#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, August 21st, 2023 – Acute effects of resistance training on the pelvic floor

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic Division Leader Christina Prevett breaks down two recent studies, one that is VERY new to challenge beliefs on prolapse, the pelvic floor and strength training.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes.

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00:00 INTRO

Hey everyone, Alan here. Before we get into today’s episode, I’d like to take a moment to introduce our show sponsor Jane. If you don’t know about Jane, Jane is an all-in-one practice management software with features like online booking, scheduling, documentation, and a PCI-compliant payment solution. The time that you spend with your patients and clients is very valuable, and filling out forms during their appointment time can quickly take away from the time that you all have together. That’s why the team at Jane has designed online intake forms that your patients can complete from the comfort of their own homes. And to help them remember to fill out their forms, Jane has your back, with a friendly email reminder sent 24 hours before their appointment. This means they arrive ready to start their appointment, and you can arrive ready to help. Jane’s online intake forms are fully customizable to ensure you’re collecting everything you need ahead of time, whether that’s getting a credit card on file, insurance billing details, or a signed consent form. You can build out your intake forms from scratch or use templates from Jane’s template library and customize it further to meet your practice needs. If you’re interested in learning more, head on over to jane.app slash guide. Use the code ICEPT1MO at signup to receive a one-month grace period on your new account. Thanks everyone. Enjoy today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show.


Hello everybody and welcome to the PT on ICE Daily Show. My name is Christina Prevett. I am one of the team within our pelvic health division. If you are interested in learning more about our pelvic health division, we have a online newsletter that goes out every two weeks that focuses on the research, which I’m going to talk about today, in pelvic health. One of the things that is so exciting, but maybe a little bit overwhelming about being in public health and being in this area of exercise and rehab in the pelvic health space is that it is constantly changing. The research is coming out at a very fast pace, fast being relative because research is very slow, but we try and focus in on getting that research to your inboxes every two weeks. You can go to PTonICE.com slash resources and sign up for that newsletter. I am writing it this week and it goes out on Thursday. Also all of our online content, our next online cohort, and all of our upcoming live courses, our two-day live course is in that email newsletter. I hope that you all sign up to get all that research straight to your inbox.


Today I’m going to be talking about a new study that came out of Carrie Bowes’ lab, talking about the acute effects of resistance training on the pelvic floor. And so before I do that, I kind of want to set the stage for you all around some of the thoughts in pelvic health around heavy strength training. Where we have started this journey was that one of the risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse or descent of one or more of the vaginal walls towards the vaginal opening is that occupational heavy lifting. So individuals who lift heavy weights for their job, consistently lifting heavy weights, were shown to be at risk for more objective descent of one or more of those walls compared to those that didn’t. And that because we didn’t have any research on resistance training was extrapolated and said, well, maybe we shouldn’t do any strenuous heavy lifting as females in order to mitigate or prevent the risk of pelvic organ prolapse from occurring. That was kind of the thought. Since then, we have really pushed back against that narrative and said, well, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense because it’s very different to go in for eight hours a day doing lifting versus, you know, the 30 to 90 minutes that individuals are doing. In your job, you can’t control if you’re feeling bad or feeling weak and just take a rest day or modify the way that you’re doing your exercise. So again, there isn’t really that comparison.


And now we’re starting to get more and more research come out that’s talking about kind of this acute change to the pelvic floor that we’re seeing with different amounts of strength training or different types of strength training. So Carrie Bo came out with a study and what she was doing was she was taking individuals who were resistance trained. So on average, these were individuals who had never had kids. They were Nellie Parris. And so I never had a delivery and were trained resistance trained athletes. So they had on average about two years of experience. They were then put into a crossover design. So what that means was they took half the individuals and got them to strength train first and then took half the individuals and got them to rest first and then kind of compared. So what they were trying to look at was after a high load resistance training session, what was the impact on the pelvic floor? The thoughts were one of two camps. There’s two camps in this space. One is that individuals who strenuously lift are going to have bigger pelvic floor muscles, stronger pelvic floor muscles. And the other is that it may actually create damage over time that they’re going to see a big change in symptoms or change in vaginal descent. So you kind of have individuals in both of these camps and we’re trying to figure out which hypothesis is correct. And so they took, they did a one rep max or a perceived or rate of perceived exertion that was very high in the squat and the deadlift on one day. And then they got them to come back the next day. So after that one rep max test, they kind of flushed out, let the body recover, came back in. Half the group started with a rest window. So took pelvic floor muscle strength measures at the beginning pre, then half of them rested and did a post and then half of them did a four by four strength training session between 75 and 85% of their one rep max on the squat and the deadlift with reps in reserve between one and three and then did a post assessment and then they flipped, they flipped them. So what they saw was that there was no big differences, no statistically significant differences between the rest pre post, but then also the resistance training pre post. And I think that’s really interesting because one of the things that we kind of explain around our, our thoughts around heaviness or prolapse are things like that it’s a fatigue issue or so maybe it isn’t fatigue or maybe it is, but doing a supine assessment, which is our traditional way of conceptualizing pelvic floor muscle strengthening, isn’t sufficient to look at this type of, of fatigue, like to really evaluate this type of fatigue in individuals who are experiencing these symptoms. So that was really interesting. The other thing was that, you know, they did see some individuals who complained of urinary incontinence in this sample around 28%, I believe. And so those individuals, the study wasn’t powered enough to be able to subgroup those that experienced incontinence versus those that didn’t, but there, what it was not just on individuals who were symptom free. I think that’s a pro to this study because we can say, well, of course there isn’t any fatigue or any downstream effects of individuals who’ve never experienced pelvic floor dysfunction, but that’s not the case in this study. There was a significant cohort of these individuals who did experience leaking with lifting and the study just wasn’t powered enough to subgroup this out. So the first step was to kind of take a full circle approach and say, was there any differences? And then the next step is going to say, is there any differences for individuals who do experience pelvic floor dysfunction versus those that don’t? And then the next step is those that are multiparous or multiparous, like multiparous, we kind of, tomato, tomato, those who have had vaginal deliveries before or have given birth before vaginally versus those that haven’t. And so this is kind of setting up this conversation around the way that we message things. So another study was done in 2016 and I just found it because it was in the discussion section of this paper around vaginal descent. So Carrie said the Bowe study was looking at pelvic floor muscle strengthening, pelvic floor muscle strength and assessment.


The next question is around vaginal descent and are you more likely to experience symptoms of prolapse or heaviness post resistance training? And so this study was done in 2016, I believe it was published out of Janet Shaw and Ingrid lab that was looking at CrossFit athletes, those who experience, sorry, those who participate in strenuous exercise. So they got CrossFitters and they got them to do pre-post on the pop cue versus those that participate in non-strenuous exercise. So let’s kind of break this study down too, because I think it’s important. So in this second, this, I guess it was the first study, what the group from Nygaard and Shaw’s lab did was they took individuals who were CrossFitters, got to check their pelvic floor muscle strength and the pop cues. The pop cue is an objective assessment of prolapse that has good reliability that looks at the different segments of the different walls of the vagina. And then as they do a strain maneuver, they see what the range of motion or the amount of each segment of each component of the wall are, and then create a grade based on the most amount of movement in whichever section of the vaginal wall that may be. So they took individuals who were CrossFitters and then they took individuals who participated in non-strenuous, non-high impact exercise and got them to come into the lab. And then the strenuous group was, they did a pelvic floor muscle strength exam and then the pop cue and then in the non-strenuous group, they did the same thing. And then they got the CrossFit group, the strenuous group to do a 20 minute AMRAP of sit-ups, heavy deadlifts. There was an impact movement in there and kind of went for 20 minutes. And then they got the non-strenuous group to do 20 minutes of an exercise of their choice at a self-selected pace. And then they did the pop cue again. Here’s something that’s really interesting. So the strenuous group was participating in CrossFit for over two years. They had an extensive history of strenuous exercise versus the non-strenuous group. And they kind of conceptualized this based on looking at what they did for exercise and the amount of loading in their bones to try and get some sort of measure of impact, which I thought was kind of brilliant. And they compared them. Strenuous group had done a lot more loading of their bones and musculature and therefore loading of their pelvic floor compared to the other group. And what they saw was that before their pre-exercise, descent in pelvic floor muscle strength was not different. Was not different. So this created preliminary research that the strength, individuals who are participating in strength training for several years, so it was like on average 22 months plus or minus, and they had to have at least, I think, a year of doing CrossFit regularly, three to four times per week to be able to get into the study in the first place, that there was no difference in vaginal descent. They had, there was no differences between the two. So that kind of goes against this argument that resistance training is going to cause a prolapse, resistance training in general for individuals who haven’t had a vaginal birth yet. So I think that’s interesting. And then post-partum, or post-exercise rather, they did see differences in descent in both groups. So both groups saw a difference in descent immediately post-exercise, which again, I think is really interesting because this does not support that resistance training and high impact is going to lead to prolapse down the line. Now again, we have a lot of work to do within this space. This was one study. I’m not going to just start shouting from the rooftops that all of a sudden, you know, we know all of the things that we need to know. I’m not saying that, but the fear focused language that is coming into this space around resistance training and avoiding Valsalva and all these types of things isn’t founded objectively. So the other interesting thing was that there was only one individual, even though there was a change in descent, right? There was some changes pre-post-exercise and they didn’t re, they didn’t kind of follow them further and further forward. I would have loved to see them do multiple time points to see how long it took before that changed or kind of returned to baseline. There wasn’t anything that, that was looking at what, what that change of symptoms were.


And there was only one person with subjective symptoms of prolapse. So again, we’re, we’re seeing this disconnect between objective signs and subjective experiences, which I think again is really interesting because we are focusing a lot on the grade, like what grade do you have? What grade do you have? And the evidence isn’t really supporting that we, that should be our focus. If you are thinking surgical routes, if it is coming past the level of the Hymen, absolutely, because then we’re going to say, is this impacting your quality of life? Is there sufficient imaging data to see that a surgery, for example, would be warranted? For individuals in the conservative space, again, we’re, we’re, we’re questioning, does the objective signs matter? And, you know, we can’t answer that question, but it is an interesting thought experiment and we’re starting to have more evidence accumulate that, you know, there is a big disconnect. And yes, our body is going to change and show signs of fatigue with things like impact, but what’s the cost benefit? What is the risk of telling people that they shouldn’t be getting strong for their 60-year-old self, for their 70-year-old self, for their 85-year-old self, when we know that strength is such a huge, huge component of independence in later life? So it is so exciting, kind of going through Carrie Bowes where she didn’t see any change in pelvic floor muscle strength to some of the research coming out of the Nygaard and Shaw lab that are talking about changes in pelvic organ support with heavy lifting and long-term heavy lifting. I think we’re starting to get more and more data that the fear-focused messages aren’t warranted, that we’re going to start treating the symptoms and that we can expect changes to the pelvic floor when the pelvic floor gets a workout. Again, I don’t think for anybody in the ice fitness forward community that that is necessarily a surprising finding, but it is definitely pushing some of the narratives in pelvic health and I think pushing them in a really necessary direction to try and change this narrative around the fear-focused language of resistance training in the pelvic floor. If you are interested in those studies, I’ll post their DOIs below in the comment section. I am so excited to be talking about this research. Again, if you are a research nerd like me and you want to see the new studies that are coming out in this space, which these two studies are going to be in our newsletter this next week, I encourage you to go to ptonice.com slash resources to look for the pelvic newsletter. I am really excited to see some of the changes happening within our course and I just can’t wait to continue connecting with you all about research in the pelvic health space. All right. Have a great day, everyone, and I will talk to you soon. 

16:40 OUTRO

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