Archive for February, 2018

When Sex Hurts (and Pain Replaces Pleasure)

February 24, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD    2/24/2018

Sex should be pleasurable and enjoyable, but sadly, that is not always the case.  Dyspareunia is doctor-speak for difficult or painful sexual intercourse, derived from dys, meaning “difficult” and the Greek term pareunos, meaning “lying with.” Although more typically a female complaint, dyspareunia does not spare the male gender.

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Thank you Pixabay for image above

A Mechanistic View of Sexual Intercourse

A mechanical view of sexual intercourse is that it is an activity that involves moving parts that need to be lubricated and fit together properly for optimal function.  The “piston” component of an engine moves up and down within the “cylinder,” requiring appropriate fitting together of these component parts and sufficient lubrication to avoid excessive friction among the moving parts. “Piston clearance” is the clearance or gap between piston and cylinder.  If piston clearance is too small, the piston can “seize” inside the cylinder on expansion. If the pistons fits too tightly within the cylinder, it can result in excessive friction and damage to the cylinder wall.  The bottom line is that problems can arise if the piston does not properly fit the cylinder or if there is inadequate lubrication of contact points.

 Causes of Female Dyspareunia

  • Size discrepancy with partner – The vagina is an incredibly accommodating organ capable of tremendous stretch and expansion—think vaginal delivery of a 10-lb. baby—so this is relatively rare, but a woman with petite anatomy who couples with an outsized male can be a formula for pain. A lengthy penis can strike the cervix or vaginal fornix and a penis with formidable girth may prove excessive for a narrow vagina, resulting in “collision dyspareunia.”
  • Vaginal scarring – Scar tissue from pelvic or vaginal surgery, birth trauma, or poor healing of episiotomies can alter vaginal anatomy and make sexual intercourse painful and challenging.
  • Menopause – Estrogen nourishes and nurtures the genital tissues.  Declining levels of estrogen after menopause cause the vaginal walls to thin, become more fragile and less supple, and the amount of vaginal lubrication to diminish.
  • Infection – Vaginitis (vaginal infections), bacterial cystitis (bladder infection), interstitial cystitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infections of the paraurethral (Skene’s glands) can all give rise to pain.
  • Endometriosis –The lining tissue within the uterus called the endometrium can implant outside the uterus, causing painful intercourse.
  • Hypertonic pelvic floor – This is a condition–also called vaginismus– in which the pelvic floor muscles are taut and over-tensioned and fail to relax properly, which can cause painful intercourse, if sex is even possible.
  • Vulvodynia – This is a condition marked by hypersensitive vulvar tissues that are extremely tender to touch.
  • Loss of vaginal lubrication –  This can happen from menopause (natural or from surgery), side effects of medications, breast-feeding, as well as insufficient foreplay.
  • Disuse atrophy – Use it or lose it; if one has not been sexually active for prolonged times, there can be loss of tissue integrity and vaginal atrophy.   Staying sexually active keeps one’s anatomy toned and supple.
  • Urethral diverticulum – This is an acquired outpouching from the urethra channel that can cause a cystic mass in the vagina that can result in pain with sex.
  • Psychological/emotional – “The mind suffers…the body cries out.” Emotionally or physically traumatic sexual experiences can negatively affect future sexual experiences.

Causes of Male Dyspareunia

Urologists sometimes refer to male dysparenuia as “his-pareunia–not a legitimate medical word, but to the point!

  • Infections —Infections of the prostate (prostatitis) and urethra (urethritis) can cause pain with ejaculation.
  • Peyronie’s disease – Scarring of the sheath of the erectile cylinders gives rise to an angulated and often painful penis, particularly so with erections.
  • Phimosis — This is a condition is which the foreskin is tight and cannot be drawn back, leading to inflammation, pain and swelling.
  • Tethered frenulum — The frenulum is a narrow band of tissue that attaches the head of the penis to the shaft; at times it can tear during sexual intercourse, causing bleeding and pain.
  • Penile enlargement procedures – Efforts to “bulk up” the penis with injections of fat, silicone and other tissue or prosthetic grafts can result in an unsightly, lumpy, discolored, and painful penis.
  • Improperly sized penile implants – Penile implants can be lifesavers for the sexually non-functional or poorly functional male, but need to be sized precisely, like shoes for one’s feet.  If too large, they can result in penile pain and pain with sex.
  • Her issues causing his pain – Mesh exposure is a condition in which a mesh implant–used in females to help support dropped pelvic organs and to cure stress urinary incontinence–is “exposed” in the vagina, which feels on contact like sandpaper and can result in both female and male dyspareunia.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

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The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 3

February 17, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD   2/17/2018

What follows in this and the next few blog entries are pelvic training programs that I have crafted based on my specialized training in pelvic medicine and surgery; clinical experience; and interactions with physical therapists, exercise/fitness experts, Pilates instructors, yoga instructors and most importantly, my patients. Programs have been designed to treat areas of pelvic floor muscle weakness, e.g., if strength is the issue, emphasis on strength training is in order, whereas if  pelvic stamina is the issue, focus on endurance training is appropriate.

There are few, if any, pelvic programs in existence that are designed for specific pelvic floor dysfunctions, as what is generally out there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  I have created “tailored” PFMT exercise routines, customized for the particular pelvic health issue at hand, including stress urinary incontinence (SUI), overactive bladder (OAB), pelvic organ prolapse (POP), sexual/orgasm issues and pelvic pain.

Program Flexibility

These programs are not designed with the intent that they be rigidly adhered to, as they can be customized to make them work for you, recognizing that every woman and every pelvic floor is unique. You can modify the programs and experiment with all variables—intensity, power, contraction and relaxation duration, number of reps and number of sets, with the ultimate objective of challenging the pelvic muscles to make them stronger, better toned, firmer, more flexible and healthier.

Do what feels right and works for you, building to your maximal potential over time. If you feel fatigued before completing the number of reps recommended, do as many quality contractions as you can do.  If you cannot maintain contraction intensity for the duration recommended, do the best you can. Three sets per session are ideal, but if you find this too challenging, you can do two sets, or even just one. If you find that completing 3 sets becomes a simple task, you can do 4 or 5 sets as your PFM become stronger and more durable.

The 3 Types of Pelvic Floor Muscle Contractions

There are three basic types of PFM contractions based upon the duration and intensity of the contraction.  Three “S” words make these contractions easy to remember: Snaps, Shorts and Sustained.

Snaps are rapid, high intensity pulses of the PFM that take less than one second per cycle of contracting and relaxing. These are the type of PFM contractions that occur involuntarily at the time of sexual climax, so should be easy to understand and perform.

Shorts are slower, less intense squeezes of the PFM that can last anywhere from two to five seconds (with equal time allotted to the relaxing phase).

Sustained PFM contractions are less intense squeezes that last ten seconds or longer (with an equal time in the relaxing phase).  These are the type of PFM contractions that you use when you have a strong desire to urinate or move your bowels but do not have access to a bathroom and must apply effort to “hold it in.”

Warming Up

Before starting the PFMT program, I recommend a warm-up week to practice and become familiar with snaps, shorts and sustained contractions. Do not start the formal PFMT until you feel comfortable with all three contractions. Do the Oxford strength and endurance testing to obtain baseline values before you begin the warm-up week.

If your Oxford grade is 0-2, consider yourself to have weak PFM. If you cannot do more than 20 snaps, 15 shorts or one-10 second sustained contraction, consider your endurance poor. If your PFM strength is good, but your endurance is poor, use the program tailored for poor endurance. If you have a specific pelvic dysfunction that you would like to focus on improving, use the program tailored to that specific dysfunction. If you suffer with more than one pelvic floor dysfunction, e.g., both pelvic organ prolapse  and stress urinary incontinence, determine which issue is most compelling and disturbing to you and start with that specific program. If you feel that the problems are equal in degree, complete one program followed in succession by the other.

Warm-Up Week: Do as many good quality snaps as possible until you feel that you can no longer do them with full intensity.  Take a short break and then do as many good quality shorts until you feel that your efforts are diminishing.  Finally, do a sustained contraction for as long as you can until fatigue sets in. After a short break, repeat the sustained contraction.  Do this warm-up every other day for this preliminary week before proceeding with the programs.

…To be continued in 2 weeks.  Next week’s entry will take a break from PFM training to cover “When Sex Hurts and Pain Replaces Pleasure.”

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (the female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 2

February 10, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD    2/10/18

This is a continuation of last week’s entry.  Remember, PFMT is equally appropriate for males as well as females –both genders have these important muscles that can benefit from whipping them into shape.

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The basic PFMT programs that follow are “low tech” exercises of the PFM without added resistance.  They can be thought of as PFMT 101, the goal of which is to provide the foundation for pelvic muscle proficiency. After mastery of basic PFMT, progression to the next phase of conditioning—resistance training—is in order.

PFMT is the essence of “functional fitness,” exercises that develop PFM strength, power, stamina and the skillset that can be used to improve and/or prevent specific pelvic functional impairments. PFMT regimens must be flexible and nuanced, designed and customized with particular functional needs in mind, i.e., issues of pelvic support, urinary control, sexual function, pain, etc., as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.  An additional consideration is baseline PFM strength and stamina.  After determining an area of weakness, focused effort should be applied to this deficit.

Time to Begin

You do not need to go to a gym, wear athletic clothing, have any special equipment, or dedicate a great deal of time to PFMT. It is vital to do properly performed, quality PFM contractions with the goal of slow and steady progress. Experiencing some aching and soreness as you begin is not uncommon.

If you are pursuing PFMT for specific pelvic issues, expect that it may take a number of weeks or more to see an improvement in your symptoms.  After you have noticed a beneficial effect, the exercise regimen must be maintained, because regression can occur if the pelvic muscles are not consistently exercised…”use it or lose it” applies here.

Basic PFMT exercises can be performed lying down, sitting upright in a comfortable chair with your back straight, or standing. It is best to begin lying down, to minimize gravity, which makes the exercises more challenging. Regardless of position, it is essential to maintain good form, posture and body alignment while doing PFMT. It is important to relax your abdomen, buttocks and thighs. Breathe slowly and do not hold your breath. Even though no muscle group works alone, by trying to isolate the PFM and focusing on squeezing only the PFM, you will make more rapid progress. You should not be grimacing, grunting or sweating, as PFMT is, in part, a meditative pursuit that employs awareness, focus, mindfulness and intention while performing deliberate contractions of the PFM.

Helpful metaphor: “Snap” describes a brief, vigorous, well-executed contraction of the PFM. With increasing PFM command, these pelvic muscles can be “snapped” like your fingers.

There are six variables with respect to PFM contractions:

  1. contraction intensity
  2. contraction duration
  3. relaxation duration
  4. power
  5. repetitions
  6. sets

Contraction intensity refers to the extent that the PFM are squeezed, ranging from a weak flick of the muscles to a robust and vigorous contraction. The contraction duration is the amount of time that the squeeze is sustained, ranging from a “snap”—a rapid pulsing of the PFM, to a “sustained hold”—a long duration contraction. The relaxation duration is the amount of time the PFM are unclenched until the next contraction is performed. Power is a measure of contraction strength and speed, the ability to rapidly achieve a full intensity contraction. Repetitions (reps) are the number of contractions performed in a single set (one unit of exercise).

It is relatively easy to intensively contract your PFM for a brief period, but difficult to maintain that intensity for a longer duration contraction. It is unlikely that you will be able to maintain the intensity of contraction of a sustained hold as you would for a snap.

The better PFMT regimens utilize a combination of snaps, few-second contractions and sustained duration contractions to reap the benefits of both strength and endurance training.

Fact: Short duration, high intensity contractions build strength and power, whereas longer duration, less intense contractions will build endurance, both vital elements of fit PFM.

Incremental change—the gradual and progressive increase in the intensity of contraction, duration of contraction, number of reps and number of sets performed—is the goal.  Performing the program 3-4 times weekly is desirable since recovery days are important for skeletal muscles.

PFMT is not an extreme program; nonetheless, it is by no means an undemanding program, and certainly requires effort and perseverance.  Depending on your level of baseline PFM fitness, you may find the exercises anywhere in the range from relatively easy to quite challenging. Your PFM are unique in terms of their shape, size and strength and consequently expectations regarding results will vary from individual to individual.

After a month or so, you should be on your way to achieving basic conditioning of the PFM. Reassessing the PFM by repeating the Oxford grading and the PFM endurance tests that you measured at baseline should demonstrate objective evidence of progress. More importantly, you should start noticing subjective improvement in many of the domains that PFM fitness can influence.  Once you have mastered non-resistance training, it is time to move on to resistance training, in which you squeeze your PFM against the opposing force of resistance in an effort to accelerate the PFMT.

If you are challenged by the non-resistance PFMT or cannot or prefer not to use resistance—which for women requires the placement of a device in your vagina and for men the ability to achieve a rigid erection—you can continue with the non-resistance training using it as a “maintenance” program.  PFM maintenance training typically requires continuing with the PFMT program, but performing it less frequently, twice weekly usually being sufficient.

To be continued next week…

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 1

February 3, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  2/3/18

I received intensive exposure to surgical aspects of pelvic health at UCLA School of Medicine, where I spent a year training in pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery following completion of my urology residency at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This background, coupled with my passion for health, fitness and the benefits of exercise, led to my interest in PFMT as a means of optimizing pelvic health and to avoid, or at times facilitate, surgical management of pelvic floor dysfunctions.  Is it traditional for a pelvic surgeon to espouse non-surgical treatments?  Not at all, but after decades in the urology/gynecology “trenches,” I have concluded that PFMT is a vastly unexploited resource that offers significant benefits.

Photo below: Yours truly on left with Dr. Shlomo Raz (UCLA professor who is “father” of female urology) on right (1988)

shlomo and andy

 

“Strength training improves muscle vitality and function.” These seven words embody a key principle of exercise physiology that is applicable to the PFM.

Introduction

There is little to no consensus regarding the nuances and details of PFMT programs.  There is no agreement on the best position in which to do PFMT; the number of sets to perform; the number of repetitions per set; the intensity of PFM contractions; the duration of PFM contractions; the duration of PFM relaxation; and how often to do PFMT. The particulars of many PFMT routines are arbitrary at best. In fact, Campbell’s Urology—the premier textbook—concludes: “No PFMT regimen has been proven most effective and treatment should be based on the exercise physiology literature.”  

My goal is to take the arbitrary out of PFMT, providing thoughtfully designed, specifically tailored programs crafted in accordance with Dr. Arnold Kegel’s precepts, exercise physiology principles and practical concepts.

Dr. Kegel’s precepts are summarized as follows:

  • Muscle education
  • Feedback
  • Progressive intensity
  • Resistance

Exercise physiology principles as applied to PFMT include the following (note that there is some overlap with Dr. Kegel’s precepts and practical concepts):

  • Adaptation: The process by which muscle growth occurs in response to the demands placed upon the PFM, with adaptive change in proportion to the effort put into the exercises.
  • Progression: The necessity for more challenging exercises in order to continue the process of adaptive change that occurs as “new normal” levels of PFM fitness are established. This translates into slowly and gradually increasing contraction intensity, duration of contractions, number of PFM repetitions and number of sets.
  • Distinguishing strength, power and endurance training: Strength is the maximum amount of force that a muscle can exert; power is a measure of this strength factoring in speed, i.e., a measure of how quickly strength can be expressed. Endurance or stamina is the ability to sustain a PFM contraction for a prolonged time and the ability to perform multiple contractions before fatigue sets in. High intensity PFM contractions build muscle strength, whereas less intensive but more sustained contractions build endurance. Power is fostered by rapidly and explosively contracting the PFM.
  • “Use it or lose it”: The “plasticity” of the PFM—the adaptation in response to the specific demands placed on the muscles—requires continued training, at minimum a “maintenance” program after completion of a course of PFMT.
  • Full range of motion: The goal of PFMT is not only to increase strength, power and endurance, but also flexibility. This is accomplished by bringing the muscle through the full range of motion, which at one extreme is full contraction (muscle shortening), and at the other, complete relaxation (muscle lengthening). The exception to this is for muscles that are already over-tensioned, which need to be relaxed through muscle lengthening exercises.

Practical concepts encompass the following:

  • Initially training the PFM in positions that remove gravity from the picture, then advancing to positions that incorporate gravity.
  • Beginning with the simplest, easiest, briefest PFM contractions, then proceeding with the more challenging, longer duration contractions.
  • Slowly and gradually increasing exercise intensity and degree of difficulty.
  • Aligning the specific pelvic floor dysfunction with the appropriate training program that focuses on improving the area of weakness, since each pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with specific deficits in strength, power and/or endurance.

To be continued….

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (the female version is in the works): PelvicRx