Women’s Health And Rehab

By Cheri Teranishi-Hashimoto
Interviewed by Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - October 13, 2010
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Cheri Teranishi-Hashimoto, DPT
Physical therapist at Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific

Where did you receive your training and schooling?

I received both my bachelor’s degree as a double major in movement in sports science and exercise and fitness, and my master’s degree in exercise physiology at Purdue University. I received my master’s and doctorate degree in physical therapy from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center.

How long have you been practicing?

I have been a physical therapist for eight years.


What area do you specialize in?

Women’s health, which includes a broad spectrum of diagnoses. I work with female-related issues across the lifespan. During the teenage years, I see athletes with urinary incontinence or orthopedic injuries. Multiple issues arise during the child-bearing years, such as post-partum complications. I commonly work with low back pain, pelvic pain and incontinence as a result of pregnancy and the changes the body goes through. During the menopausal and post-menopausal years there’s a different set of issues, such as osteoporosis, which is the weakening of the bone. It can lead to serious conditions such as spine fractures or hunched posture. It’s important to look at all areas, such as nutrition, given the hormonal changes and increased risk of osteoporosis. Another area is rehabilitation after cancer treatments, which is often very aggressive and can include both surgical and drug interventions that can really impact a woman’s functional ability.

Cheri Teranishi-Hashimoto works on core stabilization and core strengthening with patient Karen Inouye

With post-menopausal women, as part of natural aging, our muscles get weaker and take longer to recover from injury, or atrophy from disuse. I work commonly with conditions such as pelvic organ pro-lapse, which is when the bladder, uterus or rectum is not well-supported because of pelvic muscle weakness. This can lead to increased incontinence. Balance also is something I address in this patient population. As we get older, multiple systems we relied on for balance start to slow down.

Do some of these “women’s health issues” also affect men?

Definitely, men have some of the same issues that we commonly address in women’s health, such as osteoporosis, but it’s more common in females. It’s important to understand that men also can get breast cancer and struggle with incontinence, but the incidences are much lower.

How does breast cancer fall under the realm of physical therapy?

Physical therapy comes in as part of the healing and recovery process after aggressive treatments such as a radical mastectomy or aggressive radiation. We address everything from pain, scar tissues that are too tight - which can affect posture and flexibility - muscle weakness and endurance issues. A key part is also the education of how to manage the lymphatic system, which is often altered as part of the treatment. Our goal is to prevent complications down the road. Our focus is helping patients recover and rehabilitate from an injury and restoring them back to wellness.

Can you address breast health, in light of Breast CancerAwareness Month?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), aside from nonmelanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in American women. Approximately 800 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Hawaii. For health care providers, it’s critical to continue our efforts of educating and empowering women to take charge of their own breast health. This can be done through practicing regular self-breast exams, scheduling annual mammograms, knowing their family history in relation to cancer, adhering to prescribed treatment and knowing the facts about recurrence and prevention. Early detection is still the key.


Several studies have shown that a consistent exercise program reduces breast cancer risk. One study found that brisk walking for as little as one to twoand-a-half hours per week reduced the risk by 18 percent, while walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk even further. Other factors include maintaining a healthy body weight and limiting alcohol consumption.

At REHAB, our focus is on taking a holistic approach in caring for women who have just undergone surgical and/or radiation treatment, and honoring the mind, body and spirit relationship as part of the recovery process. Our team includes physical therapists, psychologists, dietitians, acupuncturists and Pilates instructors. We also emphasize education for the prevention of secondary complications that commonly occur, and we believe that through education we empower the women to direct their healing process.

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