PT's rehabilitative ultrasound with Bryn Zolty, PT. We can use the ultrasound to teach proper pelvic muscle coordination and help conditions like functional constipation.
Watch the overview video below.
Every pregnant woman has an abdominal diastasis, or diastasis recti, at the end of their pregnancy. It's a massive stretch on the abdominal wall that makes the connective tissue at the center very thin. Some heal in the first six weeks postpartum, but many need more time. We're here to help women that need help strengthening their belly after baby.
Watch Bryn Zolty, PT demonstrate the criss-cross method with kinesiotape to support the diastasis and help activate your abdominal muscles correctly.
By Bryn Zolty, PT
Planks are one of the most well-known core exercises. Doing a plank incorporates many muscles to make us strong and support our joints. Typically an individual starting off with planks would try a modified plank and build up to a full plank. A modified plank means less difficulty when you are starting out so you can maintain a nice neutral spine, avoid holding your breath, and build strength. Two common modifications would be starting on your knees or placing your elbows on a higher surface than your feet as seen below in the Common Progression. After this position becomes easier, you can hold longer or perform more repetitions. Next you could try a full plank. Planks can continue to be progressed to have your feet above your elbows, your elbows on exercise balls, use exercise bands and more.
Now let's add prolapse to the situation. Pelvic organ prolapse can feel like heaviness in the vagina and even progress to the organs (bladder, uterus, vagina, rectum) coming out of the body. These symptoms increase with gravity. The more upright you are, the more symptoms you may have. So with a prolapse, we may consider reversing the progression. We may start with your body inverted - check out the picture with the feet on a chair and elbows on the ground in step 1 of the Prolapse Progression. We also encourage you to monitor your breathing. Holding your breath can increase symptoms. Consider what happens when you breathe in and fill your system with air, and then hold your breath and strain in a position. This can push these organs down. In addition, you could consider adding a kegel, or pelvic floor squeeze, to help support the organs. Your progression might look like the reverse of the Common Progression! As you gain better control of the pelvic muscles and breathing, you may be able to progress to being more upright with less symptoms. Good Luck! Contact us if you need help modifying your exercises, breathing, or help with pelvic muscle strengthening so you can exercise with confidence.
By Karen Bruno, PT
Can self-compassion really help when you are in pain?
Let’s explore this. First, what is self-compassion? Self-compassion is giving yourself kindness, forgiveness and understanding when confronted with personal failures or discomfort. Basically, it means giving yourself the care and gentleness that you would give to a beloved friend or a child who is in need of support. In the words of Dr. Kristen Neff, a self -compassion expert and teacher, "Instead of mercilessly judging yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?" (1) It is an acceptance of your humanness even when things don’t go your way.
So, what does self- compassion have to do with chronic pain? Recent research suggests that self-compassion is associated with better outcomes, such as lower levels of depression, pain-anxiety, physical and psychosocial disability, and higher levels of pain acceptance. Higher levels of self-compassion supports engagement in meaningful activities and use of pain coping strategies. (2)
What does that mean for you?
Self-compassion has been found to be beneficial in situations related to the ineffective way we respond to things, how we talk to ourselves and the behaviors we engage in. So, when you notice yourself worrying, thinking or talking negatively, isolating yourself, or beating yourself up, choose to use a better approach of treating yourself with care, gentleness and kindness. (3)
What can you do?
This PDF download summarizes the relationship between self-compassion and pain.
Self-care is also an integral component of self-compassion.
We have heard it before from the airlines, "“put your own mask on first, then help someone else." Remember that you are your own best advocate and as you care for yourself, you model for others how to care for themselves, you teach others how you want to be treated, and you harness the resources to be of service to others. Just do it! You are worth it.
"Life is full of disappointments, failures and setbacks. None of those things can permanently stop you. You have the power within you to overcome anything that life throws at you. There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind. Surround yourself with people who remind you that you matter, and support you in ways that matter most to you. No person, situation or circumstance can define who you are. Don't give up, cave in or stop believing that it's possible. It's not over until you win."
In our last newsletter, we asked you to share how you are managing stress during this new norm.
"Exercise" and "meditation/prayer" tied for first!
We get a ton of questions every day about breathing and spend a lot of time teaching different breathing techniques, which can help with both exercise and meditation/prayer.
Learn about what we usually see and also what we're looking for, as we breathe with Marzena Bard, PTA, CYT.
We love teaching this exercise to release tight pectoral muscles at the front of the chest. These muscles can be tightened by leaning forward over a computer, taking care of small kids, hunching forward to type on a smartphone, or just not being mindful about posture. A simple way to start loosening these muscles is by using a foam roller or rolling up a beach towel vertically.
by Michelle Dela Rosa, PT, DPT, PRPC
Kids and phone calls, cooking, and homeschooling...so where is the space to work from home? For some people, creating a proper work station at home has been challenging.
At Connect PT, we're seeing all kinds of issues from wrist pain to neck pain to low back pain and tailbone pain after making this transition. We cannot assume the table that we eat at is set up properly for zoom calls or studying. If you're still working from home, we want to help make the transition easier. Let's break it down:
by Karen Bruno, PT, DPT
Restrictions, social isolation, financial concerns and disruption to our “normal” have impacted everyone. Here is a short process to assist you in connecting inwardly and connecting with others to boost your spirit, lift your confidence, support your immune system and build resilience. Through connecting to our heart’s intelligence and guidance, we can practice caring and assisting one another to uplift, inspire and support ourselves and others.
Here is my intention for you: may you take good care of yourself; may you be happy; may you be full of love; may you be blessed with health and vitality; may you live a life of peace and harmony; may you experience true joy and fulfillment; may you be free from suffering of every kind; may you live your life with ease and grace; may you live your life to the fullest extent and may you share that with all others.
The following process is from the Heartmath Institute Global Coherence Initiative.
*Karen leads our individualized meditation program, which can be done in person or via telehealth.
April through May 2020
Marzena Bard, PTA, CYT brought yoga to our homes over Zoom twice a week, offering Chair Yoga and Relieve Stress & Rebuild Strength Yoga to help the community stay active and connected despite sheltering at home.
By Marzena Bard, PTA
If you have a tight obturator internus, here are two go-to exercises for a release of that sneaky muscle.
Question from Dave: I have blue veins on one side of my scrotal sack. They have been there for a while. Is this normal? I don’t have any pain or anything, the veins just make my testicles look a little strange.
Answer from Becca: What you have, Dave, is called a varicocele. This is similar to having varicose veins in the legs, only it is happening in your left testicle. Varicose veins occur when the valves of veins get damaged and are not as good as circulating blood back to the rest of the body thereafter. The cause of varicose veins in any part of the body is largely unknown.
Having a varicocele, or a varicose vein in the testicles, is seen in 10-15% of men. Varicoceles usually arise in men around puberty and it is very typical that you see this only on your left testicle, Dave, as they are more prevalent on this side of the scrotum. The awesome news for you is that varicoceles rarely present with any actual symptoms that would impact your sex life or cause pain. If you do have symptoms down the road, they would most likely involve infertility or poor sperm quality. That said, the incidence of this is not common with the presence of a varicocele. And if you did want to get treatment for pain or infertility should they arise, there is surgery available.
Otherwise, my suggestion would be to acknowledge that you are in good company with other men and that your varicocele is not a sign of anything that you did or did not do. The blue veins will remain, but think of them like a cool tattoo that you didn’t have to pay for and carry on with your sex life!
Question from Alex: I am 28 years old and I live in the United States. My parents never had me circumcised, because they didn’t believe in it. Yet I always felt like there was something wrong with me when I took a shower in the locker room after football practice. Many of the women I have slept with have never seen an uncircumcised penis before. What is the point of circumcision and why am I so unusual for not having one?
Answer from Becca: Alex, this question could not be asked at a better time in history. I’ll explain why. The fact that you live in the United States and are not circumcised reveals how we perceive this medical procedure. We live in a country with some of the highest rates of circumcision in the world. Israel’s rates are higher than America’s, which makes sense because the removal of the foreskin is a religious celebration in Jewish culture shortly after the birth of a male child. Men born in Muslim countries are also commonly circumcised, though this usually happens at an older age of approximately ten years. But why are the circumcision rates so high in the United States, if we are not performing this surgery in accordance to religion?
The reason that many cultures have historically embraced circumcision is because it was perceived as keeping the penis “cleaner”. This argument it not scientifically based, because if a young boy learns how to pull back the foreskin of his penis and clean it properly, there aren’t documented increased risks of things becoming dirty or infected. Americans appear to embrace circumcision for their baby boys because of what you mentioned about your locker room experience as a teenager, Alex. Parents believe that circumcision is the social norm, that it is “the right thing to do” to avoid the shame of men later in life.
The purpose of the foreskin is to protect the head of the penis. From an anatomical standpoint, it exists for a reason. When it is surgically removed, as it is in circumcision, this actually decreases sensation to the head of the penis. Imagine a part of your body that is routinely exposed to the outside air and friction against surfaces. Like your hands. Your hands will get dry and cracked in cold weather and your sensitivity to touch will decrease on your fingertips. Wearing gloves would protect your hands and improve the nerve sensation. When the head of the penis is rubbing up against boxers all day, as it will in a circumcised guy, that skin might toughen up with that friction and sensation may decrease. In an uncircumcised man, the head of his penis is protected by the foreskin, thus potentially enhancing the sexual response.
The trend of circumcising boys in America seems to be dropping. The Center for Disease Control reported a steep decline in circumcision rates to merely 30% of male births in 2010. I hope that this trend will dispel the myth that the uncircumcised penis is somehow “unclean” or “unsanitary” and help the next generation feel more confident about being “uncut” down there.
To sum things up, I have a friend who is Hungarian named Katalina. She had her first sexual experiences in Hungary, where the circumcision rate is quite low. When she moved to the U.S. and she saw her first circumcised penis, Katalina thought, “What is this odd-looking thing? Why would anyone allow surgery to his penis? I mean, it is beyond the guy’s control if he got a circumcision as a baby, but STILL!” Hearing Katalina say this in her Hungarian accent was priceless. Let that be a message to you, Alex, and to all the other men out there! This decision was made for you. There is no right or wrong answer to the circumcision question and there is little medical evidence to support the idea that cutting off the foreskin of the male penis has much benefit. Whether you are circumcised or not, rock on with your bad selves! And if you have a baby boy one day, consider all these aspects before you make this decision for him
Question from Juan: I have spasms in my rectum. They are so uncomfortable that I can barely sit. These spasms get worse after I have a bowel movement and last for 2-3 hours. I am at the point where I am severely constipated, because I now avoid going to the bathroom. I have been to a gastroenterologist, who can find nothing wrong in testing. Is there any treatment available for this?
Answer from Becca: Juan, I feel your pain. This is a tough condition, but fortunately for you, you are alive at a time where pelvic floor physical therapy for men is becoming more widely available. The reason that you have rectal spasms is likely because the muscles of your saddle region are too tight. Just like having neck spasms and having difficulty turning your head, spasms in the pelvic floor or saddle region will make it so you cannot open up your rectum to get poop out without discomfort. It is often that simple.
The fact that you are constipated is consistent with the rectal spasms. This is because the human brain is very clever. It wants to protect the body from pain, so your intestines will hold onto that fecal matter to prevent the rectal spasms from overwhelming your nervous system. This contributes to the cycle of pain and spasm and it can become a never-ending loop of constipation.
So, what can be done? A pelvic floor physical therapist can assess your saddle muscles to see how tight they really are. Then, stretching within the rectum can be performed with a gloved finger to allow them to relax. It sounds pretty crazy, I know, but if you can get over the fact that a medical professional is in your bum, you will find that this treatment is extremely beneficial. I have treated many men like you. Once the indignity of the initial exam has been conquered, most patients report a sense of quiet in their pelvises when they are receiving the appropriate treatment. They report decreased pain in the rectum over time and have more regular bowel movements.
The action plan for you, Juan, is to find a pelvic floor physical therapist. I have a good feeling that this will allow your pelvis to return to a calm state and facilitate more consistent and pain-free bathroom relief.
By Michelle Dela Rosa, PT
It's the year 2020, and we're all hearing about new goals and unrealized dreams. I'd like to run in a 5K this year. I want to cut sugar from my diet. I'm going to spend more time with my family... We've treated thousands of people at Connect over the last 11 years, and I'm so proud to say that we have witnessed so many people's success stories, your success stories.
One common thread that runs through the most successful stories is that these people made different choices. Choices that have led to actionable change. Running a 5K means more than signing up for the gym. Commit to exercise 5 times a week. Bring on the savory! Instead of just avoiding your favorite sweet treats, meal plan for the week to include new and easy to make recipes. How will more time magically appear for your kids, parents, friends, or significant other? Set a time limit on social media, or eliminate an app altogether :)
Make choices that are going to lead to tangible, positive results. Each result should take you one step closer to your goal. This is how we create a plan for you to reach goals in physical therapy, and it's what we'd love to see for you outside of therapy.
PS - Life is always going to "get in the way." Keep calm and carry on.
Here's my 3-year-old trying to break my commitment to exercise in the family room!
The obturator internus sits inside the pelvis and travels around out the back of the pelvis to the femur (thigh bone). This muscle rotates the hip out, moves the leg wide when it’s forward, and stabilizes the hip.
The obturator internus can become tensioned or spasmed from overworking, muscle imbalances, injuries, and postural changes.
Some symptoms of obturator internus muscle tension include:
The obturator internus has many pain referral sites. So symptoms can vary from one day to the next.
Other symptoms that would indicate that you should be checked for tension in the pelvic muscles include:
I commonly see high-level athletes hold tension in the obturator internus muscle. Gymnasts, horseback riders, spin class cyclers, runners, and dancers tend to have spasms here. In any post-operative hip surgery in which rotation is limited, as with a hip replacement, this muscle can be a source of pain or contribute to the onset of urinary incontinence.
I find that many patients have gone to traditional PT and had no relief. Some have had X-rays, MRI, and injections.
During an internal pelvic floor evaluation, when the muscle is pressed on by the therapist, it often reproduces the pain the patient has been experiencing. Many patients are relieved to find out where the pain is coming from and that it is easily treated.
I think back to my orthopedic treating days and wish I could have sent all of my patients with hip pain not finding relief with traditional methods, and referred them to a pelvic PT. Besides a Gynecologist or Urogynecologist, a pelvic PT is the only person checking manually to see if the obturator internus is a source of pain.
I have a special interest in the obturator internus because of personal experience with symptoms. Always having a tendency towards muscle tension, after pregnancy and abdominal diastasis weakness, my usual exercises resulted in pain. Pain in the hip, painful sitting, and when enough tension builds I am scared to sneeze! But these muscles can be stretched and released, and the muscle imbalances restored.
If you have any of these symptoms, seek a pelvic physical therapist. A quick evaluation of the pelvic muscles can rule in or out the obturator internus and a treatment plan can be made for you.
By Bryn Zolty, PT
As rehabilitation therapists we all learn techniques to evaluate and treat patients. Often we refer to all these techniques as tools in our toolbox. Like a good carpenter, we strive to have a toolbox full of techniques so that we can provide the best care for each patient. We all have our favorite tools. With clinical experience and evidence based research, therapists may pick one tool more often for the job than another. However, I feel strongly that a tool will work better if you have been properly trained and had lots of practice with that tool. This applies to the use of biofeedback, specifically in this case, for pelvic muscle dysfunction. It is a tool in our toolbox. Not the only one, but one of my favorites. And a tool supported by medical evidence.
Through the mentoring process I learned many more uses for biofeedback for pelvic floor dysfunction. I learned to teach the patient how to use their muscles during tasks, functional movements, strengthening, coordinating a bowel movement breath, and more! These are things I have always taught, but now the patient and I could actually observe the muscle recruitment during the teaching. I could adjust my cueing and teaching to fit that person.
Not many patients walk into the office complaining that they have problems with their pelvic floor just laying in bed. But lying on your back is the only position many therapists use the biofeedback in. I use the biofeedback in a toileting position, during the movement that makes them leak urine, and in poses to relax or strengthen. It helps patients find out what their body is doing during the task that is most meaningful to them. Again, this is patient-centered care.
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a tool to help a patient change behaviors or responses. More technically, it is electromyography, EMG. It measures muscle recruitment. That means if done correctly, it measures a targeted muscle when you activate it. If I put the surface electrodes (small stickers) on a muscle and ask you to squeeze or contract, the graph on the computer will show if you are able to contract the muscle. In pelvic floor biofeedback we have the option of surface electrodes or internal sensors. This is always a discussion with the patient to find out what method they are most comfortable with.
Am I appropriate for biofeedback?
Often a patient is told at a doctors appointment that they need biofeedback. I receive many scripts that request biofeedback for muscle training. The doctor may have concerns about the patient performing the correct program. Also, many gastrointestinal doctors have done testing that shows that there is incoordination of the pelvic floor during attempted bowel movements. This means the patient squeezes their muscles when they should relax, making it difficult to evacuate stool.
Your first visit with a therapist is an evaluation. One of the many things we look for is your ability to coordinate your muscles. This means we have you contract, relax, and isolate muscles. If you are having difficulty with verbal and physical cueing, you may be appropriate.
Research shows that almost half of patients being told to kegel will actually push and bear down instead of squeezing and lifting. It is also common that patients will contract their abdomen at the same time and have difficulty isolating the pelvic floor. Also, a cause of constipation can be pelvic floor activation when the muscles should be relaxing.
A pelvic physical therapist has special training to perform internal pelvic floor evaluations. This internal evaluation provides us with valuable information to help you with your dysfunction. However, it is so important for a therapist to present all the options for evaluation and treatment. Not everyone needs or is comfortable with internal vaginal or rectal muscle evaluation. I like to inform each patient of all the information I can gather from each technique and let them decide. It is their care, their body, and their decision. Surface EMG can offer the patient and therapist a look at activation and coordination and help their symptoms without any internal contact. Some patient populations that may benefit from biofeedback because internal contact isn’t possible include:
Pelvic floor therapists need to be incredibly sensitive. Our patients share with us things their family may not even know. We need to build trust before many patients feel comfortable, if ever, with internal evaluation. This does not mean they do not get therapy! I see a huge relief in many of my patients when I explain that they do not ever need to have internal treatment. I tell them what I could do instead, and the pros/cons. Many of them choose biofeedback.
What is a session like?
Prior to the biofeedback session, I discuss all the options. First we discuss sensor options. Most of my patients choose the surface electrodes, but internal sensors are an option that can then be used for biofeedback and if stimulation is part of their plan of care. If you are a child or have severe internal pain, the surface electrodes are used. These are placed peri-anally. That means on either side of the anus.
I usually have my patient put their pants back on, or a gown if they prefer for the session. We move around and the more comfortable a patient is the better the session. I will cue the patient through long or short squeezes, coughing, relaxation, bowel movement breathing, or whatever it is that we identified in the evaluation or we find on the biofeedback that needs to be addressed. I try different cues, screens or tones to get the desired outcome. I often find that the patient can achieve the goal on their own by monitoring the screen. If you figure out a problem on your own, you usually remember it better! Many patients need just one session to get started, some patients require more. It all depends on the patient because patient-centered care is so important.
Are there side effects? Can I get hurt?
Patients need to know that the biofeedback detects your muscles’ activity. No electrical charge goes into you during biofeedback. The machine will not hurt you. Squeezing muscles repeatedly can create muscle soreness. Just like after a workout at the gym. If increased resting tension is seen on the biofeedback and pain is associated with kegels, then I focus on muscle relaxation, physiological quieting, body scans, posture, etc. But it is possible that you are sore from exercising the muscles.
Courses and certification
There are several organizations that offer coursework for therapists. My path took me to Herman and Wallace for most of my pelvic floor training. I recently took a more biofeedback focused course from Biofeedback Training and Incontinence Solutions. I have been fullfilling my mentoring requirements through Tiffany Lee from Biofeedback Training and Incontinence Solutions. For information on coursework and mentoring, visit www.pelvicfloorbiofeedback.com. The BCIA offers certifications in different fields of biofeedback including pelvic muscle dysfunction. They require didactic course completion, mentoring, certification exams, and hours. Their website includes information for therapists hoping to become certified, as well as a board certified practitioner database for patients to locate certified therapists at www.BCIA.org.