Shefali Christopher offers keynote at UVA’s Running Medicine 2019 Conference 

Shefali Christopher, assistant professor of physical therapy, gave the keynote address at the Running Medicine 2019 conference held March 15-16 at the University in Virginia in Charlottesville.  

Shefali Christopher, assistant professor of physical therapy, gave the keynote address at the Running Medicine 2019 conference held March 15-16 at the University in Virginia in Charlottesville. Christopher presented on pelvic floor dysfunction in runners to the 300 attendees of this year’s conference, which focused on hip evaluation and treatment for runners.

Christopher's keynote presentation highlighted three types of pelvic floor dysfunction that can affect runners' pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. Up to 80 percent of females and up to 25 percent of males have urinary incontinence in the general population. In addition to the keynote address, Christopher taught a lab class covering such topics as the impact of breathing patterns on decreasing pelvic floor pressure while running.

Christopher pointed out that with runners, the concern is an increase in intraabdominal pressure that leads to stress incontinence — often a missed diagnosis due to embarrassment; thus providers must ask about this condition. If the diaphragm and pelvic floor don’t work in unison or if the runner holds the breath, the pressure can be too much for the pelvic floor to withstand. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and must have both endurance and quick reflex properties and thus need to be rehabilitated as such.

A common misconception is that the pelvic floor muscles are too weak. However, over time they could be too tight (just like the hamstrings) and lead to incontinence or pain. The address also included topics such as the connection between outer hip muscles contractions and pelvic floor activation, along with how that translates to running drills and to running.

Other speakers included physical therapists Jay Dicharry and Eric Magrum, Dr. Robert Wildner, Dr. John Post, Dr. David Hryvniak, Dr. Siobhan Statuta, Dr. Frank Gwathmey and B. Kent Diduch. Conference attendees offered Christopher such comments as "Engaging and informative!" and "I feel more confident in my ability to screen for pelvic floor dysfunction in athletes and my ability to treat them after hearing this talk!"

“The UVA running conference is one of the nation’s top running conferences," Christopher said. "Every year they put on a great event. It was such an honor to keynote this prestigious conference and speak amongst world-famous running physical therapy specialists like Jay Dicharry."

Christopher has been treating runners in the Raleigh-Durham-Elon community for the past 10 years, focusing on not only improving strength, flexibility, and range of motion, but also providing running analysis and gait retraining. She is the primary instructor in the Elon Doctor of Physical Therapy education program for evaluation and treatment of the lower extremity and the Sports/Orthopedic elective course.