Human Performance and Rehabilitation Centers, Inc.

Managing Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a condition that has received a lot of attention in recent years. It can result when the lymph nodes are removed or damaged due to cancer treatment. Cancer patients aren’t the only ones who can have lymphedema, which causes swelling in the arms or legs. Individuals suffering from obesity or vascular issues can also experience it. While lymphedema has no cure, it can be managed effectively with physical therapy.

The lymphatic system is a network of organs, nodes and vessels that make and produce fluids necessary to the body’s function. When the lymph nodes are compromised, they fail to remove proteins from the lymphatic fluid, causing an accumulation of fluid and swelling in the limbs. It’s most often an asymmetrical condition, meaning it will only affect one arm or one leg. If the arms or the legs are both affected, one is usually worse than the other.

Many cancer patients will come to us immediately when their lymph nodes have been removed or radiated. But many other patients have suffered from lymphedema for years before they discover exactly what it is and that physical therapy can help.

We use three main techniques for addressing lymphedema: manual lymphatic drainage, multi-layer bandaging and circulation exercises. The duration of therapy will depend on the severity of the case.

  • Manual lymphatic drainage is an incredibly effective technique for pushing fluid out of the areas where it has built up toward the lymph nodes and the center of the body. A therapist should follow specific pathways, or “watersheds,” natural highways that help the fluid reach the lymph nodes and organs where it will be processed and ultimately flushed out of the body as urine.
  • Once manual lymphatic drainage has been performed, multi-layer bandaging helps keep the fluid from returning. Wrapping a leg or arm with bandaging has a compressive effect that helps restrict fluid build-up.
  • Circulation exercises are also an important part of lymphedema management. These are simple movements performed in a sequence that help pump fluid through the lymphatic pathways.

A good therapy program also teaches patients and caregivers to conduct these techniques at home. Once progress is made and independence is gained in therapy, a patient will continue to manage his or her condition, returning to therapy for extra support when the need arises.

Painful Sex… Physical Therapy?

You might find yourself asking why you would see a physical therapist for dyspareunia (pronounced dis-puh-roo-ne-uh) or in layman’s terms, painful sex.  The short answer is because musculoskeletal pain is a significant component of pelvic pain and dyspareunia.  Pelvic Physical Therapy is a specialization in the field of Physical Therapy that treats pelvic pain.

Were you aware that you have muscles in the base of your pelvis that are under your control?  These muscles are aptly called the pelvic floor muscles.  The muscles are attached to the front of the pelvis, connect to the tail bone and sacrum at the back of the pelvis and extend outward to reach the side walls of the bony pelvis.  They are the only load bearing horizontal oriented muscles in your body.  Think of a muscular bowl or hammock in the bottom of your pelvis.  Diane Lee PT, prefers to call these muscles a condominium rather than a floor as this gives a more accurate picture of their complex interactive placement with all the connective tissue, organs and nerves of the pelvis.  These muscles serve three main functions:

  1.  Supporting the organs within the pelvis, hence their load bearing function. They support your bladder, rectum, the female  vagina, uterus  and ovaries, and the male prostate.  So they are” always working “at a postural level
  2.  The muscles are sphincteric, in other words they control the opening and closing of the urethra, vagina, and rectum.
  3.  The muscles assist in the sexual response, by providing tone to the vaginal walls, maintaining erection in the female and male  and production of reflexive contractions of the deep muscle during orgasm.   Poor sexual response has been associated with  weak muscles  and poor awareness of muscle.  These same muscles provide stability to the pelvic joints, assisting the increased  demands on the low  back during strenuous tasks.

So what role does the muscle play in pain?  Superficial dyspareunia involves the first layer musculature, those that assist with vaginal tone and erection.  Deep dyspareunia involves the deeper muscles of the pelvis which support the organs and help the low back w stability.  The organs of the pelvis, the muscles and even the skin communicate messages through spinal cord and to each other through nerve tissue.

Muscular tension can be generated through organic cause and by direct injury.  Connective tissue can become restricted secondary to muscular tension and nerve irritation.  Tense/ tight muscles can compress and or stretch nerve tissue.  A pain cycle ensues moving from pain to muscular tension to nerve compression and connective tissue restriction and back to pain.

Muscular pain can be the source of dyspareunia, sometimes seen in postpartum women after injury to the muscle system during birth, or it can be in response to infection or dermatological changes within the tissue to name a few.   Hip pain, because of the proximity of the hip muscles to the pelvic wall can be a contributing factor in dyspareunia.  Low back pain can affect the pelvic floor musculature.

Dyspareunia can be related to hormonal changes in the postpartum breast feeding female or menopausal female, secondarily affecting muscle tissue.  The pain of endometriosis and interstitial cystitis can include musculoskeletal pain. In dyspareunia muscles are generally over working and need to learn to regain their normal length, their ability to relax and return to normal postural levels.  Assessment of dyspareunia includes an evaluation of the low back and pelvic joints, ability of the muscles to contract and especially relax and lengthen and evaluation of the nerve and connective tissue about the pelvis.

Physical therapists treat muscular pain with pressure, gentle stretching techniques and specific relaxation exercises. Mobilization of the spine, pelvic joints and connective tissue are generally a component of the treatment process.  The goal of treatment is to gain awareness and specifically motor control of the muscle to reduce or eliminate the cycle of pain.  Pelvic physical therapy restores the length-tension relationship of the muscles.

Painful sex can be embarrassing to discuss.  A pelvic floor physical therapist will put you at ease.   A pelvic health PT understands the complexities of the pelvic floor, and will help your muscles to regain their normal function.

Signs of a Receptive, Expressive and/or Social Pragmatic Language Disorder

Receptive, expressive and social/pragmatic language are considered critical milestones in a child’s life, but sometimes they are delayed. It’s important that parents and caregivers pay attention to the signs that a child is slowly progressing, not progressing or even regressing in language skills so he or she can receive the proper therapy. Early intervention is essential.

In the early years of life, children should begin to make basic connections between language and their surroundings. For example, a child should observe his/her parents’ mouths when they speak and begin to perform gestural language (e.g., waving). Children should also begin to understand what their parents’ words mean (following commands), form sounds that will eventually become words and pair their own words to become utterances about objects or events. When children have language disorders, they will lack one or more of these basic skills.

When one of our speech-language pathologists begins to work with a patient, a comprehensive evaluation is conducted, which includes assessing language (understanding and use), speech/resonance, voice, fluency, oral motor and swallowing abilities. A thorough plan of care with long-term goals and short-term objectives is developed and therapy is initiated. A big part of success in therapy is working closely with parents and caregivers because the home is an environment rich in opportunities to reinforce language. Home programs can empower the parents and caregivers to be involved in moving the child’s language skills along through play, interaction and socialization.

At HPRC Pediatric Therapy and Pediatric Rehabilitation, our setting is unique in that it offers comprehensive services, including therapy for gross and fine motor skills. If a child exhibits problems in these areas, we have physical and occupational therapists on site to work and collaborate with speech-language pathologists. Together, as a comprehensive team, we can see a child’s development as a complete picture.

Are young female athletes at greater risk for ACL injuries?

Young female athletes are five times more likely to sustain an ACL tear than their male counterparts. This is especially common in explosive multidirectional sports like soccer or basketball. It’s important for girls to learn how to jump and land properly in order to prevent an ACL injury from occurring.

Female athletes from about 14-18 years of age are at greater risk than boys of injuring the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This is largely due hormonal changes. An increase in estrogen during puberty causes relaxation of the ligaments and the natural widening of the hips causes changes in biomechanics. A female athlete is likely not conscious of these new structural changes as she continues to snag rebounds or bolt across the soccer field. She may inadvertently land or stop stiff-kneed or in a locked position, and she might have a greater tendency to internally rotate the knee due to weakness of the developing outer hip.

In addition, a female athlete may be accustomed to using only the quadriceps instead of her developing hamstrings to control movements. All of these factors can put the ACL at risk.

It’s important to teach young women early on how to adjust the way they run and jump in competition in order to prevent an ACL tear. A physical therapist can screen an athlete to evaluate body mechanics, potential weakness and faulty movement patterns. Prevention is key. And it’s time well spent since a young athlete who has suffered an ACL tear is 70% more likely to suffer a re-injury.

Here are some strategies:

  • Young athletes should be in shape for the demands of their chosen sport. This includes both cardiovascular capacity and muscular strength. During fatigue or exhaustion, even a small weakness or poor body mechanics can become a bigger problem.
  • A good strengthening program will encourage better hamstring-to-quad strength ratio, which will help reduce reliance on quads only.
  • Good lateral hip strength and hip abduction control will help maintain proper knee position so that a girl doesn’t experience what we call a valgus collapse, or the extra internal rotation of the femur and the knee falling inward.
  • Proper proprioception is key. When the foot hits the ground, the knee should be properly positioned over it. This allows for strong core-hip stability during lunges, running and multidirectional activities.

Physical therapists don’t just treat patients after an injury. They also work with patients to prevent one from occurring.