Soft Tissue Mobilization to Resolve Chronic Pain and Dysfunction Associated With Postoperative Abdominal and Pelvic Adhesions: A Case Report

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Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

Case report.

BACKGROUND:

Common complications from abdominal and pelvic surgery include adhesions and chronic pain. Laparoscopic adhesiolysis is sometimes used to reduce adhesions and related pain. Physical therapy interventions, such as soft tissue mobilization (STM), may be used for this condition; however, evidence to support its effectiveness is lacking.

CASE DESCRIPTION:

A 28-year-old woman with a history of 5 abdominal/pelvic surgeries presented with right-sided lower abdominal and anterior hip pain, which had been present since she had undergone a laparoscopic appendectomy with a right ovarian cystectomy surgery 1 year earlier. As an active-duty member in the US Navy, due to pain and weakness, she was unable to perform required curl-ups for her fitness test. Though she had been previously treated both surgically with laparoscopic adhesiolysis and nonsurgically with physical therapy consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises, her pain and function did not improve. She was again evaluated and treated with physical therapy and, based on the examination findings, STM was used to address her pain and dysfunction, which were thought to be related to intra-abdominal adhesions.

OUTCOMES:

Following 5 sessions of physical therapy over a 3-week period that included STM and therapeutic exercises, followed by 5 additional sessions over a 4-week period that focused on therapeutic exercises, the patient reported substantially decreased pain, improved function, and a full return to previous level of activity, including unrestricted physical training in a military setting.

DISCUSSION:

The outcomes for this patient suggest that STM may be effective as a conservative treatment option for pain and dysfunction related to intra-abdominal adhesions from abdominal/pelvic surgery. Studies with a higher level of evidence, including potential comparison between STM and traditional laparoscopic adhesiolysis, are needed to further determine benefits of nonsurgical care for this condition.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

Therapy, level 4.

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