500: Dr. Susie Gronski: Male Pelvic Pain: The Ultimate Cock Block
On this episode of the Healthy, Wealthy and Smart Podcast, I welcome Susie Gronski on the show to discuss chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men. Dr. Susie Gronski, licensed doctor of physical therapy and board-certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner, is the author of Pelvic Pain: The Ultimate Cock Block, an international teacher, and the creator of several programs that help men with pelvic pain get their pain-free life back.
In this episode, we discuss:
-What is chronic pelvic pain syndrome/chronic prostatitis
-Sociocultural barriers unique to men receiving pelvic pain care
-Male expectations and reservations during a pelvic health treatment session
-Strategies to increase patient self-efficacy
-And so much more!
Men's Online DIY program: use code painfree20 for $20 off!
For more information on Susie:
Dr. Susie Gronski is a licensed doctor of physical therapy and a board certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner. Simply put, she’s the doctor for ‘everything down there.’
Her passion is to make you feel comfortable about taboo subjects like sex and private parts. Social stigmas aren’t her thing. She provides real advice without the medical fluff, sorta' like a friend who knows the lowdown down below.
Dr. Susie is an author and the creator of a unique one-on-on intensive program helping men with pelvic pain become experts in treating themselves. Her enthusiasm for male pelvic health stretches internationally, teaching healthcare providers how to feel more confident serving people with dangly bits.
She’s determined to make sure you know you can get help for:
- painful ejaculation
- problems with the joystick
- discomfort or pain during sex
- controlling your pee
without needing to be embarrassed...
So whatever you want to call it, (penis, shlong or ding-dong), if you’ve got a problem ‘down there’, she’s the person to get to know. Dr. Susie is currently in private practice in Asheville, North Carolina specializing in men’s pelvic health.
Read the full transcript below:
Karen Litzy (00:01):
Hi Susie, welcome to the podcast. I'm happy to have you on. And now as the listeners may know, I've had a lot of episodes about pelvic health, pelvic pain, but most of them were centered around female pelvic health and pelvic pain. And today, kind of excited to have you on Susie because today we're going to be talking about chronic pelvic pain in men. And I think this is a topic that is not spoken about a lot. I don't know if it's still considered taboo in many places. We'll talk about that today as we go through this podcast. But before we get into it, can you tell the listeners what is chronic pelvic pain syndrome or chronic prostatitis, which I don't know why I have a hard time saying that word and I'm looking at it and still have a hard time. But anyway, that's neither here nor there. That's my problem, not yours. So go ahead and just give us what is it?
Susie Gronski (00:52):
Well that's okay about the not able to say the word prostatitis because it is a bit of a misnomer when we're talking about male chronic pelvic pain syndrome. So it's okay. I wish that word wasn't used as frequently anyway to describe what we're going to be talking about. So the official definition that one might read in the literature is that chronic pelvic pain syndrome or chronic prostatitis is having recurring symptoms lasting more than three to six months without a known cause or pathology. And that typically results in sexual health issues, urinary complaints, and obviously a lot of worry to say the least. So that's the official definition of chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
Susie Gronski (01:46):
Now the NIH or the national Institute of health classifies, I put in bunny quotes here, prostatitis into four categories and briefly those categories are an acute bacteria prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis, chronic non bacterial prostatitis, both inflammatory and non-inflammatory, which is the realm that physical therapist will work in. And then you have a category, interestingly enough, asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis. And I think that's really important to stress that you can have quote unquote inflammation in the prostate, but you still have individuals who are asymptomatic. So when it comes to the word prostatitis and itself to describe male pelvic pain, I think it is a bit of a misnomer because a lot of cases are not bacterial related or infection related. And actually in fact 90 to 95% are not infection related or bacteria related. So I think we need to shift from using prostatitis as the main umbrella term.
Susie Gronski (02:52):
Because you know, it puts the blame on the prostate when we know that's not the sole cause or what we're dealing with in the long run.
Got it. So that, that can be a little confusing for people. Cause I'm assuming if you're a man and you hear that diagnosis prostatitis that that's gotta be kind of unnerving to hear. Right? For one you don't know what it is.
Yeah. It's like, well, and I don't want to stereotype, but I think when guys really hear prostate, anything, what's the first thing that might come to mind? Cancer, cancer. Right. And so now you're freaked out like what's wrong with my prostate? Am I going to have cancer? We know it's highly prevalent. And so yeah, I think it is a bit of a misnomer in terms of when you have pain down there especially without a known cause that leaves the fear of, well, they must be dismissing something.
Susie Gronski (03:50):
There must be something really seriously wrong that the doctors are not just finding.
And what are some common symptoms? I know you mentioned a couple in the beginning there, but if you can kind of repeat those common symptoms that people may experience with chronic pelvic pain syndrome and is pain one of them. Yes. Right?
Yes. Most often it is a sensation that is not typically pleasurable. It's painful. It may or may not be associated with urinary issues. In general. You'll have any sort of pain or discomfort in the abdominal or genital region. It could even be around the tailbone or even pain with sitting, sitting around, you know, around the sit bones in the groin. It may or may not be associated with sexual function. So for some men they might experience pain after completion or with an erection.
Susie Gronski (04:46):
They might feel pain with bowel movements. It might be testicular pain. It might be pain between the scrotum and the anus, typically known as the taint area. So there's a lot of overlapping symptoms that one might have. Again, everyone's so unique, but those are some of the common themes that one might hear in the pelvic health world.
And so if you're experiencing these symptoms, let's say for more than a month, I mean, will people experiencing these symptoms for, let's say a couple of weeks before they go see a doctor or go to look up their symptoms and see what's going on?
I think that varies on the person and their personality in terms of like their health and healthy behavior in terms of men health seeking behavior. We know that when you compare it to, for example, women, they don't tend to kind of seek out the help of doctors as women might do.
Susie Gronski (05:50):
Right. and I think that's across the board in terms of international standards as well in terms of the seeking behavior, health seeking behavior. I don't think I can have like a, I don't have a stat or factored on that, but I do think that men tend to kind of like watch and see what happens or you know, I think many of us do. Like if you feel something you're like, well that'll just pass. Right? I don't know if I gave an answer that fully. I just know that sometimes people wait and sometimes people go right away cause they're afraid or whatever the case may be. But I do think that the sooner that you can get reassurance for what you're experiencing in term, and I mean reassurance from not just take these antibiotics and come back and see me in six weeks, it should go away.
Susie Gronski (06:42):
Because that's typically what will happen when a guy will seek help. And I think the main one of the main barriers too is that where does a guy go get help from when something like this happens? Cause for females we have a gynecologist or a woman's doctor, right. But guys, like I know my husband just, he's like, I would have no idea where to even go. Who do I seek for help for this kind of thing. And so I think when we're talking about barriers for seeking help, that's one of them. I just don't know where do I go. And then you'll go to your primary care physician who may or may not be familiar with, you know, chronic pelvic pain or being able to differentiate, you know, whether it's an infection and what tests to do.
Susie Gronski (07:26):
A lot of times men are given antibiotics without even having diagnostic tests to see if there's an infection, which is unfortunate. And they'll do this for several rounds too. And so I think the longer that happens, the more that we're making the situation worse in terms of, you know, we know we've got microbiome, we'll plan to those pictures. Well it may or may not have been an infection that triggered this. We know the immune system plays a role in chronic pelvic pain. So, you know, I think having a well versed, fuzzy healthcare professional who can really help this person say, Hey, this is what could be happening. We know a multifactorial and multi-modal treatment approaches is very helpful for what you're going through and that, you know, these symptoms shouldn't last forever. Here go see a pelvic therapist if we know that's not happening.
Susie Gronski (08:23):
And I see guys several years later or years later before they even have an appropriate diagnosis, which I guess brings me to say that chronic pelvic pain syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion. So, before they even come see or get a referral to see and see if they're lucky to get a pelvic health referral, they'll go through a lot of invasive tests. Cystoscopies colonoscopies. I mean, you name it. So I just think that by the time they do get the help, the right care that they need for the issues that they're experiencing, they've gone down a really dark rabbit hole by that point.
Yeah, and that's sort of looking at, I mean, it's not that they're healthcare providers are intentionally doing them wrong, right? They just don't know. Right. So we're talking about, I guess this more traditional view of a medical process for men who are coming in. Having these complaints is saying, well, let's check this, this, this, this, this, and this. Like you said, a diagnosis of exclusion. And then years down the road they come to see you and I can't imagine, forget about their physical wellbeing. I can't imagine their mental and emotional wellbeing is doing all right either. And now the pelvic physical therapist has a whole lot of comorbidities to deal with.
Susie Gronski (09:21):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And with any type of persistent pain, not just chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men, but I think with any type of persistent pain, we really have to be looking at the psychological and sociological aspects of that person's experience. Because at this point now we're dealing with an emotionally driven process versus a purely nociceptive in nature. You know, it may have started that, but now we're dealing with this like this cat yarn, I don't have cats, but a kid, I know they like to play with yarn and you have this big ball of yarn that you're really just taking one strand out at a time to really unravel and everyone is so unique and very different.
Susie Gronski (10:30):
So yeah, I think that's where we're dropping the ball with getting quality pain care for these individuals. Number one, just getting rid of some of these barriers of a lack of education on the practitioners, you know, perspective of what do I do in this situation? Why do we need to have all these invasive tests done? In my opinion. I don't think we need to do that, but they're really not getting the referral to see qualified, you know, pelvic therapists who can really rule out, you know, biological triggers and even work with the psychological and sociological aspects of that person's experience. Just to, again, calm things down. And to reassure that person that things are going to be okay. And to that extent, I think this would be worth noting as well is some men do not have positive medical experiences in that they're not being validated, often being dismissed.
Susie Gronski (11:23):
And no one's really actually looking at their genitals. To this day, I still have men say it's all about just finger, finger in the butt, checking out the prostate, and no one's really addressing like, take a look at my testicles, look at my penis, like treat it like any other part of my body. And then you're then that kind of plays into the blame and shame of one's body. And just again, not knowing, no one's really looking at it. I want somebody to look at it to tell me I'm okay. And I think that's really being missed as well in those early encounters with medical providers. I think that's so important.
And you know, you had touched on it a few minutes ago talking about not just what we see from a physical standpoint, but a socio cultural standpoint as well. So what are some common barriers that are unique to men from a sociocultural standpoint when receiving care for chronic pelvic pain?
Susie Gronski (12:25):
Well, the first one that I touched base upon as you said, was having an outlet to get medical care. So there isn't a, you know, male gynecologist per se for men. And so I think just having a lack of that awareness of where does a guy go get help for these types of things. Where would be the best physician, let's say for health urologist or urologist. But that isn't usually the first line of the encounter. It's usually an internist or primary care physician. And sometimes it could be even other healthcare professionals like a massage therapist or a chiropractor, an acupuncturist who's hearing these the symptoms or men feel comfortable enough with the trusted provider that they trust to talk about even what they're going through. Cause I think that brings me into the second, I think barrier is I think if I can say this, the masculine side of culture, right?
Susie Gronski (13:33):
Like, what should men like mentioned man up and not have these issues and what if something is going on down there? Like, you know, guys aren't really talking about their private parts in the locker room per se. And I speak, again, I'm speaking for the heterosexual male, but like, you know, I think it's just uncomfortable in terms of how the society that we live in to even have that conversation be brought up so that being one of the barriers is just, we're not really talking about sexual health issues and what could go wrong unless it's like, you know, erectile dysfunction. Right?
Well, that's all over TV, so you can't miss that one. Right, exactly. Here's a pill for that. We know how to fix that. You know, you got Snoop dog talking about like male enhancement products, Pandora. Yeah. And I think, I think in terms of, you know, what are the conversations that we're having around men's health and really comes down to what's selling and what's not selling, unfortunately.
Susie Gronski (14:38):
But yeah, I think that that's one of the biggest barriers as well as just we're not talking about it outlets. There are no you know, taking a stand for men's health essentially. And the second thing too, or the third thing is when a guy has pain down there and they look it up on the internet, cause that'll probably the first thing we do. Absolutely dr Google will be first they're there and to get help, everything is women's health, women's pelvic health, a women's clinic, baby and mom, you know, like things like that that are coming up where that in itself is like, wow, this is a quote unquote woman's issue. Why am I having it? What does that mean for me? Because again, guys and everyone, I think unless something is going on down there, like we really don't talk about our pelvises or how things work and we're not taught, we're not really taught about like you know, what to expect and how things work and that you have actually pelvic muscles down there.
Susie Gronski (15:39):
So until you know, something goes South literally and then you have to like look things up and there's enough of crap out there to scare anybody. And so I think, you know, again, I think Google is helpful but it also can be harmful because we know, we know that anything can really shape someone's prognosis when they're seeking treatment and you have scary forums and you have people talking about how I'm living with this for several years. And then you have this person who's just starting to experience these symptoms, reading through these forums and looking at, you know, it could be cancer or it could be this or that. You know, it's like a life sentence. And that's really scary. And that I think is what part of the picture that takes things from acute to chronic in my opinion.
Karen Litzy (16:48):
Yeah. And you know, when people are involved in, and this isn't across the board, but oftentimes in those kinds of forums, it's people are writing about their experiences that have gone wrong, right? Or that you said, I've been experiencing this for years or I tried X, Y, and Z and it was horrible. So when you read those kinds of forums, cause I've gone on those, I think we, you know, a lot of healthcare practitioners should go on some of these forums to see what's being spoken about. But I've gone on them for like chronic neck pain and you're like, Oh my God, goodness. Right. This is, this is frightening. It's really scary. And so I can't even imagine someone going on there who is experiencing, like you said, some of the symptoms that you had mentioned before. Maybe they've been experiencing these symptoms for a couple of years or a couple of weeks and they look on these forums, they're like, Holy crap. Yeah. Like this is what my life is going to be now.
Susie Gronski (17:35):
Right. I mean that is really scary. Exactly. Exactly. And that we know, doesn't matter what body part we're dealing with, right. Tends to make the situation worse. Yes. Just cause of that. And so I think I'm a huge proponent of, I don't think I am a huge proponent of having good information knowledge. And like I said, reassurance for this group of people to say like, Hey, this isn't forever. This is what you can do about it. We can really work with this. It's more common than you think. And, it happens in this area, just like any other part of our body, you know there's muscles down there, there's nerves down there, there's everyday function that happens, like pooping, having sex, you know, all these things are quite normal. And I think just even experiencing some discomfort down there, just like you would have some back pain once in a blue moon is not, you know, something that needs to be perpetuated I think for many, many years.
Susie Gronski (18:41):
But I think we're talking about is that it's unfortunate because they will go down a rabbit hole of, well we've checked everything, we've done every scan under the sun and there's nothing that's showing up on scans. I just don't know what else I can do to help you. And then at that point the conversation is, well now it's all in your head and then, and I'm a goner. Like I'm doing. Yes, I'm doomed. Like and then, yeah. You know, when we talk about the interpersonal context of pain for that individual, it's am I going to be able to have a family, you know, if they don't have any, you know, or be in a relationship or to have kids or how about my job, I have to sit for my work. I can't do that. Or what about my sport that I want to play?
Susie Gronski (19:27):
Does that mean I can't do that anymore. I mean, there's so many like what ifs and uncertainty and that's one of the themes that men will talk about it's this uncertainty, this roller coaster ride of the symptoms that they experiences. It's fine, you know, one week and then it's terrible the other week and they just don't know what to expect because there's no rhyme or reason for it, for their triggers. And that's really, I think that's a really hard mental, yeah. How do I say that? Like a lack of words. It's really hard. Mentally. It is.
Yeah. You know, you're absolutely right. And now let's say one of these guys they've been having these symptoms, they've gone to their doctor and miraculously their doctor said you need to go see a pelvic health therapist. Right. Yay. The doctors know what's up. So what are some reservations men might have before seeing that pelvic health therapist? And then we'll talk a little bit from the therapist background point of view after that. But let's talk about the men's point of view first.
Susie Gronski (20:26):
Yeah. So, the point of views that I'm going to be talking about are actually from the people that I've worked with. So I'm just reiterating or paraphrasing from their experience. But the number one thing is what is it? Cause the doctors aren't really telling them what to expect. So again, they'll go on to Google and they'll find like, you know, this is a woman's health issue and why am I going here? And you know, again that psychological aspects of I guess gender in general of what that means for me as a person. And that experience in itself might be one reservation.
Susie Gronski (21:17):
Like you know, this is a women's health issue. Like I don't want to go there. And so they might put that off. Which is common as well. I think the second thing is the actual procedure of having internal work or an internal examination. And this is one message I'd like to kind of get across to people is that you don't have to do internal work to get better. And I think there's this huge misunderstanding of like pelvic therapy being like, well, it's all about moving the genitals out of the way and just going for internal work and chasing trigger points. That's not really what it should be an in fact, I think unintentionally of course, I think that's more harm than good because we aren't really asking. Like if you ask the guy in front of you like is this something that you really like?
Susie Gronski (22:06):
First of all, what would be the purpose of doing internal work? Or even having that assessment, like why are you doing what you're doing? And number two is that in alignment with what that person wants, is that a goal of theirs? Is that functional for them? You know, why are we doing these things? Because we don't want, as for me, I'm speaking for myself, I don't want it to be another person to create medical trauma. I don't want to be that person that says, well this is what you need. When in fact like they're sitting up there on the table, you know, cringing and guarding and tensing. And I think it's funny for me, like it's not funny for the person on the table, but I think when they're pissed we'll say, Oh, you're really tight. You know, you're really tight.
Susie Gronski (22:51):
It's like, yeah, this is tightest I've ever seen. And I look at me and I'll tell my patients, cause they'll be told that. And I say, well, how did you feel on the table? Were you comfortable with what was going on? And they're like, no, you know, no. And I said, well, no wonder your muscles are tensing. And that would happen with anyone, you know, I'm like, but that doesn't mean that you're broken or that there's something wrong with you. And I think that's the message that's going across, not for every therapist. And I'm not speaking for every therapist, but it's just a theme that I see with men who come into my office who've had therapy in the past. And that's something that I think might be a huge reservation for someone seeking care as well, is having to have an internal assessment done.
Susie Gronski (23:36):
Although it is common, it doesn't have to happen. And if you're doing an internal, so now let's kind of go into the pelvic health therapist point of view. So this patient comes in, they've had chronic pelvic pain for, we'll say several months and why might you do internal work in or an internal assessment if the patient was okay with it, obviously. So what would a therapist be looking for? So if the person is agreeing to have this done, number one, I think it's, they want to have a thorough evaluation by a professional who works in this field. So that's reassurance. So you would do that because they're asking you to do that, to rule out whatever's putting their mind at ease, right? Again, if that's what they so, so want, I think that's the first thing that we're doing.
Susie Gronski (24:35):
Number two, if there's like pain with bowel movement or let's say that person's sexual preferences or pleasure has to do with anything anal that would also be applicable in order to just map out areas of tenders, tenderness, and then see if we can change that. So we're not, they're looking for golden nuggets, trigger points. We're there just to see, okay, can we change what you're feeling and can we give that person an experience of, Hey, it doesn't always have to hurt this way. And there are things that we can do to change things and essentially giving them back a sense of control of their own body. But I like to preface that it is a very awesome teaching opportunity for the person because you can say, well, how does it feel when somebody else touches you versus when you try to do this yourself and right then and there during the assessment, I will actually have, we'll compare, I'll say, okay, I want you to touch those areas at home and tell me what you feel.
Susie Gronski (25:39):
And then I'll say, if it's okay, I'm going to do the same thing and that might be my own individual hand. It might be hand over hand with that person's hand. It just depends on, you know, again, their comfort level. But essentially I'm just there to see if we can change their experience in their body and to prove that you don't have to hurt all the time and that things are changeable. So I love those moments. So that's the reason that I would do any internal work or any external work for that matter, is to see if we can change that person's experience in their body to create more safety and less danger. And so it makes sense. That's what I would do. So yeah, that's essentially why do that and it's not an hour long treatment session of you know, internal work.
Susie Gronski (26:31):
But, men do appreciate that you take the time to actually talk to them to address their body just like, or this part of their body just like any other part of their body. And that's a theme across every single man that I have worked with. I came into my office, you know, they'll say, I really appreciate how you just worked with me and worked with my intimate parts of my body but just considered it just like any other part of my body, like my nose. And they just felt like the sense of like they can feel vulnerable, they can be safe. They feel heard and validated because somebody is actually taking the time to work with them to ease their essential suffering around what it is they're experiencing.
And I think that's really important. And so if you are working with a patient with this diagnosis and they are not comfortable with internal work, cause like you said, you don't have to do it. So what might be some other evaluative procedures you might do as the therapist to help this patient? Like you said, feel more comfortable in their body and get a better sense of understanding of what's happening.
Susie Gronski (27:45):
So the first thing is really just getting to know their story. So going back to giving them time to talk about what's going on for them. I think for men, having an outlet to be heard is really important because men don't typically kind of talk about these things. So once they know that you are accepting and you're there to offer that space for them to express themselves and the difficulty that they're going through with this, I think that's therapy right there. Just to give them that opportunity. So, having a supportive outlet. And the other thing is just if it's movement related, if it's an activity that they're having difficulty with, for example, sitting as a very common one. I have all sorts of like gadgets and toys in my office and I just bring some playfulness into the conversation.
Susie Gronski (28:39):
I have them sit on various different surfaces to see what would be something they like would actually explore, you know, again, I'm trying to see if we can violate the expectancy of, well, it always hurts and it's constant. I can't change anything. And so my role is really to see like can we change things and if we can, let's do more of that. So I try to bring a little fun into it. I try to incorporate like the passions, their hobbies that they once had done but have stopped since because of all this happening. Sometimes we don't even do any hands on work or any, even a formal assessment on the first day because we're really going through the story and we're reestablishing a sense of that person, a sense of what that person, who that person is. Because a lot of times you lose who you are.
Susie Gronski (29:38):
You know, when you have pain, persistent pain, you've gone through something. So life changing. So I think, you know, for me and for that person is establishing, well, what would life look like? What would life look like if this were no longer a problem? Who do you want to get back to being? And so I do vision boards. I'll do some sort of visioning exercise of where we can get to like the why, you know, why is this important for you? What do you want to get back to doing? How do you want to feel in your body? And then that becomes essentially the treatment plan or the plan of care. Anything that we can do to collaborate together in more of a coaching relationship to help you move forward, to attain I guess living in a way that you see yourself living, but also a values based type of approach.
Susie Gronski (30:28):
In terms of treatment. So I know that was like a mouthful, if it's the Bible, you know, I'm doing a bio-psycho-social approach, but I'm really, really having a being patient centered and patient led and I'm just there guiding them. So for some people it is really more of this, I need to figure out who I am, I need to start doing something. Well we figure that out before we go on the table. Cause there might be a lot of fear with that or they might have had certain traumas associated with, you know, medical experiences that may have had that may be negative. And so there might be a lot of reservation.
And I think we as therapists need to recognize that that person might say yes, like yes, that's okay for you to do all these things like with touch. But we should also be responsible of actually paying attention to what their body is doing, what their autonomic nervous system is doing while you're touching them. Because they might say, yes, and I'm guilty of this too. I'll go for a massage and that person's touches firmer than I'd like. And they'll ask me, you know, how's my pressure? And I'll be like, Oh, it's good, it's good.
Susie Gronski (31:37):
That's my point. Exactly. That's what the person that you're working with is going through the same thing. And I think it takes a sort of a bit of a skill to recognize or to be more mindful of, you know what, this isn't necessary. I noticed that you're sweating a little bit more, that you're tensing up more. I see your facial expressions, what are your eyebrows doing? And then I'll say, you know, we don't have to do this. I don't think this is right. You know, your body is saying one thing and I know you, you know, I know intellectually, yes, they want it. They want to make you happy. They want to please you, they want to make you happy. And I think part of the treatment too is giving them permission. That's self-efficacy, that's giving them a sense of agency to make that decision for themselves.
Susie Gronski (32:21):
Do I want, you know, I want to be able to say no. You know, and I tell them right off the bat, you know, that may know I have a lot of tools in my toolbox and if we try something where you're willing to try something and it doesn't work for you, just let me know cause there's many other things that we can do and try out. It doesn't have to be this one size fits all, which we know never works. So yeah. Anyway, I guess in the long run it just depends on the person who is sitting in front of me and essentially what they're telling me they need. And they'll actually, I have a very long intake form, but it's more reflective, very open-ended. And so I'll know from that of like what they're telling me. It's just so it's this awesome cause you can see it like they actually write it out.
Susie Gronski (33:04):
Like this is what I need. So I think is happening. Great. Well I'm going to facilitate this process and we have a conversation around that.
Yeah. And I think that's great. And I think it gives the listener, certainly other therapists listening have a better idea as to what a session treating someone, treating a man with chronic pelvic pain might look like. And now you had mentioned self-efficacy and we all know that as physical therapists one of our biggest jobs is to give people a sense of self efficacy and control over their body. So do you have any helpful strategies that you give to your patients for them to increase their self efficacy and to be able to manage their care when you're not there?
Susie Gronski (34:02):
Hmm. I love that question. So as you know, it probably depends on the person, but everything that we do together in a session, I make sure that they walk away with, well, here's what you can do for yourself. And it's really just a suggestion for them. I really want them to take it to experience it. So for example, I might say, you know, let's do some pleasure hunting. Probably if they've had experiences with you know, having an erection or participating in sexual activity, that was painful. We know that it's like all it takes is one time for things not to work and for things to be bad, to have a bad experience, to be worried about the next time and the next time and the next time. And unfortunately that's really strong for men and their, I guess their penis function, you know? And that's not uncommon to experience when you have pain down there. You know, the last thing you want to do is be like, yeah, I'm ready for sex. You know, it's a threat. Absolutely. and I think it's just educating, educating the person about like, this is completely normal what you're going through and it's common and it's not forever and let's see what we can do to start getting you to feel comfortable in your body again.
Susie Gronski (35:05):
And so, yeah, I think just having that kind of conversation, not being afraid to ask the questions and then asking them, well, what is it that you'd like to do or start with? Cause there's so many things we can do. What is it that you think is the most important thing to start with onto your recovery? Like I said, it could be sensory integration. So touching one's body, touching oneself and not being afraid and then having a recovery plan or a flare up plan. Cause we know that's common as well. So having some sort of structure around if I experienced this discomfort well what can I do next to help myself in this situation? Whether that's breath work a stretch you know, talking to a friend meditating, whatever it is for that person. Then we kind of put that into a plan to say, okay, next time, you know, if you try this cause you can't really, it's really hard to just, I think applied graded exposure techniques or graded activity to sexual function.
Susie Gronski (36:08):
Like you know, erections and having an orgasm and you're ejaculating. You can't like stop halfway. Like coming back from like, once you hit that climax, you know, and I think just letting them know that this is the process that happens in your body when you're having an erection and when you're ejaculating and here's what you can do to help yourself post. So, you know, I usually give things like recovery plan, but it's really collaborative with that person cause you know, everyone has their own way of living and their own lifestyle and whether or not it depends under relationship dynamics and sometimes we have to have a conversation around that. And then, you know, if any of those things are kind of coming into play, then we have to reach out to other, you know, a network of team members to help with all those dynamics that might be contributing to that person's experience.
Susie Gronski (37:01):
So, you know, like sex therapist or couples therapy or, you know, that sort of thing. So it just, you know, again, it depends on the person. So I actually want to do, I do want to make a comment about, you mentioned you know, so what is it that you give to your clients or to your patients? I think the other thing that I want to mention is that for therapists not to be afraid to address the genitals, this is one thing that I think is still common where female therapists will want to I think move male genitalia out of the way and just go to internal work. I think it's really important not to be afraid of, you know, addressing, we're touching a testicle or touching their penis. Because for them it's really important that you're doing that and then you're showing them what exactly, you know, showing them techniques or sensory integration techniques that you can do that they can do for themselves.
Susie Gronski (38:03):
So you don't have to do things. You're just showing them and then you're saying like, this is all completely normal or you know, or this is what we can work on. And having them experience, have an experience in their own body that's completely not sexually related at all. But I think as female therapists, we're afraid of like, well what if they have an erection right in front of me? You know, or like, and that's happened. You know, that does happen. I think that's one of the reservations is like, and speaking of reservations for the guy on the table, they're also afraid, maybe more so than you, that they're going to have an erection. Oh my gosh. You know, and then I always, I'm very candid about that too. I'm like, you know, we're touching parts of your body that have nerves and sense things and physiological reaction may occur.
Susie Gronski (38:47):
No big deal. If you need some time to yourself, I'll walk out of the room, you know? But you kind of address it before they even have a question about it. To put things at ease. So, sorry, I went on a tangent with that.
Karen Litzy (39:20):
I think that's important. That's really important to mention for sure. No, this is great. I mean, what great information. And so if you were to kind of take this conversation from let's say from the point of view of a man suffering from chronic pelvic pain syndrome, what would be your big takeaway for them?
Susie Gronski (39:23):
Big take away. How can I put this in one sentence? The big takeaway would be that this doesn't have to be forever. Like that this isn't permanent. That if there is something going on down there, don't be afraid to talk about it. I know you may not be surrounded by people who are very candid about talking about poop pee and sex. Like, you know, us as physical pelvic therapists. Anyway, we're so comfortable talking about that, that we forget that people, other people have reservations about talking about private parts. But yeah, not to be afraid to just, you know, reach out to a professional who understands what you're going through and who can relate to you because it doesn't have to be a lifelong sentence and a death sentence per se.
Susie Gronski (40:27):
You can get help for it and there's help for this. And yeah, I just, I guess that would be the main thing, just making, you know, having support and having that outlet for them to just be themselves and know that they're not alone.
And what about to the physical therapist who, let's say you, if you are a pelvic health therapist, you're probably a little bit more informed about this, but what if you're not a pelvic health therapist and someone is coming to you with these symptoms, what advice would you give to them? I mean, outside of, I have some that I could refer you to, who is more well versed in the treatment of this, but what advice would you give to the physical therapist?
You might be seeing a patient with chronic pelvic pain syndrome. I think just having more knowledge about what it is and what it isn't just as a practitioner so that you can have a conversation with this person who is experiencing pain because it in fact, you know, if the person you're working with has groin pain or the tailbone pain or sit bone pain, I think just being aware of like, there are other things that might be involved and asking questions, really not being afraid to ask questions.
Susie Gronski (41:48):
Maybe you put it in your questionnaire. I think there used to be Oswestry used to have a sex question in it. They took it out. So get the original one, keep the original one. But, yeah, just not being afraid to ask those questions and really just asking the person like, you know, I know asking permission without giving advice to, you know, just saying like, you know, I know a little bit about this. It's not within my scope, but how do you feel about having a consultation with a colleague of mine who works with men? Or who works in this field that can really help you out, we can really work together. It really is just opening up the conversation to say, Hey, you know, you're having these symptoms. There's something that we can do about it.
Susie Gronski (42:36):
It doesn't have to be, you know, it doesn't have to be like, well I don't know what to do for you, you know? Exactly, yeah. I think that's what it is. Like, you know, give them a resource or give them a website. There's so much free stuff out there. Like my website, I have all sorts of like blog posts and many others who work in this field have a lot of great literature on here's some things that you can do to just open up the conversation and what you can do to help yourself. So I think that's really the key. I think for PR professionals who are not pelvic health therapists but working with people who have pelvises that make a difference, you know, and you know they might be coming to you for low back pain but we know that low back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction and pelvic issues are correlated, highly correlated and in fact you know a lot of testicular pain can or can't originate because of low back issues and vice versa because of the connection there.
Susie Gronski (43:31):
And so just I think just having that conversation with your patients of saying like this is why it's all connected and this is what I think is what else is happening. How do you feel about getting, you know, getting a consult from so-and-so related to this because they might be, that person might be having many other struggles down there but not talking about it. Right. The first and foremost thing to do from a therapeutic perspective is let's have a conversation because we don't know what else might be going on for that person. And we can certainly be that gatekeeper, that liaison that says, Hey, I know I can get you to see so and so to help with these things issues. You don't have to just live with them.
Yeah. Great. Great advice. Thank you so much. This was such a good conversation. I think from the standpoint of the therapist and the standpoint of a man maybe experiencing some of these chronic pelvic pain symptoms. Thank you so much. And now last question is one that I ask everyone and that's knowing where you are now in your life and your career, what advice would you give to yourself as a new graduate out of PT school?
Susie Gronski (44:52):
Oh, that's a good question. Okay. So what advice would I give myself as a new graduate from PT school? Hmm. You don't have to be so serious. I think that would be the advice of knowing that we're humans are all very different and we're built differently. And what we thought was once quote unquote true is always evolving and just use your own experiences to make those determinations. Like you don't always have to be, I don't know, taking word for word when everyone tells you, experience it for yourself and then make that decision.
Excellent advice. So now let's talk about what you have coming up. So you've got podcasts, books, courses. So tell the audience where they can learn about what you're doing so that they can in turn help their patients or help themselves.
Susie Gronski (45:52):
Well, thank you for this opportunity to have a shameless plug. Here I am. Well, I'm currently working on the second edition or revised edition of my book, pelvic pain, the ultimate cock block, which is written for, you know, the average Joe who is suffering from pelvic pain. I have a podcast called in your pants that's also on YouTube. And I have several programs support programs for men who are suffering, who suffer from pelvic pain. Some are online DIY programs, others are support programs where myself and a psychologist and sex therapist have collaborated on. And I also have a course that I teach. It's called treating male pelvic pain eight bio-psycho-social approach. So I'm very busy. I have a lots of things go. It's awesome. But where can we find all of it on my website? drSusieg.com. I'm on Instagram @drSusieG. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter. Same handle.
Susie Gronski (46:54):
Awesome. Yeah, and we'll have the links to everything at podcast.healthywealthysmart.com under this episode. So one click will take you to all of Dr. Susie's really helpful information, whether you're the person living with a chronic pelvic pain syndrome or you're a health practitioner that wants to learn more. So Susie, thanks so much for coming on. This was great and I look forward to your revised book and all the fun stuff that you have coming out. So congrats. And everyone, thanks so much for listening. Have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy, and smart.
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