#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, May 13th, 2024 – Cut to the core: LBP in the OR

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic faculty member April Dominick shares a case of an OBGYN client with lumbar radiculopathy and the unique approach to core training that increased the client’s tolerance to sustained positions with less pain in the OR.

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Good morning, PT on Ice Daily Show. My name is Dr. April Dominick and I am here with the Ice Pelvic Division to talk to you about a current client case I have on cutting to the core, a case of the low back pain in the OR. So today I’ll talk to you about a doctor with lumbar radiculopathy. radiculopathy that I’ve been treating, and the unique approach we took to core training that increased her tolerance to sustained positions in the OR and reduced her pain. a bit about my client. She is a cheerful female obstetrician in her early 30s who lives a very healthy, active lifestyle. She is strong. She loves to ski, hike, lift. She also lifts really heavy, which we love. And she came to me with a myriad of complaints of TMJ pain, headaches, cervical thoracic pain, and reports about 80 to 90% improvement with those issues. And then for the purposes of this podcast, we will just focus on her hip and low back pain. So she described it as aching, stabbing, and she, that was for the low back pain, as well as her right-sided hip pain. It was a six out of 10 at worst and three out of 10 at best. that intermittently worsens. And her pain originally started after she had to sit for a prolonged period of time in order to study for her boards for residency, something that we all are very familiar with. And she sought PT care with me about six months after when the pain had been steadily worsening. And then the final straw was she had 10 consecutive days of pain in her hip and back after a really long shift in the OR. So things that made it worse, exacerbating factors, prolonged sitting, prolonged standing, so any sort of prolonged positioning, sometimes heavy lifting days at the gym, especially leg day, and work days. And then easing factors, stretching, changing positions, supportive shoe wear at work, or sometimes exercise would help it, So after her subjective and objective exams, signs and symptoms pointed towards lumbar radiculopathy, coupled with some right hip labral pathology, and she had moderate irritability. So I took her through the typical lumbar radiculopathy and intraarticular hip treatment, including manual therapy like manipulation, dry needling plus stem, I dialed in some back and hip strengthening and mobility. And then she also responded really well to a little EMOM that I gave her for when she had acute severe flare-ups in between our sessions, which included some cardiovascular bike intervelling to address her chronic inflammatory state, nerve glides, and isometrics. So after a few sessions, she made really awesome improvement in, she had improved in neurodynamics testing. Her weekly frequency went from having pain daily to every couple of days, which was great. And then her intensity and duration of those pain cycles also reduced. Love it. And then her progress stalled, and she continued to have some low-level symptoms that would flare. And the culprits seemed to be work. Particularly, we narrowed it down to her labor and delivery shifts, where she had to hold sustained positions, as opposed to when she was working in the clinic and she was getting up and down from her stool or moving between patients’ rooms.

So it wasn’t until we unpacked two key pearls that we began to make another difference. So during initial eval, she had, when I asked her, she had denied any bladder, bowel, or sexual dysfunction. And given that I was able to reproduce her pains, why she came in, with specific exam of the lumbar spine and her right hip capsule and surrounding musculature, Pelvic floor dysfunction wasn’t high on my hypothesis list, but given our roadblock in progress, I decided to go ahead and screen the pelvic floor externally. And when I palpated her obturator internus externally, and then we did some further testing internally, it reproduced her lingering secondary hip pain on the right lower extremity. So she had like a major hip pain. And then we found out she had, um, another hip pain that she hadn’t really noticed as much, um, because of the other pains had kind of been so overpowering. So, um, she also had some difficulty, um, from the pelvic floor side of things and in relaxing, she had some hypertonicity throughout and then, um, some coordination issues. So we treated the pelvic floor, did manual therapy, dry needling to the obturator internus, along with some circuits with her low back and hip. And that seems to have really helped her quite a bit as well. So that was the first thing that helped us in this stalled progress was lesson number one, don’t forget that there are bits and pieces of the hips that share a wall with the pelvic floor. and that the OI lives in that pelvic bowl and it’s a direct connector over to the hip via the greater trochanter that it inserts on and it influences hip stability, hip rotation, and that was one of our key pieces in helping her get some more improvement.

The Second piece that really helped move the needle and address those lingering back and hip symptoms was getting more specific about her job demands and environment. So specifically when she is working in the OR, our operating room, if we can’t change her job duties, like she has to deliver babies, that is her job, what can we affect? Can we set her environment up for success, specifically as it relates to VOR. So in the clinic, we set up her operating room using what we could, and we went through things like, what is the table width and the height? We positioned her tools. I asked her where her coworkers stand in relation to her. We talked about the amount and direction that she’s leaning over the OR table. She ended up describing a really common position that she ends up in, which is a right side bend and rotation. And that is, if you remember, her hip pain is on the right side. So that was really helpful. And then we also looked at the percent of or we kind of labeled it in an RPE way of the isometric pull during retraction of the abdominal tissue for her C-sections. So I basically had her try out different percentages of pulling and and she kind of landed on, okay, this is about how much I have to pull when I am either using my own strength to do that retraction, or if I’m using tools to do that retraction. So we then, after I got her table set up in my brain, I also asked about detailed information of the surgeries itself. So of the C-sections in particular, about how, With the C-section itself, how is time split up? You have to do a lot of retraction. That seems like the thing that she’s doing in a sustained position. When does that happen? And come to find out for her, it happens in two-thirds of the time that she’s in the C-section. So there’s like a first retraction and then there’s some other things and then there’s a second retraction. So that was helpful to know that there were some breaks, so to speak. And, um, then we, uh, we talked about her, uh, average time it takes to have her symptoms come on during the C-section. And, um, she has to do multiple C-sections a day, uh, intermixed with some vaginal deliveries. So we, we talked about, is it within the C-section if it’s a particularly long one for some reason, about when does your symptoms come on or after about how many. So all of that was really helpful information. And then we, we did some treatment. So we brainstormed strategies that she could use in the OR. Can she Use the retractor tool instead of her actual hands or her own strength to help reduce some of that burden on her body. And then can she use tools like a step stool to increase her height or get closer to the table, redistribute her weight, use the step stool to put one leg up on top, or even the bottom of the table sometimes has that. And then an anti-fatigue mat or supportive shoe wear. And then I asked her if she would be able to sneak in some lumbar extensions or side bending just in the OR when she’s not actively assisting with the retractions just to give her body a break from that sustained position. And then increasing reliance on the other staff on her residence to give her a break prior to her reaching that symptom threshold of more than five or six out of 10. So that was super helpful for what she could do in the OR. And then we talked about what she could do before her surgeries. And this is where the core piece comes in. So she sometimes is able to return back to her office or back to the floor between her C-sections and vaginal deliveries for her shift. which led us to creating a quick core rehab EMOM, every minute on the minute, that focuses on multi-planar core strengthening and endurance for those long duration positions. It’s that duration piece that seemed to really exacerbate her symptoms. So the core remom we came up with includes neutral and extended trunk work, side bending and rotation of the trunk. And we threw in some isometrics as well as mobilizations just to help with both the pain from an analgesic effect with the isometrics and then some mobilization given that she is just in that sustained position for so long. So for the core remom, I gave her basically three to four categories that she could choose one exercise for to do for a minute. And she could do anywhere from a three to four minute remom all the way up to 12 to 16 minutes, depending on what time she had. So for the core remom, in the neutral slash extension category, she could do a reverse plank for a 45 second hold. And then we talked about having a tote bag filled with a bunch of the medical textbooks that are just collecting dust in her office, two tote bags actually, and that was going to be her load for some of these exercises. So she could put the tote bag on top of her for that reverse plank to add load. We also did a side plank plus a top leg raise hold. She could use her loop band that she brought if she wanted. And a loaded windmill. So that was the, sorry, the loaded windmill is actually in the side bending category. So for the neutral extension, she had the reverse plank for about 45 seconds. as well as prone press-ups. And we found out that the prone press-ups tended to make her feel better from the discogenic symptoms she would have after the surgery itself. From a side bending category, so next category side bending, we had her do standing heavy farmer’s carry with a band on her feet. So she’d have to work her hip flexors during that time and anterior core. and obliques. And then she had the side plank with the leg raise and then the loaded windmill. And then from the rotation category, we had her pick, or actually we just had her do a banded doorway. She could either do diagonal chopping, so that P and F pattern, or lifting. And that was really helpful because it really mimicked the retraction kind of pull that she had to do. And so I had her do it in different positions, tall kneeling, all upright, tall kneeling, half lunging, and then standing. And I had her match the percentage of pull or the RPE that we talked about, I had her either match it or go a little bit higher that she has to use her own body weight or the retractor tools in surgery. So we could kind of get her used to practicing that pull with good breathing mechanics and then also good awareness of her core. And then a bonus, was some hip and back mobility, like banded long axis distraction, quadruped rocks, or thread the needle. So that’s a bonus if she wanted as well. So all that, she only needed a long band, a loop band, and then her tote bags filled with the medicine textbooks. And with that, She’s been able to incorporate that into, um, before some of her C-sections or at least before the first couple, as well as, um, in between. And she has had some really awesome results in terms of reducing her low back pain, hip pain, and being able to tolerate standing in the OR and working on these individuals as much as she could. Um, so love that. And it was really cool to be able to, brainstorm and put ourselves in her actual environmental situation as best as best that we could to figure out what it was that she was doing with her body and how we could use her core to better support her so that her hips and low back didn’t have to do all the work as well.

So Our pearls from today don’t underestimate the power of a 30 second external pelvic floor objective screen, even in the absence of bowel, bladder, sexual dysfunction, when there’s hip involvement on the table. Even me as a pelvic floor PT, I missed that in this particular case, she did have a lot of other things going on, but it was interesting to find just a little bit of that secondary hip pain that we hadn’t uncovered initially. And then taking that deeper dive into understanding the nuts and bolts of someone’s job duties and environment to paint a clearer picture. And then with this case in particular, OI-focused obturator internist-focused treatment, as well as brainstorming strategies to alter the environment during the case itself, as well as priming the anterior core and hip with that focused multi-planar remom, helped her diminish some of her lingering hip and back symptoms. And we were able to raise the threshold that she could tolerate in terms of the number of C-sections that she could complete. So, success all around. If y’all want to dive deeper into the latest research on the core as it relates to pelvic health and some examples of actually some of these remoms that you can practice with early core management or advanced core management, then join us live. You can grab a seat on PTOnIce.com. Our next courses are in Kearney, Missouri this coming weekend, May 18th and 19th, and a double header June 1st and 2nd will be in Anchorage, Alaska and Highland, Michigan. Everyone have a wonderful week and I hope that helped you out with some of your cases.

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