I wanted to share a special Success Story with you, as we wrap up Men’s Health Month 2021. This is a true story written by a client who I’m currently seeing for pelvic pain. It’s raw and unedited, and I think it clearly and beautifully communicates the frustration and struggle that most men feel when trying to get help for pelvic pain. This narrative needs to change, and Garrett wants to step up to the plate to help change that. I think it also communicates the amazing transformation that can happen with the right fit of pelvic PT and other lifestyle changes!
Thank you Garrett for being honest and a bit vulnerable in sharing your story. If it helps even one other guy to find help and hope, it’s 100% worth it!
Guys, this one’s for you!
I’ve had pelvic pain since I was about 16. It would kind of come and go, but when it came, the pain was brief but incredibly intense. The pain area was focused on the perineum (gooch or taint for those who don’t know).
This has been recurrent my whole life essentially.
But in February of this year- right at the end of the month, it escalated dramatically.
At the end of a workout specifically (deep squats), I noticed my penis had gone numb and was retracted. Then pain and swelling in the perineum and external anus that would not go away. Frequent and weak urination, post void dribbling, trouble getting and maintaining erections, lack of morning erections, pain and burning in penis, and just general bogging feeling in my pelvis.
This is just a brief summary of my symptoms prior to working with Laura McKaig.
After intense internet research and finding forums mainly on reddit, numerous doctor visits due to me thinking this was prostate cancer, and talking to many people, I found Laura’s practice through a quick google search after being recommended to giving pelvic pain physical therapy a try.
I booked an appointment the minute I talked to her as her knowledge seemed to line up directly not just with my symptoms, but also with all the research I had done- she seemed to also know exactly what she was talking about.
Going into my first appointment, I was skeptical. But I was also in a panic. As a man, having your most valued body parts being tampered with at such a young age can make you crazy. I was bringing down the mood of everyone I was around because of this. But after some time, I decided to go all in on physical therapy and take it seriously. This was the most important part for me.
Once I actually started doing the homework and taking Laura’s advice seriously, I saw HUGE improvement. The stretches, breathing exercises, lifestyle changing advice, etc. not only has it brought my symptoms to the point I was before the symptoms and back to normal, I would say my physical and mental health is actually even BETTER than it was before the issues started. It is truly life changing and I’m beyond grateful for my overall experience. Not something I thought I’d ever say about this situation.
Laura also has vast resources that can help someone if needed. (Yoga instructors, weightlifting coaches, various therapists). This is important because often times chronic pelvic pain is multifactorial.
Laura even went as far as to doing a telehealth appointment during a urology visit to add in her findings. If this isn’t true care for a patient, then I’m not sure what is.
As I mentioned before, my overall physical and mental health is much better than it was even before the issues started! Laura and I over time have discussed lifestyle habits and changes that could fix these issues in the long term, which is hugely important.
I’m an extremely heavy lifter by hobby, and wasn’t breathing correctly (sometimes not even lifting in a healthy way). Her knowledge helped me get back to doing what I love which is staying in shape. I had to take it slow at first, but now I’m back to working out every day. Beyond thankful.
We talked about my sexual habits, and how excessive sexual activity can affect your pelvic floor, and ways you can improve your sex life (be it breathing properly, being in tune with how your body is reacting, and even yoga). My sexual health is SUBSTANTIALLY better than it was before! My fiancé can’t even keep up. It hasn’t been this good in years.
The takeaway from this all for a newcomer should be LISTEN TO YOUR PT. Listen listen listen.
If you really want to get better, you need to focus on the tasks you are given.
You also need to relax and most importantly- BREATHE!
Breathing correctly in ANY given scenario will improve just about everything. Sounds like hocus pocus but it’s true.
My personal advice beyond that is treat your body and mind with respect. Watching too much porn or masturbating too much/too vigorously? Cut it out. Find a way to get rid of it and stop it altogether. Sex addiction was one of the many reasons I ran into these issues. Without Laura I may not have even realized I had an issue.
Breathing wrong and not stretching? Work with Laura on a solution and TAKE HER SERIOUSLY. I cannot stress that enough.
I’ve made a quick recovery, but perhaps I would’ve corrected it sooner if I had just taken it seriously to begin with and relaxed.
You will be hard pressed to find a bigger advocate for men’s health than Laura.
It’s truly a blessing, and I’m eternally grateful.
--Garrett, age 25
May is Pelvic Pain Awareness Month. I’m curious, do you feel nervous or anxious talking about pain issues “down there”? Let’s be honest, this is an uncomfortable topic for many people. It’s an embarrassing topic, it's a shameful topic. There's a lot of emotional baggage placed on it. As a result, a lot of women (and men as well) suffer in silence.
I want to share a story about somebody, let's call her Leah. This is a story of somebody who had pelvic pain, who did not know what to do and did not have any options given to her.
WAIT-- let’s back up. I need to share something first. True Confessions.
Leah is my middle name. This is MY personal story.
I first started writing about Leah, then thought no, I need to be open, honest and transparent. This is MY story. I don’t share this much, in fact this is the first time ever I’ve written about it. But it needs to be told. So tell it I shall.
Leah -- I -- started having problems with pelvic pain as a teenager. Ever since I could remember, I had terribly painful periods. I would miss a day of school every month because of this. Often it hurt so badly that I would double over and felt like I would throw up. Back then, there were not a lot of answers. It was just assumed to be normal, and that I was one of the unfortunate ones to suffer from painful periods. End of story.
What I didn't know is that there was probably a nutritional component involved. I may have had really tight abdominal and hip muscles that were never addressed. There may have been some hormonal imbalances that could have been addressed. Truth is, painful periods are not normal. However, I did not know this. Neither did my doctor.
I vividly remember one visit to a gynecologist when I was 16 years old. My period pain had gotten so bad that I was desperate for a solution. I still shudder at the answer the doctor gave me: He told me—in front of my mother—that if I got pregnant, that should fix my pain problem. What the heck??!! HOW do you respond to something like that? That was this doctor’s medical advice! I couldn’t believe it. He did come up with a second option -- birth control pills. I really didn’t want to go that route as a young teenager.
So I dealt with this for years and years. In college and when I was working I would miss a day of classes or work a month. One day every month because of this! All the time thinking that this is normal.
A few more years passed, and I got married. Every bride probably dreams of a perfectly beautiful and satisfying wedding night. What did I discover instead? For me, what was supposed to be very pleasurable was instead very painful. To put it bluntly, sex hurt. Badly. I was not prepared for this. I was horrified.
And it didn't go away or get better on its own. It went on and on. Can you imagine how I felt, thinking, I'm not a good wife, what's wrong with me, that this is happening? Can you imagine how this affected my husband, knowing that every time we made love it was hurting me? Thinking that he was hurting me?
This struggle is very real, and it can be a huge strain on a relationship. It can erode your communication with your spouse or partner. It can shatter your feelings of self-worth and adequacy. Couples get divorced over this.
After putting up with this for too long, I finally got the courage to seek medical help and talk with a few trusted friends about it. What advice was I was given? No joke, this is all real….
1) "Oh, have a glass of wine. You just need to relax".
How many of you heard that? Let me just say it doesn't work. If you had tight hamstrings, would anyone tell you to have a glass of wine as a remedy? Of course not! That sounds ridiculous. Yet women often get this advice when they have painful sex. They don’t know (and I didn’t know at the time) that the pain could be caused by tight pelvic floor muscles. If your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, a glass of wine is not going to fix that! But that's what I was told—on several occasions.
2) "Well maybe you need to emotionally connect with your husband more, you have an emotional connection problem", (i.e. "It's probably all in your head").
Nobody took the time or effort to explain the relationship between emotional stress and physical pain, or even to check my pelvic floor to see if it was part of the problem. Even worse, being told that the problem exists because of emotional deficits I might have (i.e. it’s my fault) just made me feel worse about myself.
3) "Maybe if you get pregnant, and have a baby, it will get better". (Seriously??)
Yes, I actually got told this. You can’t make this stuff up! Maybe that’s true, maybe not. But it’s not very helpful.
4) ” ……........”
A blank stare or uncomfortable look that inferred, "um, I really don't know what to do about this". So nothing was said. No conversation was started.
I was left to deal with it, just live with it, put up with it.
What I didn't know is how many other women have this same problem.
And how many men also deal with pelvic pain.
I wonder how many people reading this story can relate to it personally? How many are struggling with very private pain issues and don’t know where to turn? If that is you, keep reading, it gets better!
Let's fast forward a few years. I had two children. I was one of the lucky ones, my pain issues actually did get better after childbirth. For the vast majority of women that is not the case; they suffer with this problem of pelvic pain most of their lives.
It was only 7 years ago that I learned about pelvic floor physical therapy. What’s so ironic about that is that I was a physical therapist myself! I’ll be honest, when I heard about this, part of me was angry. WHY didn't anybody tell me about this, so many years ago? I might have been able to avoid all this pain, shame, embarrassment, keeping it all to myself. I might have been able to enjoy my marriage more in those early years.
Yeah, I was angry. Instead of staying angry, however, I decided to turn that around. There’s still so much work to be done, we have a long way to go in the area of pelvic health awareness in this country. I want to help others find hope and treatment options that I never had. I want to equip both men and women with the knowledge to help their friends, family, spouses find that hope and relief.
Many women and men are suffering now with pain issues “down there”. And who do they talk to-- who can they talk to? You’ve read about my less-than-successful attempts to find help. That was over 20 years ago. This still happens today, every day. Women are led to believe that this is “normal”, it’s a normal part of aging or it’s normal after childbirth. They’re often given unhelpful or even harmful advice. Men who have pelvic pain are usually shuffled from doctor to doctor, given similar “advice” that women get, or worse yet, treated with suspicion if they even bring up the issue.
This was not easy for me to write. It was even harder to post it publicly on this blog. My personality is not an “open book” and I just don’t feel at ease sharing the private details of my life with everyone. However, I thought, if I (a pelvic floor PT) feel uncomfortable sharing this, how much harder would it be for others? If I'm not willing to be more open about my pelvic pain story, how can I expect my clients to share their stories?
It all starts with taking that first step. For me, publishing this story is a “first step” in building awareness and advocating for better solutions to pelvic pain.
If you're a best friend of somebody who's brought up this subject, how comfortable do you really feel addressing it? Do you really want to go there with them? If you knew that there was someone who could help them with that, would you want to tell them that, and offer them the help that maybe you couldn't provide? I hope that this story has helped you feel a little more comfortable talking about this now. Perhaps this is a first step for you.
Help me spread the word about this; there's still so much educating and encouraging to do. Help me pass on this message: Yes, there is help available. Yes, pelvic pain, pain with sex, is treatable! No, you're not too far-gone or broken to get better. And NO, you don't have to “just live with it”.
Each weekend I've been doing a Community Spotlight, featuring a special person or business that I want to highlight. Last week's Spotlight was in honor of a man, and now a legacy, Caesar Blevins. Caesar passed away earlier last week (April 7, 2021) after a long battle with prostate cancer.
I first met Caesar in November 2019. I had heard about a group called The Prostate Network which helped cancer survivors. I wanted to learn more about it, so I just randomly showed up one time. I didn't know what to expect, and I wasn't really sure how much I'd be welcome in this all-male group. What I experienced that evening just blew me away. I'd never seen anything like it. Here were men helping other men walk a very difficult journey. Each person there had a chance to talk, share, ask questions. The last person to speak was this guy named Caesar. He talked for quite awhile. (It was obvious that he was quite a talker!) As I listened, I heard his story unfold, and saw how he used that story to give counsel, support, and comfort to guys who were grappling with the reality of cancer in their lives. I decided to join in the cause to help prostate cancer survivors in my own unique way.
I didn’t know Caesar for long and I didn’t get to spend much time with him. But I’ll tell you this--he was one special guy. I considered him a friend, a mentor, and a brother in Christ. And he sure left a legacy. A legacy of advocating and fighting for more funding for research, better access to screenings, and narrowing the gap of racial disparity in prostate cancer care for black men. He was a positive influence in his neighborhood, within the prostate cancer community in Kansas City and beyond, and among the legislators in Washington D.C.
He left a legacy of unwavering faith and trust in God. I think that God gifted that man with a double portion of encouragement and optimism! Not the fake kind, or just a positive-thinking attitude. This was truly the essence of his being. One way he expressed that was in his Facebook posts. He would post something every day. Every. Day. Whether he was at work, at the gym, or in a hospital bed. As long as he was able, he would write words of encouragement to others. During the uncertain times of COVID and the terrible racial unrest that shook our country, I would always look forward to reading Caesar's posts. They were hopeful and yet thought-provoking. He could get his point across without using words of anger, judgement, or bitterness. And I think his message had more impact that way.
He left a legacy of gentleness with strength. Or strength with gentleness. I never heard him yell at someone or insult them publicly. When a new guy came to the Prostate Network meetings, Caesar would ask them to tell their story. No matter how long it took. He provided a safe place for them to talk, ask questions, process stuff. He also had a gift for discernment. If someone would raise objections that were a smokescreen, give excuses, or just complain for the sake of complaining, he would call them out! Caesar was not one to tolerate any bullshit!
He also left the legacy of "Warrior On". And warrior on he did, until his last breath.
What comes to mind when you think of someone with Stage 4 cancer? Caesar was Stage 4 for nearly 10 years I think. 10 years--I can’t even imagine! I've learned about the physical effects of cancer in the body, but I didn't hear about its day-to-day impact on someone's life. Caesar's story gave me a greater level of understanding about this disease, and how terrible it can be. It's not "the good kind of cancer", it's not always slow-growing, it can totally ravish one's body. THAT is the reality of prostate cancer for many men. Those ugly facts sometimes get glossed over. Yet Caesar never let that reality destroy his spirit. He always had an encouraging word, was always lifting others up, and kept his mind and his body as active as he could.
And that is a big reason why I'm doing this. Why I've joined the fight to get these guys the rehab that they deserve but are not getting after their surgery, radiation or chemo treatments.
Caesar Blevins touched so many lives as a result of his prostate cancer. There’s a whole community here in Kansas City, and throughout the nation, who will continue his legacy. Doing all they can--all WE can--to stamp out prostate cancer, and to walk alongside those men who now live with this disease.
Caesar wanted to make sure that no man walked this journey alone! Let's keep his legacy going. This is dedicated to you, Big C.
How incredibly and terribly ironic, the timing of this. I've taken several months of "sabbatical" from writing to focus on other areas, but now it's time to get back in the saddle. I'm ready, and I have a new purpose for this.
The last article I wrote was guest-authored by the founders of the Prostate Network. At the time it was Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Little did I know that just 6 months later, one of them would no longer be with us. Caesar Blevins passed away on April 7, 2021. I was fortunate to have one last (very socially-distanced) visit with him just 2 days before he died.
Caesar's death affected a lot of people. He would want us to carry on his legacy. A week ago it became very clear to me what my role was in that. It rekindled a spark that had been lying dormant for over a year. I like to write, and I have something very important to write about. And I'm inviting you to join me on its journey to completion. I'm dedicating this project to Caesar Blevins and the work he did for prostate cancer survivors.
The first part of this started as a Facebook post the week that Caesar passed away. I have more to say, and I'll use this blog to continue the story. Follow along with me as the story unfolds....
Did you know that today is the start of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? I've got two special guest authors for this blog post: Steve Hentzen and Caesar Blevins, co-founders of The Prostate Network. Both are prostate cancer survivors. Here's what they want to tell you:
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. We here at The Prostate Network wanted to share with you some facts about the state of prostate cancer in the U.S. and some tips from survivors who have walked and are walking this journey today.
In the U.S today:
The good news about these sobering statistics? Nearly 100% of these men will be alive in 5 years if the disease is caught in the early stages.
What Can Men Do?
Tips From Survivors
Advice from our co-founder Caesar Blevins:
“We must start being more proactive than reactive in our quest for better health! We must educate our African American men about prostate cancer! This means that we first must process our health situation before we can progress! We have to evaluate and this comes from educating our men.”
We asked a room of prostate cancer survivors what they would say if they had the podium and the room was full of men from all lines of work, all ages and all states of health. Here is what they wanted every man to know…
If you would like to learn more check out our website www.prostatenetwork.org and podcast series Prostate Cancer: Surviving Together.
(image used with expressed consent of Prostate Network.org)
Each of my clients has a special story. Here is one of them.
This is a must-read if you or someone you know has battled cancer, has surgical scars, wants to return to their active lifestyle but doesn't know how, or feels let down by the medical community. Or just needs a dose of hope right now!
This is from an interview I did with one of my clients, who is now our most recent "graduate" from physical therapy:
Thank you for joining our Zoom meeting this morning and for sharing your story of your rehab journey. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
All right, thanks for having me; I appreciate being here. As Laura said, I have seen her since last July, and just by way of background and so that she's relieved of any obligations around HIPAA or other compliance issues:
I'm a 40 year old father of four and was diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer in early 2018. I went through the rest of that year going through treatment. Cancer was fairly advanced so I had major surgeries that took out the last 15 inches of my digestive tract, I'm a permanent ostomate now. Through all of that, it was pretty evident to me that as I now had about 60 linear inches of scar, I needed to get some help with relearning how to do some basic things, and certainly having guidance as I wanted to go back to being a very active person. I ran half marathons and a couple of full ones and have, as I said, a lot of kids who I want to chase around and roughhouse with. I want to spend the next 40 or 50 years being as normal as I was before I was diagnosed. So that's kind of the background.
Why did you reach out for physical therapy, especially pelvic floor physical therapy?
Yeah, so I was at one of the top cancer centers in the country. And while they're fantastic in lots of areas of care, the post-op physical therapy is definitely a weakness for them. And the more that I talk to people, it's just generally a problem in oncology. So, as I thought about doing things like rebuilding my core strength and running long distances and stuff like that, it became obvious to me pretty quickly that I needed help getting there. I had asked several times to be prescribed physical therapy and was not [referred to anyone].
Then a friend of a friend dropped me Laura's business card. I said, well I'll give her a call. I did not know that there was physical therapy that specializes in pelvic floor area, and I certainly as a guy don't really think of that, to be honest. You know, when my wife gave birth that might be something that I've thought about, but for me, specifically, even though it definitely has an impact, it's not something that I had on my radar screen at all or was even aware of.
So you initiated the call and came in for a 30 minute consultation, I tell folks that I do offer a free 30 minute consultation, just to give people an idea of who I am, what the treatment space is like, are we a good fit, is your problem something that I can help you with. And so that's how we started working together.
So my next question is: What would your life be like now if you didn't get any of this physical therapy?
There's a lot of things I found out through the physical therapy that I know that were probably long standing issues around flexibility and proper breathing and things like that. I haven't gotten back to running; I was planning on doing the Garmin events, before that got cancelled with all this quarantine stuff.
So that would have been much much worse and I think just a general lack of confidence to be able to do everything from rough house to work in the yard to doing something a little more physically strenuous like the running. Just would have been far worse.
But there have been a lot of unexpected side benefits. I gave the example of breathing; when I go on runs now, I am MUCH more efficient. I can tell you just ramping up to longer distances was much, much easier because I was breathing properly. And that's something that Laura got me squared away on that I really probably was not doing right since--who knows when!
Any other outcomes or results that you did not expect? When you came in, you had certain goals and expectations. Were there any benefits that you gained that were a pleasant surprise?
Yes, some of the other issues I found were scar maintenance in my case, because that's a big deal, as I said, with as much cutting as they had done. It was a very positive thing. People talk about the impact of scars; it was always one of those things -- you can't see it, you don't really know; yeah, you feel a little bit different or something pinches or what have you. But until you actually start working on them and knocking some of that tissue loose and getting a little bit more flexibility, it always seems like kind of a "squishy" topic to me honestly.
So, I was fairly dismissive of it before. I was told, you had to pay attention to this and spend some time on it and once I did, there were plenty of benefits around that so I feel a lot more comfortable. The other day, my nine-year-old crashed into what had been a sensitive spot. And it caused me no anxiety or physical pain, which is something pretty representative of one of the benefits of working with Laura.
One thing I tell people, because I see a lot of people with scar issues, is that it takes at least two years for a scar to fully mature. But even if it's been two years or 10 years post-surgery, it is important and it's never too late to start.
Anything else you feel that others should know about?
You all know how powerful word of mouth is, and especially when it's a more specialized type of service like what Laura provides, in particular a pelvic floor focus. I don't know what the general knowledge is about that, but when I think about her potential client base it's one of those things that she's got to really work hard on awareness and things of that nature. So from that perspective, I was very fortunate and blessed that I even got connected with her in the first place. I'm not getting a lot of help from within the medical community in my estimation. That's something that I think is good to know.
And then I will speak to my fellow males that are on this call. You know, pelvic floor is kind of a weird area for anybody to be dealing with, but for whatever reason, in my mind, and probably because of childbirth and just, you know, call it chauvinism if you want, I always assumed that it was more to do with my wife and making sure that she was healthy, and I hear a lot more about women's pelvic floor issues anyway.
It was a big deal for me because of cancer, hopefully none of you have that, or don't have to go through it. I surely wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But it's one of those things that there's a lot of other issues that we encounter as guys. In the future if it wasn't cancer, it was probably gonna be my prostate at some point or something else along the line, and I just really didn't think about this at all. And this type of service and I think I got a lot of side benefits out of it. It's physical therapy, it's not invasive. It's a matter of just getting your strength up and doing things the right way.
I'll compliment Laura on her professionalism and ability to deal with a sensitive physical area in a very discreet and proper manner. She's got all kinds of tips and tricks and things like that that's just part of her natural approach that I've never considered, and it's like -- someone's gonna be working on my pelvic floor. They gotta be thinking about this, this, this, and this, and she had thought about all that stuff and more. I was never in a situation, obviously, even though it's a very intimate area, let's say, I was concerned about that initially, but she was still able to do what she needed to do without me worrying about flashing her or things like that.
And I just want to commend Joseph for his confidence in me. I've never run across a case like his. But, like I told him, "you know, I've never seen this before, but I think I can help you and if it's okay with you, let's figure this out together". And he was up for the challenge, I was up for the challenge. I hope I never have to see anyone who's had what you've had, because maybe somebody already sent them to physical therapy. So it's been a pleasure working with you, and we're still working together a bit. You’re doing great. I look forward to watching you in your next half marathon! Thank you for sharing your story with us.
*name changed to protect client's privacy. Story shared with client's expressed permission.
“I want to run a half marathon again.”
That’s what my new client, Justin*, wrote down as one of his physical therapy goals.
Justin was seeking a pelvic physical therapist who worked with men as well as with medically-complicated patients. He was referred to me by a friend of his.
2 years ago, Justin was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent chemo, radiation, and then extensive abdominal and pelvic reconstructive surgery.
He was given clearance by his surgeon to “resume normal activities”, with no referral to physical therapy for rehabilitation. “You’ll be fine,” they said.
He knew that he was NOT fine. He knew that there was a solution and he sought it out on his own. After his first PT visit, we both knew that there was a lot of work to do! But there was now hope that he could get back to doing the thing he loved—running. That was about 6 months ago.
This past weekend, he ran his first 10K since his cancer diagnosis!
I went to support him and cheer him on. This race was held underground, in a cave. Yep, a cave. As a spectator, I was in for quite an adventure, and I was about to encounter Story #2:
Not being a runner, I am pretty naïve about how these races work. I had to park a LONG way from the race site, and I was hurrying to find the cave entrance. I saw a guy dressed in runner’s gear, so I said to him, “You look like you know where you’re going; mind if I follow you?” He laughed and said, “Sure, but I don’t know where I’m going either.” He introduced himself, his name was Tim. We walked together to find the entrance. On the way there, he looked down, stopped and said, “Well, would you look at that!” He picked up a blue silicone bracelet that was lying on the ground in front of him. “This is my son’s bracelet,” he remarked.
What he said next blew me away: “My son died 3 years ago, from suicide. This bracelet is from our support group and is in memory of him.” Tom said that he competes in these races to honor his son’s memory. “This is a sign” he said, “I KNOW I was supposed to be here! Laura, I want you to have this bracelet.” WOW. I was honored to take it, and I put it on my wrist.
We went our separate ways. I found the race, and got to watch Justin compete and cross the finish line! “I’m one step closer to my goal”, he said. As we were walking toward the exit, amidst hundreds of people, guess who I saw—Tim!
Do you believe in “Divine moments”? I do. I think this was one of them.
I showed the blue bracelet to Justin, and they introduced themselves to each other. They shared their personal stories. Both have been through traumatic things. Both have found running as a way to cope with hardship and to refresh their mind, body, and spirit.
I think we all got a little emotional at that moment. I know I certainly did!
Why is this so special to me? There’s a third story involved here: My story.
July 2014: I was walking the indoor track at my gym, in tears. My application to re-take the PT board exam in June had been rejected. I now had to wait until October. I remember saying out loud, “Why these roadblocks? I just want to help people!”
One year later: A dream opportunity falls apart in a most unpleasant way. I’m left to pick up the pieces, with no back-up, no other job offers and a ton of uncertainty. Am I doing the right thing? Why all these roadblocks (again)?
2 months after that: I end up in a geriatrics outpatient clinic, and discover that I LOVE working with the 65+ “active agers” population! What if… I combine pelvic floor PT with this work? I get an amazing opportunity to do just that, and I gain a LOT more experience working with medically-complicated patients.
Allowing me to help people like Justin with some very unique rehab needs.
Do you see the beautiful way that these stories intertwine?
You never know how your story will impact someone else and be an encouragement and a hope for them. So, in closing, I encourage you to share YOUR story with others. Share these stories with others who might be going through similar challenges.
Justin is preparing for his next step—competing in a half marathon. I hope that his story will encourage others who are cancer survivors or who have been told that they “just have to live with” their post-surgical problems. There IS hope for more complete recovery, and for getting back to doing the things they love to do. Like running. And thriving, not just surviving, in life.
*names changed for client confidentiality. Client gave permission to share his story.
I woke up early this morning thinking about what I’m grateful for. And my thoughts surprised me.
I’m thankful for the Pain.
YES, the PAIN.
That sounds like a weird thing to be grateful for, doesn’t it? I wasn’t thankful for it at first.
But what happened as a result may not have happened without the pain!
So, I’m grateful for the physical PAIN I had 6 years ago. The nagging pain in my left hip and knees that didn’t get better on its own. The pain that pushed me to invest in my health and join a gym, which re-started my career in physical therapy.
I’m grateful for the financial PAIN I had at that time; without it I would not have been looking for a career change.
I’m now grateful for the PAIN of disappointment when plans that I had for my career re-start didn’t work out like I had hoped. Without that pain, I would have never started my own practice or become an entrepreneur.
How about the PAIN of broken relationships? I really struggle with this. Nobody wants strained friendships, business relationships gone wrong, or trust betrayed. It’s hard to be thankful for any of that. However, I recall what my business coach and mentor once said, “Everything that happens to me, good or bad, God uses as an opportunity to bless someone else.” So I trust in that truth. Sometimes it means asking forgiveness of the other person, or to forgive myself. Sometimes it forces me to look inward and see things I need to change so that I can be a better person. Sometimes it is realizing that the relationship needed to end and it’s okay to move on. I’m thankful for that ruthless trust. I’m thankful that God can use me, even when I mess up, to bless others.
I’m also thankful for those who told me I could NOT / should NOT do this because…
--I’m too old to get back in the game
(Wrong! I’m the perfect age for this)
--It’s too risky, better play it safe
(The safest place is in the middle of God’s will – I’m there!)
--I’m not good enough
(Tell that to my clients whose lives have been changed by this!)
So…thanks for the comments that it couldn’t be done because (blah, blah…). They just spurred me on to want this even more! To work harder, risk bigger, pray more, and ask for help when needed.
It’s not easy for me to ask for help. But I know that I can’t do this alone.
I am SO grateful for the many people that God placed in my life to help me get to where I am now. Some I’ve known for years, others just for a short season. It was no accident that the knowledge, skills and support they offered was exactly what I needed at just the right time. If you are one of those people, THANK YOU!
It may sound crazy, but I’m finding joy in the pain and disappointments.
I’ve been given an incredible and unique opportunity to help people. And they are so grateful to be able to regain their dignity, relieve their pain, and solve their embarrassing problems “down there”.
How about you? What difficult or painful things are you now thankful for? I’d love to hear about it!
“JIC”-ing = “Just In Case”
You know what I mean--
“Oh wait…l need to go before we leave (“just in case”)”
Does someone in your family do this? Do you do this? And how long have you been doing it?
Have you thought about WHY you do it? Is it because you really do need to go, or has it become habit?
JIC-ing is one habit that can actually create more problems for you! Many of us are unaware of this.
I’d like to tell you about a time when one person did become aware of it. After one of my workshops on bladder leakage, a lady in her late 50’s came up to me. We chatted for awhile, and she told me that she has been a JIC-er nearly her entire life. She didn’t realize it until now.
“Ever since I can remember, before we would leave the house to go anywhere, my mom always insisted that we use the bathroom first. ALWAYS. Even if I didn’t have to go, I had to at least TRY.”
She also admitted that she had been having urinary urgency problems, and has even had a few embarrassing accidents lately.
She paused awhile, then asked, “Do you think this habit could be related to my problem?”
Quite possibly, I told her. The reason is this: the brain and the bladder have a good communication system in place. It’s called Bradley’s Loop. Basically it’s a feedback system that tells our body when to fill the bladder, when to empty it, and when to use the pelvic floor muscles to keep the pee in or let it out. More about Bradley in our next blog post.
What JIC-ing does is that it messes up that system. Now the brain and bladder are getting false signals. The bladder is saying, "wait, I'm not even half full yet, but Brain is telling me to empty. What's going on?" Brain is saying, "Hey Bladder, what's your problem? I'm getting the signal that it's time to empty. Sorry if this signal came early, but you need to do this NOW."
The pelvic floor is down there, wondering how it should respond to the chaos. "Okay, do I relax or do I stay at resting tone? Bladder and brain, will you PLEASE make up your mind? Wait...WHAT NOW??!! My person is telling me to tighten while she is peeing? I'm supposed to be relaxing now!" (as in, you are doing your Kegels while you're urinating). "Fine, I'll just do whatever whenever I feel like it."
Let this become a regular habit, and you can actually retrain your bladder to act like a fussy baby! You start getting that sudden strong urge that screams for attention—“I WANNA GO -- NOW!!” Can you see how this scenario can get set up over time?
(BTW, this is one reason why Kegels alone may not help with urgency incontinence, and could make things worse!)
Can you change your JIC-ing habit? Absolutely yes! This really is a “mind over matter” thing.
The next time you are on auto-pilot toward the bathroom, stop and ask yourself,
Do I need to go pee, or is this just part of my habit?” The answer may surprise you!
Are you a nighttime JIC-er? Do you tend to get up more than 2 times a night to use the bathroom?
Did you know that this habit can nearly DOUBLE your fall risk at night? Not to mention increasing the risk of hip fractures. The consequences can be serious. And your bladder might not even need to be emptied so often!
Here's how to start changing this: whenever you wake up at night, ask yourself this:
Did I wake up BECAUSE I have to go pee, or did I wake up and decide I should go pee?
If your answer was " I woke up and decided I should go pee", then go back to sleep!
As we all know, habits can be broken. This is one habit that would be good to get rid of! If you find that you’re going to the bathroom at a certain time “just because”, and it has nothing to do with your bladder being full, then try waiting until you feel that signal that it’s time to go.
“But Laura, I’m afraid that if I wait, I’ll have an accident.”
“But I’m already at that ‘fussy baby’ stage; my bladder screams at me all the time now. Is it too late?”
No, it’s not too late. And I do understand the fear of changing this habit.
But is there a greater fear of losing your dignity, having your life controlled by your bladder, or having to live with this problem for the rest of your life?
There are things you CAN do to regain control over your bladder so that it no longer controls you! We can teach you how to win the “mind over matter” game, get Bradley’s loop working again, and break the JIC-ing habit, without relying on medication or surgery.
Interested? Contact us and find out how to take the next step!
As we approach one of the biggest holidays of the year, I know many of you can feel the stress bearing down on you – from gifts, to parties, to kids, to food, to travel arrangements, and (especially) to family matters, these things add up! Stress is no joke, and it affects almost every part of our lives: body, mind, spirit, and even social life. We all must find ways to cope under the pressure of life, and that’s why this post is all about--how you can start combating stress, right now.
But before we get to the ways in which you can deal with stress, let’s take a look at what stress is and exactly WHY it’s such a blow to our health.
Stress, in simple terms, is really a state of mental tension as a result of strenuous or demanding circumstances. What most people don’t realize, though, is that mental stress translates into a dramatic effect on your body. So, even though you’re experience mental fatigue and anxiety, your body is exhibiting its own problems.
Why? Well, first off, mental stress can quickly turn into a state where your body assumes the fight or flight response. In its most recognized form, this response is what happens when an individual is in a dangerous situation. In other words, a person either fights or runs. When faced with constant stress, however, the body reacts in the same way, only now the person doesn’t run – he or she just fights.
When the body is placed in a constant state of agitation in this way, adrenaline and cortisol are released. In small doses these hormones are essential to survival, yet in a stressful situation they can both be really harmful. Adrenaline, for example, increases your heart rate and blood pressure – both of which are detrimental long term. Cortisol, on the other hand, drastically alters the functioning of the immune system whilst suppressing appetite – again, both situations are extremely harmful in the long term. Here are some of the harmful side-effects of the prolonged exposure to these hormones:
But wait, before you feel as though you need to cancel Christmas this year, the good news is that there are ways with which to conquer stress. As with everything, your body just needs ways to cope, heal, and maintain a stress free routine. Here are some ideas I’d urge you to try:
It sounds so simple, but yet so many of us are feeding our stress by the way we breathe.
Stop and take notice of how you are breathing now, and how you breathe when you feel stressed. Is your breathing slow, deep, and from your belly, or is it shallow and more in your chest? Do you feel tightness in your jaw, your neck, your shoulders, even your pelvic area? This is quite common with “stress breathing.”
Now, take a nice deep breath through your nose, letting your belly expand out as you inhale. Let that jaw and those shoulders soften and relax. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Rest and repeat. Did you know that this kind of breathing actually calms down your nervous system? It’s a very simple but effective way to decrease stress, lower anxiety, and even reduce pain. Try it the next time you’re waiting in traffic, in the long checkout line at the store, or any other time that you find stressful.
Yoga or Other Exercise
Have you heard the saying that “getting onto the mat is the hardest part”? Well, that’s true. Trying gentle stretches and relaxation techniques, such as those found in yoga, is an excellent way to reduce stress levels. Namaste!
Not really into yoga? A brisk walk or run, some swimming, or a good sweaty workout at the gym or at home can do wonders to clear your mind and help your body process that stress in a positive way. Go and Move!
Make Sure you’re Getting Enough Sleep
Now, I know a lack of sleep is a side effect of a stressful state, but making the effort to get into bed earlier, turning your phone off at least an hour before bed, avoiding all screens in the bedroom, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment, is a definite way to help you release some of that stress.
This tip may not be at the top of your list, but I promise that a little quiet time, meditation, gentle music, or whatever works for you, will help you relax. Even 5 minutes can make a huge difference! Remember to breathe deeply and slowly, focusing on the present moment and being thankful for the opportunity to be alive.
Avoid excessively fatty, sugary, or salty foods, as these generally alter your mood and may aggravate the symptoms of stress. Why not try cooking new dishes or making tried and tested family-favorites? Take the time out to appreciate the love of food in a healthful, mindful way.
Truly, this is perhaps the most impressive stress-buster out there. Laugh with all your might – watch that comedy show, spend time with the relative who makes you giggle, do childlike, magical things that bring a smile to your face. Stress doesn’t stand a chance against unabashed happiness.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
No explanation needed. Love fiercely, wake up early, and sit down to a cup of java with your favorite people in the world.
Listen to Your Body
If you’re tired, have a rest. If you’re saying “yes” too often, say “no”. I often mention the importance of self-care: if you don’t take care of yourself first, it’s going to be hard to take care of others. Remember that the world won’t stop just because you take an hour for yourself. It’s so important to listen to your body – our natural instinct is to do what’s best for us. Just become quiet and listen closely… you’ll know what to do.
See a Physical Therapist
If your spasms don’t seem to ease, or you are in constant physical pain and discomfort due to stress, don’t wait. Those little aches and that pain can increase over time. The best thing you can do is to see a professional, qualified physical therapist to help you recover and feel your best. With some treatment and guidance, you’ll be ready for whatever this holiday season throws at you.
So, there you have it: essential tips for combating stress this holiday season and beyond. And remember to drink enough water! Don’t let stress affect your mind and body – take control and put the smile back on your face. Keep the adrenaline for unwrapping the gifts, and the cortisol for the chocolaty desserts – don’t let stress steal your joy.
We help active men and women get control over leakage, pain, or other problems “down there”, even if other treatments haven't worked. Even if they've been told nothing can be done. Even if it seems hopeless.
Laura McKaig PT
Specialist Physical Therapist