Interview with Julie Wiebe of the #pelvicmafia | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

Interview with Julie Wiebe of the #pelvicmafia

Julie Wiebe and I go waaaaay back! Flash back to over 3 years ago when there was no #SolvePT, #BizPT, and about 20 or so of us on social media. I reached out to her and others like Ben Fung who were on twitter at that time. Since then I have learned quite a bit from her posts and videos as well as her webinars. Read below how the pelvic floor is more than just for pelvic pain or incontinence.
  1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you transitioned from a Sports PT to a Women's Health PT

I practiced in orthopedics and sports medicine with recreational and professional athletes until I had my first child almost 11 years ago. During the pregnancy I remember having the conscious, and very arrogant, thought that if anything went wrong with my body during the pregnancy or after I would just fix it. I was quickly humbled by the physical challenge of recovery and the sense that something just wasn’t right inside my body after I had my daughter. I recognized that if I was having trouble recovering with my professional background, the climb for other women had added challenge.

So, I began to investigate what happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy and beyond. The “core” was just coming on the scene around then, and it was clear that the loss of connection with the deep core elements was a critical and underlying issue for many of the typical pregnancy and post partum complaints. The pelvic floor is a part of that core system, so there was an existing, natural link between the women’s health and the “core crazy” sports medicine worlds. Bringing those two worlds together became my passion, and my clinical niche became helping women across the lifespan recover from injury and pregnancy and return to fitness and sport. What I have learned from helping women rebuild a solid central foundation, can be applied in multiple populations, because everyone needs a central stability for efficient, effective and powerful movement and fitness. (Please note: I don’t like to use the word “core” anymore…means too many different things to different people. So I use words now like foundation, central stability, postural control, and sturdy anchor.)

  1. You have told me in the past you do not use much if any manual therapy techniques any more, why is that and what has replaced them?

I think that the best way to answer this is to talk about it in terms of when I apply manual therapy. What I have learned along the way about how our foundation functions has led me a systems model for creating central stability. This involves working towards a balance of the brain, the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, structural, postural, and sensory systems. I start at the center for all my patients, reorganizing that foundation through an integration of those systems and build movement and sport specific patterns from there. In other words, I work from the inside-out and love the integrative principle “If they fire together, they wire together”.

Once we have re-estabilished and optimized that foundation, then I see what is left to handle with my manual skills. In many cases, there is not much left to work out. IMHO that tight muscle, stuck joint or whatever we see or feel that we want to address with our manual skills got that way somehow. So I try to figure out how it got that way first, before I apply my manual skills. Otherwise, I can manual therapy it ‘til I am blue in the face, but it will likely come back because I have never addressed the reason it got that way in the first place. I just like to begin with seeing what the body and brain can do for itself first, my job is to create the right environment to allow that. A practitioner that attended one of my courses, summarized that thought beautifully:

Trust that the body is a self righting organism. Our job is to guide the process.” Norene Christesen, PT, DSc, CLT, OCS, President Wyoming Chapter APTA

This is also great for home carryover, I didn’t make them better, they made changes in how they thought about, used or moved their body and saw results. That’s pretty powerful. And it is great for my hands! Having said all that…I still think manual therapy has an important place so don’t misinterpret this as anti-manual therapy. I just watch and guide before I intervene with my hands.

  1. Why is the diaphragm and pelvic floor important for not only women's health but all populations?

What we have come to understand as research has evolved is that all four muscles of the deep core, diaphragm, TA, pelvic floor and multifidus, work together as a team to provide the muscular support and regulate the intra-abdominal pressure that contribute to setting up a sturdy center (not just the TA and multifidus). They actually interact like a Piston. On inhale the diaphragm lowers, and the TA and pelvic floor need to give, or open to allow this to happen. This builds IAP, which gives us inhalation stability and elastically loads the TA and pelvic floor. On exhale when the diaphragm rises, and the pressure is relieved, the TA and pelvic floor use that elastic loading and recoil up and in to more actively contribute to central stability. It is a dynamic interplay between these moving parts that gives stability that is also dynamic and responsive to the demands of function. This is a great study that demonstrates that relationship: . For a visual, I demonstrate their Pistoning interrelationship here . So our stability system actually runs off the breath cycle, how cool is that! And the pelvic floor is parallel in its action to the diaphragm, they work together, so it is important that clinicians know how to integrate them along with the TA and multifidus into their programming for stability, strengthening, balance, etc.

Let’s bring this home in another way, and link my thoughts from question 2 to these ideas. Here is an interesting study ( ) that created an asymmetrical activation of the pelvic floor and noted significant displacements of bony landmarks, with the largest displacements being of the femoral head, the innominate and coccyx on the same side. Applying that clinically, a patient may be utilizing their PF asymmetrically leading to what we might assess as a pelvic obliquity for example. Instead of addressing it with our hands first, we can teach the patient to optimize recruitment of the PF in a proper relationship with the diaphragm and restore a more balanced recruitment pattern. Building movement patterns on that improved recruitment, will help with carry over and reinforce the balance. Then we see what is left to address with our hands. And the flip side of that, is if we have imposed some increased movement or alignment with our hands, then the pelvic floor is uniquely positioned to help maintain it if we can teach our patients to access it and use it with it’s functional partners. The pelvic floor is a very powerful (and currently underestimated) ally in our care of musculoskeletal issues.

You have recently completed some research, can you give us any details?
The Pistoning system that is a key to creating that sturdy foundation is the same system that works to maintain continence. I designed a webinar to take women step by step through applying this approach to rebuilding that foundation from the inside-out (Pelvic Floor: From Zero to Fitness) and we put it to the test in a telehealth research study throughout the Fall of 2013. We were answering the question can women independently access and use a pelvic floor education program via the internet (feasibility) and benefit from it. We just closed data collection! I can’t reveal all the results, they will be available this Spring, but I can give you a glimpse:
  1. Based on raw data collection***, 79% of the study participants had never had treatment for stress urinary incontinence. This is my target, the women who have never had treatment either due to reluctance to seek help, lack of access to help, lack of awareness that help exists, or time restraints.
  2. A strong majority of women either agreed or strongly agreed that they liked getting pelvic floor information online (82%), were able to perform the exercises on their own (85%), and understood the instructions they were given (88%). 97% would recommend the program to a friend!
  3. We used a brief incontinence likert scale, validated and reliable for incontinence, to measure outcomes and found that of the women that returned surveys, 85% noted an improvement in symptoms (61.8%= A little bit better; 23.5%= Much Better). Please note that these improvements were experienced with independent practice over only 3 weeks! The thrust of the program is creating a balanced coordinated action (i.e. neuromuscular homeostasis) of all the elements of the Pistoning system vs. a traditional strengthening model, with positive, immediate results.

This was a preliminary study with a focus on feasibility. We kept it simple to promote participation and survey return. We feel like it is a good start to looking at the impact of both using an online telehealth format for pelvic health promotion and an integrative program for restoring pelvic health. I am hoping to do a follow-up that measures participant’s response to the program at longer intervals 6-8 weeks, and 6 months.

An exciting follow-up study is already brewing through an awesome collaboration with two women’s health physios in the Sultanate of Oman. They plan to translate the webinar into Arabic, and repeat the study with women in their country. A blog about my amazing experience in Oman over the holidays is forthcoming, but for now you can read about it and see pictures on my Facebook feed.

*** These numbers are based on raw data collection only, and applies to the respondents. The numbers and meaning behind them will be clearer as we analyze the data.

  1. Where can we find out more information on your live and online seminars?
Thanks for asking!
My website is chalk full of more information through my blogs and vlogs here: .

Upcoming live course information can be found here:

Webinar/Online Seminars can be found here:

Dr E and I talked about creating a discount for the webinars for the fine folks that frequent his blog. So please use discount code: DrE (case sensitive) for 10% off my new webinar. And if you are a rehab or fitness pro new to the information I am sharing consider the already discounted Professional Webinar Bundle which that combines two webinars, the first with the theory and evidence behind the approach, and then this new one that takes you step by step through how I teach it to and apply it to women.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of blogging and social media?
I love to educate, it is my passion. I also like to shake up the status quo! So blogging is such an awesome way to communicate with many and to make people think! But in order to write a blog, I have to be continually be learning myself, and I am incurably curious. Writing about where my nerdy curiosity takes me is fun.

Social media helps to feed that curiosity. Done well, SoMe is like having a research team in your back pocket. There is so much literature to get through and it is nice to have trusted sources online that share what they have found. As a solo practitioner, it is great to have developed a network of pros that I can go to with questions or looking for ideas.
  1. What about social media negatives?
SoMe used to feel like a staff room to me, throwing ideas out, asking questions, sharing life with your co-workers. Professional comradery and respectful discussion with the knowledge that the fellow-pro you are engaging with is bringing their A game every day and doing their best. But the tone has changed out there, and instead of a staff room of respectful engagement it feels like a bar where a few folks show up just to pick a fight. Lots of condescension and negative bashing of not just ideas, but the practitioner that is proposing them or utilizing them. The conversation tone would never be tolerated in the work place. There is also less engagement and more self-promotion. I have noticed, a lot of the PTs that were early adopters of twitter, like me, have started to reduce their presence there. It’s truly too bad.
  1. Closing thoughts?
As I re-read my answers, particularly the one about using the PF to address pelvic obliquity, likely many readers thought: I’ll use my manual acumen to get it organized and then send them out to a women’s health therapist for that pelvic floor stuff.” I just wanted to let you know that I am not a classically trained women’s health therapist, I don’t do internal. I evaluate the participation and responsiveness of the pelvic floor externally, and so can you. The pelvic floor is part of the system we use to stabilize our centers and it is a part of every move that we make. As therapists it behooves us to understand this muscle group as just that, a muscle group. It isn’t scary or oogey. It is an ally. Please note, there are circumstances that absolutely require a referral to a women’s health specialist (I refer out too!). But I think we have too much evidence for the physical therapy community to continue to set the pelvic floor aside from all of our other strengthening, movement patterning, and training programs. Time to see the pelvic floor in a new light. 

Make sure to visit Julie's site for more information. She is great for Q&A and is also available for courses.

Keeping it Eclectic....


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