I recently had the special honor of conducting an interview with pelvic floor physical therapist Dr. Julie Sarton, PT, DPT, WCS. She is the owner and founder of Sarton Physical Therapy in Orange County, California, and considered an expert in pelvic pain. Before founding her own practice, Julie founded and served as Director of the Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy program and on faculty at the University of California, Irvine. Here she shares part of her story, and what pelvic floor physical therapy encompasses.
1. What made you decide to become a physical therapist, specifically a pelvic floor physical therapist?
When I think back there were two people who had the most influence on my professional life. My brother inspired me to become a physical therapist. He has battled a complex seizure disorder and severe learning disabilities his entire life. Watching him and my parents struggle to find resources to help him lit the fire for me to serve a population that is under-treated in general. After discovering my love of learning for anatomy and the brain (neuroanatomy) in undergrad, I decided physical therapy was my calling and headed off to grad school to get my doctorate in the field.
Once in physical therapy school my late uncle, Dr. James Carter, planted the seed for me to become a pelvic floor physical therapist. He was an OBGYN in South Orange County, a founder of the International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS), author of dozens of articles and a pioneer in his field.* One of the things I respected most about my uncle was that he thought outside the box and looked at his patients holistically. Continue reading
Have you recognized the power of your perspective? Do you realize the difference that your outlook on life or your perception of a particular situation can make? I have heard this concept discussed many times, and I have believed it on a general level for most of my life. But, it hasn’t been until more recently that I’ve begun to realize just how powerful our perspective can be.
Let me share a very recent example of my own experience of perspective. I have been feeling very overwhelmed these past few weeks, inundated with life stuff, both good and bad. I feel exhausted, wondering why I always seem to end up in the middle of everything, and just wanting a nice long break. Without even realizing it, I have let negative thoughts take over my mind. And not necessarily the obviously negative self-criticism or ‘doom and gloom’ thoughts, just generally negative. Concerns about a friend’s difficult situation and what specific steps she needs to take to get back on track, if only she could see it. Worries about this year’s goals at work and how big and overwhelming they seem. So many constant thoughts that are unconstructive and discouraging, filling my mind so there is no room left for the positive. No wonder I have been feeling so tired and overwhelmed!
Once I realized what I had been doing, I was able to make a conscious effort to flip those negative thoughts through a positive perspective. Continue reading
There are many techniques performed in physical therapy that can be incorporated into your own self-treatment regimen. Skin rolling is one of easiest because there isn’t necessarily a wrong way to do it (or at least none that I have discovered). For those of you who think I am referring to some type of ancient form of torture, let me assure you that skin rolling is not as scary as it sounds.
Skin rolling is a type of myofascial release. You can find a lot of information just by typing “myofascial” into your favorite search engine, but here’s my abbreviated definition. The “myo” means muscle and “fascial” is pertaining to the fascia or connective tissue that surrounds every muscle, bone, ligament, and organ in our bodies. Thus, myofascial release is simply a way of releasing tension or constriction in the connective tissue around our muscles. I find skin rolling a pretty interesting technique because it so clearly demonstrates the presence of constricted fascia and muscles (I’ll get into this further after I describe the technique).
Step 1: Show some skin!
Don’t be fooled by the names of these yoga poses—child’s pose and happy baby are great for all ages. I previously shared how beneficial I believe yoga to be for those with pelvic pain (Go with the yoga flow). Now I want to share my two favorite poses for hypertonic pelvic floor dysfunction: child’s pose and a modified version of happy baby. Both of these poses were recommended by my physical therapist and incorporated into my home therapy long before I ever attended a yoga class. If you have not yet discovered these poses, I hope that you can incorporate them into your own healing practice as well.
Child’s pose and modified happy baby are my go-to poses for when I have flare ups of pelvic pain and muscle spasms, and I think you’ll see why. Continue reading
I believe that yoga is good for everyone but great for those with hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, a common cause of pelvic pain.
My physical therapist recommended yoga to me many years ago, but it took me a while to finally try it out. Eventually I found a cute little yoga studio near my house and went to their level zero class (yes, I said level zero and I’m not ashamed). I have been practicing at least once a week for over three years and have seen great results. I was never a very flexible person and when I first started I couldn’t even touch my toes. My balance was so bad that I had to lean on a wall to steady myself just to put a sock on, and we won’t even go into how weak my muscles were. Today I can reach beyond my toes to plant my palms firmly on the floor, I can hold tree pose with the best of them, and my friends like to joke about being jealous of my ‘yoga arms’.* Even more amazing, my sciatica pain that used to flare often is now nonexistent. Continue reading
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV)
This verse has a lot that we can apply to our lives such as doing good works and the way of life Christ followers should live. But what has personally spoken into my life is the first line—we are what he has made us. If you suffer from painful sex or any kind of pelvic pain, it can be easy to fall into negative thoughts. What is wrong with me? Did God mess up when he created me? Did I do something wrong along the way to end up here? Why me? Why did it have to be this way? Continue reading
I have mentioned in previous posts that I have something called hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. That is kind of a long and complicated name, so I want to take a moment to explain what it actually means. I ask for some grace from any physical therapists or doctors out there who are reading this as I may not be perfectly accurate in some aspects of my definition. And, I encourage those of you who do not yet have an accurate diagnosis to do some additional research from a more medically based source (and Wikipedia doesn’t count). However, this should provide you with a good introduction based on my personal understanding and experience with hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Continue reading