Lightning Crotch. Ouch! Our pubic symphysis is the point where the two halves of our pelvis meet in front – the bone at the top and front of the groin. For those that have had pubic symphysis dysfunction (PSD) or “lightning crotch” you well know that this can go from slightly irritating pain to WHAT IS GOING ON HERE! B(#%P! pretty quickly.

Commonly associated with pregnancy, we well know that individuals suffering with PSD can get to a point of despair and resignation that this pain will become a new normal; often because that is what we are being told about pain during pregnancy! “This is just part of becoming a woman” is a term I have heard yet again this past week from a client. I urge us to think of pain in pregnancy (any pain, but in this instance PSD), as something that although is common is not normal.

We wouldn’t tell someone who has just started running that has developed knee pain that “this is just part of becoming a runner – it will go away when you stop

 

There is research now that shows that pain in pregnancy can often be addressed with physiotherapy (1,2) – from PSD to back pain, and that staying active during pregnancy (3) has many benefits (which is hard to do when you are painful!). When there is pain, there is usually something we can do about it!

 

Case Study

An active mother of 28 comes into the clinic complaining of groin pain – it’s sharp, shooting, sometimes take your breath away pain that is getting progressively worse as her pregnancy continues on. She is only 26 weeks gestation and has been struggling with pain since about 16 weeks and finally decided to come to an appointment after talking with a friend about it. She is having difficulty rolling in bed (she tries squeezing her knees together because that is what she read on a few blogs on google) which has helped a little but not much, standing on one leg, and she sometimes notices popping and clicking with movement that really hurts as well. She tried kicking an empty laundry basket out to the side the other day and found that extremely painful as well.

Although there are many reasons for PSD, we will go through some of the things that may be found during a physiotherapy assessment of this type of pain

Assessment

Upon evaluation the client was clearly limping while they were walking, more on the right than the left leg, they had pain with standing on the right leg more than the left leg, and had difficulty bringing their knee toward their chest on both sides in standing. Generally speaking these individuals will have some restriction of movement on one side (same side as pain or the opposite – everyone is different!), significant muscle tightness of the inner thigh, and poor coordination of the gluteals. We also often see a change in posture – the individual may be hinging backwards (rib cage back over the pelvis), but there is a huge variation in the changes seen here depending on the underlying cause.

What can I do NOW?

In many instances our protective mechanisms related to pain may end up being one of the additional driving factors of our pain – your groin hurts, and when you hurt you tend to ‘protect’ the area (curling in) and the muscles around the area will tighten. Increased tension often doesn’t help serve us to feel better or less painful, but may drive a continued pain cycle! Squeezing the knees together to roll like in this instance, may help initially, but overall results in increased tension and often stops being helpful over a short period of time. Relaxing the muscles – particularly the inner thigh – and activating the gluts can go a long way to improving PSD pain. As always, an individual assessment is best, but when you are rolling over, try pushing yourself over with a bent knee (leg straight to the side you want to roll to), and spending some time in a ‘butterfly’ position.

At Warman Physio we have experienced physiotherapists that will use a variety of hands-on treatment while you are in-clinic, as well as home programming and exercises so that you can continue to help yourself to feel better between appointments!

PSD can be a draining, exhausting, and very painful experience for some people, and merely annoying, irritating, and minorly problematic for others. Let us help you, help yourself!

 

Haylie has been practicing pelvic health and focused in prenatal and post-partum care since graduating from the U of S MPT program in 2011. She officially added to her practice pediatric pelvic floor therapy in 2017. Haylie has been advocating for treatment for women, ensuring appropriate and effective care throughout pregnancy and post-partum, and helping all expecting and post-partum moms ultimately brought her to open her family-friendly clinic since opening in 2014. She now adds to this education and treatment provision her knowledge and experience in pediatric pelvic health providing workshops and presentations in addition to assessment and treatment. At Warman Physio clients are encouraged to bring their infants and children to treatment. Haylie was recognized as YWCA Women of Distinction for Health & Wellness in 2017, the ABEX Young Entrepreneur Award Recipient in 2018, and has been nominated for the 2019 SABEX and WMBEXA Awards.

 References:

  1. E Vermani et al (2009). Pelvic Girdle Pain and Low Back Pain in Pregnancy: A Review. World Institute of Pain. Volume 10, Issue 1 (60-71)
  2. E Richards, G van Kessel, R Virgara, & P Harris (2012). Does antenatal physical therapy for pregnant women with low back pain or pelvic pain improve functional outcomes? A systematic review. Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (ahead of print)
  3. MF Mottola et al (2019). 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Volume 52, Issue 21

As a pelvic health therapist one of the biggest questions I get is – wait, WHAT exactly do you do?!

For an adult (age 18+) pelvic health assessment there is a wide variability as to what this will look like, but for a general appointment you can expect for us to ask a detailed history – and this will include some really thought provoking questions for many! The questions and history will vary slightly depending on the issue that you are coming in with (leaking, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain, etc) but the basics will all be covered. I want to know… What are you coming in for, what is the story behind it? Is this getting better/worse? What have you tried to date? (remember, pelvic health therapy is more than kegels!) Your OBGYN history (kids, how they were delivered, when, how big, instruments, length of labor/pushing, etc). Bladder & bowel history (all about voiding patterns, changes, etc) among others.

Once we are done all the questions, and we get an idea of what you are hoping to accomplish, we will complete a physical exam as well. Looking at how you move (walking, squats, etc) may be completed, and abdominal evaluation (diastasis recti, coordination and palpation).

When explaining to people what we do throughout the day we often get these skeptical looks!

In the majority of cases for adult pelvic health we will also aim to complete a pelvic exam**. In order to be a pelvic health physiotherapist, we have additional coursework that allows us to be certified to complete these exams. We check for reflexes and sensation, movement and positioning of the pelvic floor, as well as muscle contractility and pelvic organ position. Muscle coordination between the pelvic floor and rest of the abdominal muscles is also evaluated (what happens when someone coughs or creates what we call a valsalva maneuver). In some instances, usually not on the first day, there may be an indication to evaluate the client in standing as well.

**In some instances when individuals are experiencing pelvic pain conditions, a complete pelvic health evaluation may not be achieved on the first appointment – and this is ok! We do not need to push through pain in order to get the process going, so there is no need to “grin and bear it” for these appointments, we want to know if something is uncomfortable! There are also instances where a pelvic exam is not appropriate which is evaluated on a case by case basis. It is important to remember that there is always an option to not complete a pelvic health exam at an appointment, with careful consideration with your provider we want to ensure you get the best treatment in a fashion that is suitable for you.

What you will head home with for homework will be dependent on what exactly we find (tightness, weakness, coordination issues, etc) to get you starting your road to resolving your particular issue or issues, but each person will have a unique plan to achieve their goals!

Many people come to their appointments worried about how things will go, anxious it will be awkward, and end up leaving feeling relieved and confident in their plan. As pelvic health therapists we do our best to keep you comfortable and provide the education you need to really take control.

Start your road to recovery today! Book an appointment with one of our therapists!

Have questions? Feel free to send us a message and we will do our best to help you get your answers!

Haylie has been practicing pelvic health and focused in prenatal and post-partum care since graduating from the U of S MPT program in 2011. She officially added to her practice pediatric pelvic floor therapy in 2017. Haylie has been advocating for treatment for women, ensuring appropriate and effective care throughout pregnancy and post-partum, and helping all expecting and post-partum moms ultimately brought her to open her family-friendly clinic since opening in 2014. She now adds to this education and treatment provision her knowledge and experience in pediatric pelvic health providing workshops and presentations in addition to assessment and treatment. At Warman Physio clients are encouraged to bring their infants and children to treatment. Haylie was recognized as YWCA Women of Distinction for Health & Wellness in 2017, the ABEX Young Entrepreneur Award Recipient in 2018, and has been nominated for the 2019 SABEX and WMBEXA Awards.

 

 

As with many issues, often we aren’t sure if what we are experiencing is normal and expected, if it will just go away, or if we need to have it looked at. For many women who are pregnant and postpartum, this is made even more difficult as we are often told that symptoms we are experiencing are normal because “you’ve had kids” and that “this is just how it is now” which can delay effective treatment of these issues! Here you can see a case study on Prolapse, which outlines some of the issues that someone may experience.

The presenting symptoms:

A 31 year old woman attends the clinic mentioning a history of intermittent pelvic floor heaviness “feeling like things are falling down” and discomfort. She has noticed that the heaviness has been worse since starting back with weight lifting at her gym 1 month ago. She has two children ages 2 years and 4 months old.  She had continued to go to the gym throughout her pregnancy (symptom free), but notes she had reduced her weights somewhat during her third trimester.

She hadn’t returned to the gym until now, as her life has been quite busy since the delivery of her second child! No pelvic floor pain, urinary or fecal incontinence is reported.  She had felt like now was a good time in her life to return to the gym and is quite devastated at this setback. Going to the gym and working out had been an

important part of her life-mentally, socially and physically and she is worried she won’t be able to do any activity at all anymore.

She went to see her family physician as was concerned about her symptoms and was referred to pelvic floor physiotherapy for prolapse. She reports no symptoms first thing in the morning, but these progressively worsen as the day goes on.  Some days are better than others with her symptoms.  Lifting weights at her gym and lifting her children aggravate her symptoms.  She notes she did just get over a bad cold and had been coughing/sneezing quite a lot during the past month. She also identifies that she has always had issues with constipation.  Both of her deliveries were vaginal with no instrumentation (forceps or vacuum) or complications. She is currently breastfeeding.

Assessment and Treatment

The client was assessed with an internal pelvic examination by a pelvic floor physical therapist. A Grade 1 cystocele was found. (A cystocele means the prolapse was from the bladder descending into the wall of the vagina and a Grade 1 prolapse means the organ descent was halfway to the vaginal opening). The pelvic floor muscles were weak with a Gr. 2 strength (a weak squeeze and no lift of the pelvic floor muscles) and tight.

The client and the therapist worked together to increase her pelvic floor strength and coordination, as well as to optimize her intraabdominal pressure management systems. Toileting positions and discussion around constipation management were discussed and the client was able to implement these at home. Optimizing postures during breastfeeding and throughout the day were discussed to reduce strain on the pelvic floor and discussed on how to successfully get them implemented at home.  Education on anatomy of the pelvic floor and the pelvic organs/their supports as well as POP was provided which will help the client to take control and understand the why behind the recommendations.

Activity modifications were implemented but keeping her active was part of the plan and exercises were progressed as appropriate.  The client returned to her gynecologist for a pessary fitting to use intermittently during heavier weight lifting at the gym. She was seen in follow up 2 weeks after the initial assessment and then 1x/month for 6 months. She was able to return to her weight lifting and was symptom free with all tasks and activities at the conclusion of therapy, although her Grade 1 prolapse remained.

Have you been struggling with prolapse symptoms? Not sure if your symptoms could be part of prolapse, please feel free to contact us and we will help chat you through what you are experiencing as best we can.

Don’t delay start your road to recovery today!

Maja Stroh is a physiotherapist that has a particular interest in pelvic health and perinatal care. She graduated from the U of S MPT program in 2009 and has been working with pelvic health populations since 2013. Maja’s interest in helping her clients and spending quality time with her family has brought her to Warman Physio where she will be providing services in the Saskatoon and Warman locations.

We have been practically bursting waiting to be able to announce our newest physiotherapist to you! Maja Stroh is joining us and is starting with clients the week of March 11, 2019, and she already has her first clients booked in! As many of our new and current clients are aware, we have been very busy at the clinic since Shannon went on maternity leave and we have found Maja, the perfect therapist to join our Warman Physio family to help you help yourself!

Maja will be working out of both our Warman and Saskatoon locations, and has a specific interest in perinatal health.

 

Biography

Maja graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in 2007. She went on to graduate at the same university with a Masters of Physical Therapy in 2009. Maja has been working as a physical therapist since 2009 in private clinic settings, both in Saskatoon and rural areas. Maja has experience in treating orthopedic based populations, as well as pelvic health clients. Her particular interest is in treating the prenatal and post-partum pelvic floor populations.

She considers continuing education a high priority as well as strives to provide the best evidenced based practices. She has completed a variety of post graduate continuing education courses. These include courses relating to pain management, her Level III for both the Upper and Lower Quadrant Orthopedic Division courses, as well as a variety of pelvic health continuing education courses/lectures. She plans to continue to advance her knowledge with treating pelvic floor populations by continuing with further pelvic health courses.

Maja loves spending time with her two young boys. Some of her other interests include, cooking, gardening, painting and camping/hiking.

Areas of Practice Interest:

*Pre-natal & Post-partum assessment and treatment

*General Orthopedics

*Urinary Incontinence

*Pelvic Pain

*TMJ Dysfunction

*Spinal Assessment & Treatment

In today’s day and age where information is literally at our finger tips via your smart phone, laptop, and all other technology, it is no surprise when clients come into the clinic armed with excellent information.

However, it is far to common that out-dated information, old wives tales, and unfounded statements are being perpetuated. As with all information, we must be a consumer of information. How do you know what you are reading online is accurate, up-to-date, evidence based, current and progressive for treatment and care? Unfortunately, creating a critical mindset towards what is being presented, and for what purpose, and by whom, often is not taught in school until AFTER reaching university. What does this lead to? In our instance at the clinic, it sometimes leads to clients coming in firmly believing misinformation.

Regrettably, it’s not just the world wide web that is spreading misinformation and falsities, but other well-meaning family members, friends, and, healthcare providers. How does this happen? Some providers must know information across a wide variety of areas, whereas some providers practice in very specific areas or specialties. In both instances the provider will have difficulty either a) keeping up with all the new information coming in through the large variety of areas they need to know or b) they are very well informed in their area of specialty, but haven’t kept up in other practice areas.

For our women’s health, prenatal and post-partum clients, we have seen a trend of misinformation come in that we would like to address piece by piece to help those that may be experiencing similar issues/symptoms figure out what is best for them.

 

Pain during pregnancy is normal and will go away after delivery

Often our prenatal moms come in with significant pain. Ranging from pubic symphysis pain (‘lightning crotch’, groin pain, etc) through SIJ pain (low back and pelvic pain) and sciatica (pain radiating down the leg) to name but a few common pregnancy-related complaints. Although pain during pregnancy is common, it should not be considered normal. We are often explained that during pregnancy the hormone relaxin ’causes’ pain – however, if this were the case, and relaxin is produced during every pregnancy, then wouldn’t every woman who is pregnant be painful? We know that this is not the case, so why do some women become painful and others do not? In my clinical population I have observed many women who are pregnant that are painful, with the start of their pain experience ranging from within the first few weeks of gestation to the last few weeks. The commonalities between these women with pelvic girdle pain in particular, is a combination of muscle length and strength imbalances around the pelvis (muscles that are tight and/or weak), common posture issues (think the typical ‘pregnant’ stance), and activity levels throughout the day (whether that be not enough or too much).

The good news is, pain in pregnancy is NOT necessarily normal! There are many factors that can be addressed, and truly our bodies are very capable of adapting and changing (I mean they grow tiny humans, that’s pretty amazing). When I was taking my prenatal courses while in the Master’s program, we were still being taught that women who are pregnant could not improve, but we could prevent them from getting worse. In a mere 7 years this dialogue is changing; women who are pregnant can and do improve and often resolve pain during pregnancy when appropriately addressed with conservative treatment such as physiotherapy!

How well we are able to do with each client depends on a multitude of factors: what do you need to do on a daily basis, how many weeks gestation are you, what is your pain level when you get started, did you have pain previously or is it new, and of course, how well are you able to do your provided homework?

Pain with intercourse post-partum is normal – just have some wine and relax

As a pelvic floor therapist, I am sad to say I have heard the recommendation for our clients with dyspareunia (pain with intercourse) to ‘just have some wine’ more times than I have kept track of. This sentiment is often expressed when clients get the courage to bring it up to friends, family and their healthcare providers; usually along with a ‘with time it’ll get better’.

Dyspareunia is something that again is common after labor and delivery, but is not normal. To the surprise of many, this pain can occur in those that have had vaginal deliveries with or without tearing, as well as those that have c-sections (scheduled or emergency). Often when we approach medical providers about dyspareunia, they search for a medical cause such as an infection. When there is no medical cause, women will begin to feel the ‘it’s all in your head’ message.

With a physiotherapy perspective, dyspareunia is approached much differently. In my clinical practice I often see women with pelvic pain that have very tight muscles of the pelvis and pelvic floor, restricted movement through scar tissue (either from the perineal tearing or c-section), as well as a variety of postural changes. Very often, it’s these tight muscles that will recreate ‘the pain’ when palpated (on internal and/or external exam). When the clients’ multiple factors are addressed such as muscle tightness, weakness, postural changes, scar mobility and breathing coordination, the dyspareunia is often improved/resolved. Contrary to our all too common advice to just ‘have some wine’, there are many factors that can be addressed with physiotherapy by a trained pelvic floor therapist. Which brings us to our next point…

You are leaking when you cough/sneeze – do your kegels

I am so thrilled to see an increase in awareness and discussion within a variety of groups and campaigns in regards to pelvic floor! The most common discussion is about leaking, usually with cough, sneeze, lifting, jumping, exercise etc (aka stress urinary incontinence). This is where typically women are told to ‘do your kegels’. GREAT! What does that mean? Often when I am seeing clients in-clinic, the understanding of kegels is incomplete – women are aiming to squeeze the pelvic floor for at least 10 seconds, 10 times in a row since that’s what they had read online or in a magazine. I ask – when you try to strengthen another area of your body, do you squeeze it (make it tight in a single position such as tightening your thigh muscle without moving the knee), hold for 10 seconds, pause and then repeat? I also wonder – when receiving this advice has anyone completed an assessment to check what the problem actually is?

I frequently discuss with my clients how differently we approach pelvic floor health versus the rest of the body. If someone comes into my office because their knee hurts, they expect for me to watch them walk, squat, and move in a variety of ways themselves, have me move it for them, take a look at all the muscles, ligaments and surrounding tissues as well as ensure they are doing whatever exercises or stretches I provide them with properly before going. When people come in for a pelvic floor issue, we are often expecting to receive advice, but do not expect to be touched or examined. Clients would not be happy if they came in and I didn’t once look at their painful knee, so why is it acceptable to expect to have no exam of the pelvic floor? A discussion for another day. Why is the exam important?

Pelvic floor analogy: if someone came into the office with an elbow that was stuck in a bent position (because the biceps is too tight), and their complaint is that they are unable to straighten the elbow to catch their cell phone for instance as it falls off the table in front of them (ie leaking), would strengthening the biceps muscle (ie kegels) be helpful? Likely it will not help, and more often than not, a worsening of symptoms may be observed. This is why it is not surprising to me as a therapist when people come into the clinic and their ‘kegels haven’t worked’. Analogy 2: if the pelvic floor to be functional needs to contract AND relax (think the arm bent as contracted and straight as relaxed), does training that muscle to squeeze help it to bend? Not likely. The pelvic floor needs to lift up and in when contracting, and move down and away when relaxing in order to be functional. To top it off, it also needs to have appropriate coordination with the rest of the muscles of the abdomen and pelvis in order to have optimal function. Having a pelvic floor that’s functional without addressing any other postural or coordination issues of the abdomen is like having a perfect pop-can bottom with crumpled sides and top – it’s just not going to be able to do it’s job.

This means, that each client will have a similar, and yet very different treatment approach to leaking. Although many things look the same, with the majority of my clients having a tight pelvic floor (possibly from all the 10 second squeezes we’ve been doing over the years), the underlying cause of tightness is extremely variable.

Having a diastasis means you’ll always look pregnant

First, what is a diastasis recti? This is commonly referred to as the ‘splitting of the abdominal muscles’. Related to women who are pregnant and post-partum, there are now countless ads, programs and ‘healing’ strategies that are being pushed on women to get rid of their ‘mummy tummy’.

I argue that almost 100% of women who are pregnant, that look pregnant at the time of labor and delivery, will develop a diastasis. The diastasis is meant to allow the growing fetus room as the belly expands rapidly, the rectus abdominis (6 pack ab muscles) just doesn’t stretch quickly enough. The size of the diastasis will be dependent on many factors such as the size of the client, the number of fetuses, how many children they have had, etc. There are things we can encourage prenatal to theoretically decrease the impact of the diastasis, including rolling to the side before sitting up, and eliminating exercises that cause what I refer to as ‘tenting’ of the abdomen (if you’ve ever seen the v-shaped tent on your tummy when you go to sit up – that’s your diastasis). The real changes and major impacts happen post-partum.

The size of the diastasis, the amount of space between the muscles, is what the majority of women who come into my clinic are worried about. “How BIG is the GAP?” “Has it CLOSED enough yet?” In my clinical experience the size of the space is not as important as what the muscles are doing. The function of the muscles is key;  both independently, and as a working group of muscles. This is where everyone wants a short answer “What should and shouldn’t I be doing?” “What exercise is going to fix my diastasis?” – and this is where I say; I won’t know unless I am able to do an exam. Not all bodies are created equal and some bodies adapt much more quickly than others from a rehabilitation and healing stand point. This means that for one client doing something like a down-dog in yoga could create excellent and appropriate tension, whereas the next person it could be very dysfunctional and problematic.

If we imagine the diastasis like a zipper that’s undone, the zipper being down doesn’t matter so long as you aren’t straining into it with the abdomen from behind (pushing into the open zipper). Think of doing a crunch, when you go to lift your head and shoulders off the ground what does your tummy do? Does the tummy stay relatively flat while you move, or does it push/balloon forward and become more round? From a movement perspective your tummy should not push forward as you do ‘core’ exercises, and this can be an indication of dysfunction and a potential factor for pain and problems. Now, someone may see me at the clinic and have a 3-4 finger ‘gap’ but be able to keep the abdominals coordinated without any pressure forward, whereas another client may have a 1-2 finger gap but be unable to hold appropriate tension.

Endometriosis – young girls, women; painful menses is ‘normal’

A diagnosis for endometriosis requires a surgical procedure to examine for the presence of lesions of uterine-like tissue outside of the uterus. What happens is this tissue continues to work the same as the tissue that is within the uterus, and can lead to fibrous tissue and issues within the pelvis. Often women live with common symptoms of endometriosis starting in their teens and it takes years to achieve a diagnosis. In addition, young women and teens often have difficulty being believed about the pain that they are experiencing.

Although physiotherapy cannot change endometriosis, just like we cannot reverse arthritis, there are many factors that a therapist can look at to help manage, reduce and improve symptoms. Think of the first thing you do when something is painful, say get a paper cut on your finger. You will pull the hurt hand/finger into your body, grasp it with the other side and squeeze. This instinct to protect the area that is painful is pretty universal throughout the body. What will this increase in tone and tension of the surrounding muscles of the pelvis do when repeatedly, month after month, the pain continues to return, do to the muscles? Determining the underlying factors, which muscles are more tense, what the surrounding tissue is doing, and helping come up with a home program can be beneficial in managing pain. Just as addressing muscle length and strength imbalances around an arthritic joint can make a difference in the clients’ pain, it doesn’t change the arthritis, it changes some of the other factors.

Managing these symptoms as soon as possible, will help to reduce the chronic pain cycle that often develops and persists for years.

Haylie has been practicing women’s health and focused in prenatal and post-partum care since graduating from the U of S MPT program in 2011. Officially adding to her practice pediatric pelvic floor therapy in 2017. She has been advocating for treatment for women, ensuring appropriate and effective care throughout pregnancy and post-partum, and helping all expecting and post-partum moms brought her to open her family-friendly clinic; where clients are encouraged to bring their infants and children to treatment. Adding pediatric pelvic floor. Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness has been nominated as a finalist for the 2018, 2017, & 2016 WMBEXA, is a WMBEXA award recipient of 2017, and a finalist in the ABEX 2017 & 2016, and Haylie was recognized as YWCA Women of Distinction for Health & Wellness in 2017.