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Chronic Pain and sexuality: How Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R helps people navigate these issues

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(Image courtesy of Eva Margo Kant, LCSW-R)

The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines chronic pain as pain lasting more than 3 months and it affects more than 100 million Americans today.  As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I help patients with both acute and chronic pain, more specifically pelvic pain, on a daily basis. Due to the private nature of pelvic floor issues, sexual dysfunction, or bowel and bladder complaints it can be difficult for patients to feel comfortable talking about their symptoms.

The famous quote, “no man is an island,” rings true for healthcare providers who treat chronic pain as multiple specialists working together is more effective than one. I recently met with Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R  with 12+ years of experience helping people deepen their self-esteem, navigate life’s transitions, and address fears and questions about chronic illness/pain which includes topics of sexuality and sensuality. Eva taught me some great perspectives on how she helps people heal their emotional/sexual wounds and how they can be a source of chronic pain.

Eva runs workshops about sex and disability, sex and aging and trains medical students how to talk about sex with their patients. Her goal is to help people “unpack their feelings” that are attached to physical pain and anxiety. Anxiety increases the output of the limbic system, the emotional flight or fight, and memory areas of our brain which results in pain.

Eva believes that “understanding how the body works is the key to understanding you”.  Her job is to help people understand what their sexuality is to them and to own how they view and understand it.  Eva believes that “the body always remembers.” She likened the reflexive blink of an eye that’s about to be poked to the feeling a woman with sexual pain feels if her partner demonstrates affection. The woman may fear that any show of affection may lead to sex which is painful for her, so she avoids this.

Eva’s goal is to help patients learn if some physical reflexive tightening may be due to thoughts involving shame, guilt, or embarrassment.  She helps clients decide when to disclose to a new partner about their chronic condition. She stressed the importance of self-care with their partner and to feel emotionally safe. People who have chronic pain/illness may go thru life as if they are “holding their breath.” Often times Eva finds that partners want to help, they just don’t know how. Demystifying chronic pain/illness allows partners to be supportive and an active participant in healing.

Eva’s upcoming book and course work, called “The Holy Trilogy of Sex (c),” guides patients and their partners in sensuality, sexuality, and intimacy; none of which are possible without communication, sensation, and connection. She encourages partners to engage in body mapping: offering each other a “menu” of intimate ideas that can promote togetherness without causing more pain.

As a Pelvic Physical Therapist, I invite my patient’s partner to a session to observe, learn, and understand what my patient is experiencing and teach the partner ways they can help. I work on the physical aspect of pain with my manual, movement and exercise therapies while Eva addresses on the mental and emotional aspects of chronic pain which leads to a more efficient outcome.

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EMH Team; Jennifer Jurewicz, Tova Laufer & Charissa Morrisroe with Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R

If you have chronic pelvic pain consider receiving both physical and talk therapy to get your life back on track.  Consider visiting us at EMH Physical Therapy and Eva Margot Kant, LCSW-R if you are in the NYC area. Your pelvic floor with thank you!

Resources:
http://evamkantlcsw.com/
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/chronic_pain.htm

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EMH Physical Therapy Goes To Chicago for The International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS) Conference on Chronic Pelvic Pain

                                     

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screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-11-40-39-amAt EMH Physical Therapy, we support an interdisciplinary approach to treating our patients. We are in constant communication with primary care physicians, urologists, psychologists, gynecologists and other healthcare providers to make sure all our patients have a strong team working for them

A team based approach to medical care has been shown to prevent medical errors (1), improve patient-centered outcomes and chronic disease management (2-4). 

This week the EMH team are packing our bags and headed to Chicago to attend the International Pain Societys annual fall meeting on chronic pelvic pain where well hear practitioners of various disciplines discuss advances and techniques in treating pelvic pain. Some topics were excited about exploring include the mind-body” connection, psychosocial aspects of pelvic pain, cancer and pelvic pain, cystitis, hormone treatments, vulvodynia and more. 

The International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS) was established in 1996 with the goals of educating health professionals on how to diagnose and manage chronic pelvic pain and to bring hope to men and women who suffer from this pain by raising public awareness (5). 

Their website, pelvicpain.org, contains articles which can help to educate patients on a wide variety of conditions and find healthcare providersWe are excited to share the information we learn at IPPS conference with all of you when we return to New York City next week! Stay tuned.

P.S. Well be active on Instagram, @emhpysicaltherapy, and Twitter, @EMHPH, while were away, so keep up with us there!

Resources:

1. IOM (Institute of Medicine) To err is human. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1999.

2. Bodenheimer T, Wagner EH, Grumbach K. Improving primary care for patients with chronic illness: The chronic care model, part 2. Journal of the American Medical Association.2002;288(15):19091914.

3. Ponte P, Conlin G, Conway J, et al. Making patient-centered care come alive: Achieving full integration of the patients perspective. Journal of Nursing Administration. 2003;33(2):8290.

4. Wagner EH, Austin BT, Davis C, Hindmarsh M, Schaefer J, Bonomi A. Improving chronic illness care: Translating evidence into action. Health Affairs. 2001;20(6):6478.

5. International Pelvic Pain Society. Pelvicpain.org

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A Pelvic Physical Therapist’s Approach to PGAD: Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

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What’s your first reaction to this image? Laugh? Sigh and Roll your eyes at the tasteless joke?  Did you think: “How can anyone REALLY have this?”

What if you were experiencing sexual arousal or multiple orgasms on a daily basis, for hours at a time, day or night, with no one medication or method to relieve symptoms on a consistent basis?

What if you had the guts to talk to your doctor about the embarrassing (or what may even feel like devastating) symptoms and find out that your doctor either never heard about PGAD, or worse was a medical professional that did not believe you?

This is the suffering that people with PGAD or PSAS, Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder or Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome, experience and continue to endure. Sadly, the condition has even led some patients end their own lives as recently as a few months ago in 2016.

What  is PGAD?

Persistant Genital Arousal Disorder, a “monster sexual dysfunction”, as coined by Irwin Goldstein, MD (1) is a condition characterized by 6+ months symptoms of high levels of genital sexual arousal in the absence of desire (2). Genital arousal does not dissipate, with orgasm nor by medication alone.

PGAD sufferers describe their symptoms as intrusive, unwelcome, unpleasant and sometimes painful. Multiple, frequent disturbing orgasms (not pleasurable) occur spontaneously, at work, home, school and create tremendous embarrassment and anxiety, which eventually can lead to depression, frustration, and social withdrawal. It causes major stress for personal relationships. Seventy five percent (75%) of women with PGAD report moderate to high distress levels and report feelings of shame, isolation and suicidal thoughts (3).

PGAD: Subset of Chronic Pelvic/Abdominal Pain

PGAD has similar qualities, fluctuations, flares like and is starting to be viewed as a subset of chronic pelvic/abdominal pain.

Chronic pelvic/abdominal pain diagnosis is also made after 6 months of pain, burning, stabbing, cramping  + other symptoms involving 1 or more “private “areas: bladder (urinary frequency and bladder pain) bowel, (IBS) reproductive organs (endometriosis, vulvodynia), groin, buttocks and pelvic floor muscle pain.

As chronic pain takes 6 months to develop, the tissues that were involved at the initial onset of insult or trauma  may not be the main or only source currently producing chronic symptoms.  Rather, a highly sensitive brain/nervous system that is persistently on High Alert, “Danger-Danger!” mode perpetuates the symptoms.

PGAD Research

PGAD alone has not been researched extensively. We do not know the cause, the amount of women and men with symptoms, nor do we have effective, evidence based treatment – yet. With the push of some PGAD “warriors” and a relatively young organization, International Society of the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), www.isswsh.org, research on PGAD is now being conducted. ISSWSH will have their annual conference in February 2017 where the PGAD Significant Interest Group will present state of the art research as well as testimonials from sufferers.

PAIN comes from the BRAIN

Chronic pain research has made amazing strides in the last 10 years due to the ability to incorporate MRI studies of the brain in all sorts of pain research. Our brain’s main job is to protect us. For example, we don’t keep our hand on the hot stove, or step down further onto the nail under our foot as the brain instantly weighs information coming from sensory nerves and makes a decision on how to react – i.e. PROTECT.  Pain is the brain’s response to incoming nerve reports.

Research shows hundreds of areas in our brain “light up,” or simultaneously become active when experiencing pain, including areas in the brain that process Sensation, Movement, Emotions and Memory. This knowledge helps us understand how a certain movement, emotion or even noise & light can lead to a pain reaction, especially if the brain is persistently on the faulty “Danger-Danger!” mode.

“Neuroplascity” is the ability for the brain to make new neural connections throughout our whole lifetime, to adjust, to change.

How can we help our brain change from being on a highly sensitive “Danger Danger!” mode to a more functional mode?

PGAD TREATMENT Step 1: EDUCATE yourself about Pain & Know your Triggers

Once medical diseases have been ruled out, the first step of effective treatment of PGAD is to change the brain from high alert to a healthy functional mode, by educating yourself on the science of pain (stay with me!)  and to write down all of your possible triggers for symptoms. Lorimer Moseley’s and David Butler’s Explain Pain (www.noigroup.com) and pain educational website www.retrainpain.org are great resources for pain/PGAD sufferers and their loved ones.

Write down all the actions (riding in a car, walking up stairs, showing affection to partner, etc.) and write down what fears/thoughts (not knowing the “cause” of pain, not being able to work, loss of partner, inability to care for children etc.) that stimulates PGAD symptoms (4).

Describe each symptom related to the trigger and rate the intensity of symptom on scale of 0-10. This will give you and your medical team a baseline to measure and monitor progress.  You have to be an active participant in your healing because each person’s cause of symptoms and how your brain reacts with pain/PGAD symptoms is unique.

PGAD TREATMENT Step 2: Find your T-E-A-M

Find your team of practitioners who understand PGAD and who will work with you. A Medical Doctor and a Pelvic Physical Therapist is a good start.

  1. MD/DO – for prescription medicine, trigger point injections, superficial nerve blocks, botox – treatments to  give the faulty nerves/brain activity a break
  2. Pelvic Physical Therapist – who is up-to-date with the recent pain research information, provides manual treatment and offers paced, gradual movement/exercise therapies to pelvic floor, abdomen, pudendal nerve and viscera – see below for more details
  3. Psychotherapist – to  address any possible childhood traumas/abuse issues that over 50% of PGAD sufferers experienced, as these experiences may be held (remembered) in their genital region  (see EMH Physical Therapy’s blog on Somatic Experiencing (http://www.emhphysicaltherapy.com/what-is-somatic-experiencing-and-how-does-it-heal-traumachronic-pain/1450/). Therapy can help manage the depression and anxiety that accompanies PGAD.
  4. Acupuncturist – to help lower the “high alert” brain/nervous system, releasing the “fight or flight” pattern or stimulating the sluggish, depressed pattern

PGAD TREATMENT Step 3:  Pelvic Physical Therapy

Physical therapy treatments are individualized as no patient is alike in their presentation – their symptoms of PGAD /pain may be similar, but the causes are different. Education about brain/nervous system and motivating patients to become active partners in their healing process has the best outcome.

There is no one “magic bullet,” no 1 medication or 1 technique for symptom relief. Receiving regular pelvic PT treatments plus doing a daily exercise/movement program (the brain loves movement!) is part of PGAD therapy. Treatments can include:

Manual Therapy – incorporating movement and awareness for both the external & internal muscles of the pelvis, abdominals, hips, fascia and skin; calming  the “fight or flight” reaction allows for improved blood flow, oxygenation and balances the nervous system.

  • strain / counterstain
  • myofascial release
  • connective tissue massage (aka skin rolling)
  • trigger point release
  • pudendal nerve glides
  • visceral mobilization

Biofeedback – to promote awareness of pelvic floor muscle tension and teach coordination training.

Breath and Meditation – deep diaphragmatic breath expands the front, sides, back of the ribs & abdominal cavity, relaxes the pelvic floor muscles, massages the internal organs and improves oxygenation to tissues. A simple 5 minute meditation where one focuses on the sensation of slow inhalation and exhalation calms the brain.

Desensitization Techniques:  Strategies to lower the high alert nervous system as used in treating Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is applied to our PGAD patients with promising results.

Stretching and Stabilization Exercises to lengthen and strengthen, stimulate the core stabilizers, soften the pelvic floor. Cardiovascular exercises to improve general blood flow are performed daily at home. Exercises are paced and applied gradually as the patient reports responses in their symptoms.

Modalities such as TENS, Low Level Laser and use of dilators can also be used as part of our treatment.

Final Thoughts

PGAD, like chronic pelvic pain is complex and requires patience by both the patient and the practitioner. Results are best if patient and practitioner work consistently together and the patient performs daily home/self care exercises, paying attention to responses and slowly increasing the pace and challenge of the new movement. Neuroplasticity takes persistence and develops over time.

Further research in measuring the efficacy of all the treatment techniques mentioned above and the importance of a concurrent multi-specialty approach to PGAD still needs to be done. My team and I at EMH Physical Therapy will continue to help patients heal from PGAD.

References

1 Goldstein I. Persistent genital arousal disorder- update on the monster sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med 2013;10:2357-2358

2 Jackowich R, Pink L,Gordon A, Pukall  C. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder: A Review of Its Conceptualizations, Potential Origins, Impact and Treatment. Sex Med Rev 2016;1-14

3 Leiblum SR, Brown C, Wan J, et al. Persistent sexual arousal  syndrome: a descriptive study. J Sex Med 2005; 2:331-337

4 Butler D,Moseley L, Explain Pain, Noigroup Publications Adelaide, Australia 2013

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PelviCorFit™ by EMH Physical Therapy Grand Opening

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Have you been working out for years, but neglecting a crucial muscle group??

At EMH Physical Therapy we recently launched our brand new PelviCoreFit™ program designed to whip your pelvic floor muscles into shape. Proper firing of pelvic floor muscles is not only essential for pelvic health but is also a key factor in overall core strength and fitness.

Visualize this:

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The pelvic floor muscles form a sling that transmit forces from the ground up and from your head down. If pelvic floor muscles are weak and unaccustomed to firing during exercise, you could be promoting a faulty movement pattern in the chain. Neglecting the Pelvic floor muscles can potentially lead to more serious conditions such as chronic hip, back or pelvic pain, urinary or fecal incontinence, GI and bowel disorders, and erectile or sexual dysfunction. At EMH Physical Therapy we will help you identify and strengthen the pelvic muscles during your general workouts to help prevent future dysfunction!

Additionally, did you know that the pelvic floor muscles play a fundamental role in breathing through connections to the diaphragm?  Think about doing cardio, executing a heavy lift, or performing a Vinyasa flow with a sub optimal breathing pattern. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can improve breathing which will help to optimize your workout efficiency.

Come try out our discounted  PelviCoreFit™ program, learn about proper activation of the pelvic floor muscles and bring your workouts to the next level!

We offer 2 options:

“PelviCorFit™ #1” – One fifty minute session with a DPT + Fitness Guru that includes 15 minute pelvic floor/core education followed by a 30 minute PelviCorFit™ workout, then Q&A. Regular price is $200. New Client price is $50

“PelviCorFit™ Pack” – Three (3) fifty minute sessions with your DPT + Fitness Guru. The first session is similar to the description above. The 2 follow up sessions include 45 minute PelviCorFit™ workouts plus instruction on how to implement pelvic floor awareness into your fitness program. Regular price is $500 for 3 sessions. New Client price is $130

To register call 212-288-2242

or

email info@emhphysicaltherapy.com

For more information click here

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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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What is Somatic Experiencing® and How Does it Heal Trauma/Chronic Pain?

Dr. Sharlene Bird Visits EMH Physical Therapy

One of the things I love most about being in the healthcare field is learning from other practitioners. Through my years as a physical therapist treating chronic pain patients, I’ve found that a team approach works better than an isolated one. So, when Dr. Sharlene Bird, a clinical psychologist, came to talk to the EMH team I couldn’t wait to pick her brain!

Dr. Bird is a New York State Licensed Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist and Certified EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapist who specializes in CBT and SE®. Say What? Let me translate the alphabet soup.

Dr. Bird has been in practice for over 20 years treating individuals and couples who experience sexual dysfunction and/or childhood trauma.

Initially, Dr. Bird mainly used a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach, aka “everything is in the head”.  However, over the past seven years, she’s been integrating Somatic Experiencing® (SE) with great results.

Somatic Experiencing® (SE)

SE®, developed by Dr. Peter Levine, focuses on the patient’s actual physical response in conjunction with the nervous system’s reaction to past traumatic experiences. There is a healthy range of responses to trauma which doesn’t wreack havoc on our physical and emotional stability.

In the graph below, you’ll see a normal range of responses: settling between being activated/heightened or relaxed/lowered.

Somatic-Experiencing-Healthy-Nervous-System

image credit www.mindfulsomatictherapy.com/

Unhealthy levels are those responses that are outside of the “normal” range. If a patient is too elevated above the normal range they may be suffering with anxiety, panic, digestive issues, hypersensitivity to sounds (heightened startle reflex), sleep problems or chronic pain.

Too low under normal range and a patient may be suffering with depression, flat affect, lethargy, poor digestion or chronic fatigue.

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image credit www.mindfulsomatictherapy.com/

SE® helps the body resolve physical and emotional trauma so one can reach a sense of being “settled.” By working with her patients on becoming present and mindful in a safe space, Sharlene helps her patients heal.

As a DPT I’m obviously focused more on the “body healing” side of things, but I understand that our mind plays a big role in how we process pain.

Releasing Trauma

With the SE® approach, Dr. Bird asks a patient, “As you recall that trauma, what begins to happen inside your body?” this allows the patient to focus on the senses their body is feeling. The simple act of being mindful of how the body feels when remembering a traumatic experience plays a large role in freeing trauma. The patient will then be able to resolve the stalled ‘fight-or-flight’ response that occurred at the time of their trauma. This treatment approach completes the loop to healing.

Dr. Bird works with patients for weeks or months to learn to read and help patients sense what is going on in their bodies in small manageable bits. She creates an environment that is moderately stressful, but still safe and controlled, to expand the capacity for creating new experiences and learning to “ride the wave.” The end goal is to re-establish a natural ability of the nervous system to shift smoothly between being activated and settled within the normal ranges.

Dr. Bird encourages mindfulness and sensory awareness and ended her presentation with a quote by Steve Goodier that is so fitting and helps us appreciate our bodies:

“You have a great body. It is an intricate piece of technology and a sophisticated super-computer. It runs on peanuts and even regenerates itself. Your relationship with your body is one of the most important relationships you’ll ever have. And since repairs are expensive and spare parts are hard to come by, it pays to make that relationship good.”

In today’s hectic world we can all use a reminder to be kind to ourselves and our bodies and keep that relationship “good.”

You are here

If you feel like Somatic Experiencing® will help you on your healing journey, see the resources below for more information. Happy feeling & happy healing!

resources:

http://www.drsbird.net/: for more about Dr. Sharlene Bird

http://somaticexperiencing.com/: for more on Dr. Peter Levine and Somatic Experiencing®

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SOLUTIONS FOR CHRONIC PAIN

PAIN IS IN THE BRAIN
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A staggering 100 million people in the USA suffer with chronic pain, a higher number than those diagnosed with cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  Chronic pain patients suffer because they  feel like they are not believed by medical professionals especially when many test results are negative, the medications don’t make a significant difference and their doctors don’t know what else to do.

Medications or even surgical procedures alone may fail in treating chronic pain as retraining pain requires a multifaceted approach to achieve results.

Recent research reveals that Pain is in the Brain. The faulty processing of danger signals by the brain and it’s decreased ability to modulate or manage the signals received from nerves is the reason for persistent pain.  Having a variety of solutions that the patient implements concurrently may reap the best results.

( Visual infographic explaining chronic pain from behance.com)

PAIN PERCEPTION

Pain perception in a healthy body is good. It prevents us from fully burning our fingers on the stove, stepping on a nail, etc.  The way pain perception works is that the receptors in our skin/body send danger signals through nerves to the spinal cord which then sends information to the brain where the pain is “perceived.” The brain instantaneously interprets the signals as either safe or dangerous depending on your past experiences.

BRAIN CONTROLS PAIN

The brain has areas that are dedicated to our awareness of pain and areas that determine our “experience” of pain.  The healthy brain has flexible pathways and neurotransmitters that can “down modulate” or stop the danger signals. The neurotransmitters  are the “happy chemicals” that our bodies naturally produce, (e.g. serotonin, endorphin & enkephalin). They actually BLOCK pain/danger signals to the brain. “We have a drug cabinet in the brain that’s 18 to 33 times stronger than morphine” says David Butler, PT, GDAMT, M.SPP.SC (1).  There are a number of ways to  increase production of neurotransmitters.

data-brain
CIRCUITS BUILT IN YOUTH BECOME THE SUPERHIGHWAYS OF YOUR BRAIN

A recent study of chronic pain patients found 90% reported early childhood rejection by a primary caretaker, an unmet need for closeness and psychological interpersonal trauma (2). Feelings of rejection impairs the body’s ability to lower or  “down modulate” and leads to hypersensitivity to pain.

These patients also reported difficulty in expressing emotion as they did not trust the people who took care of them. Science shows that interpersonal psychological distress and pain share the same neurotransmitters, genetic and immune markers. As babies, we are initially consumed by bodily distress then, as we grow, we feel safe and trusting and we develop a higher order of emotional expression and regulation. Over time, these pathways in the brain become like superhighways so when chronic pain patients experience negative interpersonal trauma, sensitivity to pain is heightened too.

BRAIN RETRAIN PROGRAM

Find your team of health professionals who can partner with you on your pain retraining program:

  • EDUCATE yourself on the recent science of pain (www.retrainpain.org
  • EXERCISE to boost the happy chemicals in the brain, improve your body’s ability to produce anti-inflammatory cells, increase nerve growth factor, stimulate the cerebellum and cortex of the brain which prevents pain signals from being received, move the muscle and fascial tissue.  Exercises can include any cardiovascular activity like 30 minutes of brisk walking along with a stretching, yoga, Pilates program – find what makes you feel good and “Just Do It”.
  • BREATHE  and MEDITATE –  do 5 minutes of deep slow breaths 1x a day to physiologically quiet and calm the nervous system, Follow this by saying some positive Affirmations that help you feel good.
  • MANUAL THERAPY  by either a physical therapist or any body worker who helps you feel relaxed or energized.  Myofascial release, massage, and joint mobilization therapies restore motion and allow normal function. It releases trapped nerves that travel through tight muscles and fascia and helps your body to move freely
  • NUTRITION – consult a nutritionist to find the best low glycemic (lowers body inflammation), high Omega 3 diet, adequate protein intake to synthesize neurotransmitters and repair muscle.   Drink half your body weight in ounces of water for efficient metabolism and to turn off histamine which reduces inflammation and pain
  • TALK – whether individual, group therapy or via forums, research shows that talking about your situation helps you feel less isolated and can create more positive superhighways in your brain while you journey to healing

References

  1.  Treating Pain Using the Brain – David Butler, PT, GDAMT, M.SPP.SC – YouTube
  2. Psychiatric Diagnosis and Treatment of Somatizing Neuropsychiatric Disorders By and )
  3. Body in Mind – the role of the brain in chronic pain by Prof. Lorimer Mosley –  You Tube

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Sitting is Detrimental To Your Health

“In the interest of keeping our  current and prior patients healthy (and happy) I am pleased to introduce “EMH Physical Therapy Better Health & Movement Blog”

Today ‘s article is about posture. The key to a healthy spine, pain free neck and lower back is to maintain a neutral spine throughout the day, work or play.

EMH Physical Therapy offers manual therapy to release restrictions,  low level laser therapy to stimulate healing and tailored exercise programs. Yes, we still offer individual 45 minute treatment sessions by one licensed Doctor of Physical Therapist.

The-health-hazards-of-sittingWritten By: Lauren Calado, DPT, PT 

Our bodies have 650 muscles and their function is to contract, stretch, fire up… MOVE.

Did you know that more than 80% of us sit for over 10 hours a day? As technology in the work-place and at home increases, physical activity is rapidly declining.

A New York Times article reported, “Jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which accounted for 50 percent of the labor market in 1960, have plummeted to just 20 percent” (2011). Add on more time dining, watching television and more than 75% of your day could be spent sitting. This is a functional contradiction to human anatomy and physiology and has a negative impact on your health.

The health risks of prolonged sitting include low back pain, muscle weakness, impaired posture, neck/shoulder pain, nerve impingements, decreased flexibility and pelvic floor dysfunction. Other disorders that may develop as a result of long periods of sitting are decreased cardiovascular endurance, obesity, poor circulation and decreased life span. Yikes!

Tips to decrease the health risks of sitting:

• Take one flight of stairs up/down instead of taking an elevator to your floor destination
• Walk to a co-worker to talk instead of calling/texting/emailing
• Stand up during TV commercials
• Perform a few different core/strength exercises such as standing squat, push up, or an abdominal exercise 10 reps twice a day.
• Wear one of the new fit bracelets to track your walking or cardio results
• Park your car further away from the office or your house
• Enter/Leave the subway station that is one stop away versus the closest station to home/work

Research shows that your brain needs a movement break after 50 minutes of working, thinking, sitting. Get up for the last 10 minutes of each hour to take a walk, pet the dog, do a quick errand. Your brain will be refreshed and creative thinking will be enhanced.

If you are experiencing sitting related problems, consult a physical therapist. Physical therapists have 7 years of education in advanced anatomy and physiology, movement science and interventional healing therapies. The Direct Access law allows you to consult a PT first, so you don’t have to see a doctor, get a prescription and be referred to physical therapy. We can help you heal from sitting related dysfunction.

 

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!

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.