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“Cupping”: not just for Olympians

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Were you watching the Olympics this summer wondering about those red circles on Michael Phelps’ shoulders? Those marks, called “sha,” are from an ancient Chinese healing technique known as “cupping.

Cupping has been around for over 5,000 years. It’s practitioners stated it released toxins and helped correct imbalances in the flow of energy.

There were two cupping types: dry and wet. Dry cupping is performed when a glass bulb with a smooth rounded lip is suctioned onto the skin via heat. Either a cotton ball is lit on fire and used to generate heat inside the cup, or alcohol is rubbed around the rim and lit on fire before being placed on the skin.

The heat inside the bulb generates a vacuum like effect, producing a negative pressure on the connective tissue or fascia under the skin pulling the skin upwards (1).

The resulting  “sha” are painless broken skin blood vessels which heal in 3-7 days.

Wet cupping was administered in the same way, except the skin is slit prior to application to allow blood to escape (2).

This method is rarely used today.

Myofascial Decompression – cupping in the 21st century

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The modern application of cupping by physical therapists is known as “myofascial decompression.”

The purpose of myofascial decompression is to:
  • reduce adhesions, scar tissue of skin and connective tissues
  • restore normal mobility
  • improve efficiency of movement.

Instead of glass bulbs, hard plastic cups are used and instead of heat generating a vacuum, a hand pump suctions the skin. This allows for a more precise application of pressure.

The application of cupping is done with the “cup” device left in place for 5 – 10 minutes or slowly moved back and forth over the restricted area.

How can we – non super-human species – benefit?

While more studies are needed the literature thus far shows some positive effects from myofascial decompression (3), including decreased neck (4) and low back pain (5).

Empirically, we at EMH Physical Therapy observe that the cupping technique combined with functional movements reduces pain and releases tight tissues quicker for patients with painful cesarean scars, plantar fasciitis, scoliosis and other conditions.

Keep in mind that cupping is an adjunct treatment, used alongside other types of manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and neuromuscular re-education at the discretion of your physical therapist.

References

1. Kravetz, R.E., 2004. Cupping glass. The American Journal of Gastroenterology 99, 1418.
2. Xue, C.C., O’Brien, K.A., 2003. Modalities of Chinese medicine. In: Leung, P.-C., Xue, C.C., Cheng, Y.-C. (Eds.), A Comprehensive Guide to Chinese Medicine. World Scientific, Singapore, pp. 19–46.
3. Cao H, Han M, Li X, Dong S, Shang Y, Wang Q, et al. Clinical research evidence of cupping therapy in China: a systematic literature review. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2010;10:70.
4. R. Lauche, H. Cramer, K. -E. Choi et al., “The influence of a series of five dry cupping treatments on pain and mechanical thresholds in patients with chronic non-specific neck pain—a randomised controlled pilot study,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 11, article 63, 2011.
5. Y. D. Kwon and H. J. Cho, “Systematic review of cupping including bloodletting therapy for musculoskeletal diseases in Korea,” Korean Journal of Oriental Physiology & Pathology, vol. 21, pp. 789–793, 2007.

 

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Pelvic PT highly rated in new IC Guidelines

The American Urological Association (AUA) released a new update to their 2011 Guideline on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome (IC/BPS). The original guidelines included research studies up through 2009. This new revision includes research studies through 2013. Read the amended guidelines here!

“Although the science relevant to IC/BPS is continually improving and evolving, it is still a challenging and complicated condition to diagnose and treat,” said Philip Hanno, MD, who chaired the multi-disciplinary Panel that developed and updated the Guideline. “…this Guideline is fully aligned to the latest science and provides physicians with a relevant blueprint to treating patients.”

Developed as a treatment guide and planning tool, the 2011 guidelines introduced a six step treatment plan. Newly diagnosed patients generally begin with strategies outlined in Step One and then, if those strategies do not bring symptom relief, are advised to try Step Two treatments and so forth. The treatments are classified within the steps based upon their risk of adverse events and/or if the treatment is reversible. Surgery, for example, would never be used as a first line intervention because it is irreversible and could cause very serious complications. Rather, surgery is listed as a Step Six treatment and would only be considered after the patient has tried and failed the therapies listed in Step One Through Step Five.

Two Key Changes

Comprehensive Physical Therapy Encouraged

In Step Two, Pelvic Physical Therapy was suggested for patients who present with pelvic floor tenderness with the highest review possible, Grade A. It states:

Appropriate manual physical therapy techniques (e.g., maneuvers that resolve pelvic, abdominal and/or hip muscular trigger points, lengthen muscle contractures, and release painful scars and other connective tissue restrictions), if appropriately-trained clinicians are available, should be offered to patients who present with pelvic floor tenderness. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises (e.g., Kegel exercises) should be avoided. Standard (Evidence Strength Grade A).

Botox Therapy Rating Improved!

Botox A was reclassified from Step Five to Step Four. New research emerged which showed that using BotoxA at a lower dosage, (from 200u to 100u) substantially reduced the risk of a troublesome complication, the need for self-catheterization. If a Botox treatment silences the nerves which control urination, a patient may be forced to self- catheterize until the effect wears off, often for months. One criteria for the use of Botox is the ability of a patient to self-catheterize if necessary. If a patient is unable to do so, this therapy is not recommended. The guidelines state:

Intradetrusor botulinum toxin A (BTX-A) may be administered if other treatments have not provided adequate symptom control and quality of life or if the clinician and patient agree that symptoms require this approach. Patients must be willing to accept the possibility that post-treatment intermittent self- catheterization may be necessary. Option (Evidence Strength- C)

Learn more about IC Treatments, including all treatment options in the AUA Guidelines here!

Pregnancy achieved following manual pelvic physical therapy for Mechanical Infertility

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Sumer Samhoury, MSPT

Manual Physical Therapy can help some women with Mechanical Infertility achieve  pregnancy.   To understand what Mechanical Infertility is and how manual pelvic physical therapy helps, let’s first review the steps to becoming pregnant.

Mechanics of pregnancy

To achieve pregnancy, the process of ovulation and fertilization within healthy, mobile, and supported reproductive organs (ovaries, fallopian tube and uterus) without presence of adhesions & scar tissue has to occur. The steps to pregnancy are

 

  • The woman’s body releases an egg from one of her ovaries (ovulation)
  • The egg is grasped by the “fingers” of the fimbria, located at the ends of the fallopian tubes.
  • The egg travels through the open, non blocked fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb)
  • The man’s sperm joins with the egg (fertilization)
  • The fertilized egg attaches to the inside of the uterus (implantation)

Mechanical Infertility

Mechanical Infertility (MI) is defined as the inability to become pregnant due to intra pelvic and abdominal adhesions on/around or within the reproductive organs. MI affects approximately 2.5 million ( 40%) of the 6 million infertile women in the United States who have not conceived after 1 year of unprotected sexual intercourse.

Adhesions around the ovary can prevent the release of the egg (ovum) from the ovary. Adhesions can squeeze the fallopian tube (s)like a used tube of toothpaste, so the egg cannot travel to the uterus to hook up with the sperm.    Adhesions can pull the uterus out of a centered, midline position which makes implantation of the fertilized egg difficult. Adhesions within the uterus could increase uterine spasms which can result in miscarriage.

What are Adhesions?

An adhesion is a sheet or band of scar tissue that binds two parts of tissue or organs together.   Normally, with no scar tissue present, organs are slippery and they glide against each other. Adhesions can look like thin sheets similar to  plastic food wrap or they can be thick fibrous bands,  like ropes.  These bands of scar tissue can wrap around your internal reproductive organs squeezing them too tight or pull the organs out of their normal centered alignment which prevents their  optimal  function during pregnancy.

Cause of Adhesions

Adhesions naturally develop when the body’s healing/repair mechanisms respond to any tissue disturbance, such as surgery, infection, trauma, or radiation.  Our body naturally cleans a damaged area, which is followed up by the laying down of collagen fibers to replace the damaged tissue.  The replaced new collagen is haphazard, fibers get bunched up  and cross-links form. As healing time continues, cross links may grow into microadhesions, then adhesions and may eventually thicken into scars  When a woman has pelvic or abdominal surgery,  such as a C-section or other gynecological surgeries,  the only visible scar is on the outside where the incisions may have been made, but  tissue also heals on the inside,  resulting in internal scarring.

The formation of internal pelvic adhesions is known to accompany any inflammatory process, whether it be internal trauma and bleeding (ruptured ovarian cysts or ruptured appendix), Endometriosis, or sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  Pelvic spasms, bowel obstructions and chronic abdominal/pelvic pain can also lead to adhesions.

The most common cause of adhesions within the uterus is due to previous uterine surgeries such as D&Cs either for abortions, miscarriages, or excessive bleeding. In addition, adhesions may be related to child birth when there are uterine infections or bleeding associated from childbirth, or if a Cesarean Section is performed.

What is Manual Pelvic Physical Therapy?

Manual pelvic physical therapy is a gentle hands on approach, no surgery, no drugs, to improve motion, decrease restriction and improve organ function. Manual therapy techniques for Mechanical Infertility can include:

  1. Myofascial Release to decrease restricted muscles and fascia (the web-like covering that surrounds all organs, muscles and nerves of the body)
  2. Visceral Mobilization to improve organ mobility and function
  3. Pelvic lymphatic drainage to reduce pelvic congestion

Myofascial Release is a safe and effective hands-on technique that applies gentle sustaining pressure to the restricted connective tissue to eliminate pain and restore motion. The slow sustained, gentle pressure allows fascia to elongate.

Visceral mobilization technique is a gentle hands on technique to release tight ligaments and connective tissue which surrounds and supports the internal organs. Just as a therapist would mobilize the shoulder for someone who has lost motion  tight  ligaments that support the organs also need to be treated.

The lymphatic system helps our body detoxify, drain stagnant fluids, regenerate tissues, filter out toxins and maintains a healthy immune system. Pelvic lymph drainage helps to re-circulate body fluids, stimulates the immune system and promotes relaxation and balance in the autonomic nervous system.

Pregnancy Achieved

In 2012, Doctor Mary Ellen Kramp, DPT published her infertility case study in the Journal of American Osteopathic Association demonstrating that 6 out of 10 women diagnosed with mechanical infertility conceived and delivered their healthy babies at full term following  manual pelvic physical therapy. These women were found to have mechanical infertility due to lymphatic congestion, sacral dysfunction and restrictions in uterine mobility and were treated with a group of manual therapies Dr Kramp described as above and  termed  “The Infertility Protocol”.

At EMH Physical Therapy, we received training to treat Mechanical Infertility and can offer this service to women to  help them achieve pregnancy.

 

Women’s Pelvic Health

Women's Pelvic Health

 

 

Check out this link ( link) to see Evelyn’s interview on physical therapy for women’s pelvic health in the Los Angeles Times. The app, Pelvic Track, is now available on the Apple store.

 

 

Tips for regaining firm abs and pelvic floor for all Moms

As a licensed physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor and core dysfunction, I treat women who experience pelvic pain, sexual pain, leaking, constipation, urinary urgency, have restricted C-section/episiotomy scars and  weak pelvic and core muscles, months or years after delivering their children (Vaginal or C-Section).

If all moms consulted a physical therapist soon after giving birth, this is what I would teach:

1)   To prevent leaking urine or feces, or future prolapses of the bladder or rectum, do pelvic floor strengthening exercises (if there is no pelvic pain). Many women do not know how to recruit these small muscles surrounding the vaginal and anal region.  Some either hold their breath, or tighten their inner thighs, gluteal and abdominal muscles when doing the pelvic floor muscle contraction.  A licensed PT can guide on how to recruit these muscles without substitution via our manual and biofeedback therapies.

Pelvic Floor Strength Exercise: Contract the pelvic floor muscles (squeeze the anal and vaginal regions) for up to 10 full seconds (one – one thousand, two -one-thousand, etc). Then, more importantly, relax,  completely let go of the contraction, softening for up to 20 seconds. If 10 second contraction and 20 second relaxation is too much, start with 5 seconds contraction and 10 second relaxation. Do this exercise 10 times, once in the morning and once at the end of the day. They can be performed in lying, sitting even standing (once you are good at the exercise).

2) To reduce pelvic pain, breathe and relax your pelvic floor muscles.  Slow deep breathing, produces a calming effect on your muscles, heart, and brain activity. It also gently massages the abdominal contents. If you have pelvic/lower back/hip/groin or abdominal pain, consult with your doctor first and then see a pelvic physical therapist for our targeted therapies and exercises to reduce pain and regain function.

Diaphragmatic Breath Exercise:  Inhale for 5 seconds, hold the inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat 2 times, twice a day or as needed.  During your inhalation, allow your stomach to expand or balloon to allow the diaphragm to descend which  fills the lungs with oxygen. As the stomach expands, think letting the pelvic floor muscles widen, soften (no pushing outward!).  As you exhale, allow the stomach to contract and see if you can keep your pelvic floor muscles relaxed.

3) To reduce your belly post baby, reduce the DR or “diastasis rectus”, which is the separation of the two long rectus abdominal muscles as the baby grew in utero, you can wear a compression garment and strengthen your lower abdominal muscles.  The abdominal binders and/or compression shorts that support the pelvic floor can be worn daily during and after delivery to prevent further widening of the DR.

Core Exercise: Breathe in. Breathe out and think of zipping up a tight pair of jeans.  There should be no major movement of your spine, just the lower abdominal region moving “up and in” as it tightens. Hold this for 5 seconds. Breath in as you release.  Breathe out as you tighten and hold.  Repeat 10 times. Do this 5 times throughout the day.  A physical therapist can help with your DR by modifying the exercise. This can be done during pregnancy to minimize the DR and keep a strong core.

4) To prevent binding of fascia, abdominal restrictions and  pain, mobilize your C-section scar.

Scar Tissue Massage: Gently press your fingers against the scar and pull the scar in a upward direction and hold the end range for a minute. Then move downwards, to the R, and L sides, holding the end range of each direction for a minute, until you feel less burning, less tension. Eventually you can try to pick up the scar up in-between your thumb and fingers to lift the scar away from your body, affording more stretch.  For perineal scars, your physical therapist can perform manual therapies and guide you in self perineal stretches and use of a dilator to help increase the flexibility of the scar.

5) To return to pain free intercourse, if painful due to episiotomy scar, your physical therapist can perform intravaginal manual therapy, scar mobilization and teach you how to gradually and painlessly stretch your vaginal area with dilators.

Along with postural exercises, instruction on how to lift, carry and feed baby, your physical therapist can help you regain your body, prepare for another child and most importantly, prevent the pain and other issues that so many of our mothers took for granted as a “normal part of having babies”.

 

 

 

 

Pelvic Health Physical Therapy app Launches November 2013

Watch for the launch of my new app: “Pelvic Health PT, The Hecht Program“. Launch Date: November 2013!!

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) affects women (6 out of 10) and men (#’s unknown) and includes painful intercourse (women), painful or lack of erection (men),  constipation, incontinence after prostatectomy surgery (men), leaking of urine and/or feces with laughing, exercise or with the urge to go.  PFD can cause abdominal  bloating, urinary urgency,  straining during bowel movements,  pain in the pelvic/groin, lower back and hips.

The app, Pelvic Health PT, The Hecht Program” is a tool that I designed along with Kalpesh Wireless, a software company, to help men and women suffering from PFD, some too embarrassed to talk to their doctor about it, take action. By following some of my tips, techniques and exercises, you can regain a healthy pelvic floor.  This app is best used while working with a licensed physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation.

When your physicians have run medical tests and all are negative for infection or inflammation and medication does not help, the most likely cause of your symptoms could be due to muscle and fascial restrictions, trigger points, weakness and incoordination of the internal and external muscle of the pelvis. The pelvic nerves  become pinched as they travel from your sacrum through the gluteal, hip and pelvic muscles to innervate the pelvic floor region leading to further dysfunction and pain.

For over 17 years, my practice has healed thousands of men and women with PFD by lengthening  restrictions, mobilizing the skin, muscle and nerves, teaching a tailored stretching and strengthening and postural home program.

The Pelvic Health PT, The Hecht Program  has over 50 exercises and awareness techniques to regain a healthy pelvis and pelvic function. Improved sexual function, decreased pain, improved bowel and bladder habits, and a stronger core are the results.

The  app has 4 parts: 1) Symptom Tracker 2)  Set Reminder, 3) Pelvic Relaxation & Stretching, 4) Pelvic Floor and Core Strengthening.

1) Symptom Tracker: Before starting some of my exercises and awareness techniques, go to the “My Symptoms” page and input each one of your symptoms /dysfunction. Be as detailed and descriptive as you want. Then for each symptom/dysfunction, rate the level of pain or discomfort on scale of 0 to 10, 0 = no pain or no trouble and 10 = worst pain or the most difficult.  After you input this detailed information, start to incorporate some of the awareness techniques and exercises that your pelvic floor physical therapist recommends.  If you do not have a pelvic floor physical therapist and working independently under the care of your physician, start slowly with the gentle tips/exercises incorporating one or two new things at a time. No exercise should increase your pain or symptom for more than 3 days following the exercise.  If this happens, stop the exercise and consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist.  If all is progressing well, at the 2 week or 1 month from starting Pelvic Health  PT, The Hecht Program, go to “My Symptoms” page and rate your symptoms at that point.  After 2 months, you should see some functional progress.   The symptom tracking helps you see that your body CAN change and motivates you to continue doing what you have started.

2) Set Reminder: You can program a reminder in your I-phone for an exercise or awareness technique that needs to be done many times a day. For example, a quick way to lower stress is to perform the Diaphragmatic Meditative Breath.  Program your reminder in the app for this exercise every 2 hours. You can become more calm during the day and prevent the build up of muscle tension, shallow breath and decreased oxygenation.

3) Pelvic Floor Relaxation and Stretching: Most people with PFD need to do the awareness techniques and pelvic floor relaxation BEFORE they start to do the strengthening, or, “Lengthen before Strengthen”  Anyone with pain should also do the relaxation exercises, assess their postures during the day (via photograph), adjust poor postures and do not start any strengthening exercises when first starting my program. Contracting or shortening an already tight muscle/fascial group will  cause further tension and result in increased pain.  Your pelvic floor physical therapist will guide you to become aware of your pelvic muscles, teach you how to relax and  lengthen all the muscles that attach onto the pelvis (hamstrings, inner thighs, hip flexors, plus more) before doing any strengthening.

4) Pelvic Floor and Core Strengthening: Once the muscles are stretched, the trigger points released and you are doing regular daily stretches, a gentle core strengthening program can begin. The app gives a progression from basic pelvic floor and abdominal recruitment, to full planks for maximum core stabilization training.  To insure long lasting results of pelvic floor rehabilitation, the core must be strengthened.

The app is best used while under the care of a licensed physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation.   Your  physical therapist can direct you on which specific exercise to perform, teach you how to do the movements, perform manual therapies to reduce tension and trigger points and guide you on when to start a strengthening program.