by Kori Knudson, PT
Nearly one in four women suffers from pelvic floor disorders and one-third of women experience some degree of urinary urgency or incontinence. Pregnancy and aging can increase pelvic health and incontinence issues — but these conditions can affect women of all ages.
If pelvic health issues affect such large numbers of women, why do so many of them accept these conditions and suffer in silence?
Embarrassment about discussing these subjects with a healthcare provider, coupled with the misconception that these issues are a normal part of life, can prevent women from seeking treatment. Physical therapy treatments focused on strengthening pelvic floor issues are effective and can improve women’s quality of life.
What is a pelvic health specialist?
A pelvic health specialist is a physical therapist who treats the pelvic floor muscle group which is in charge of a variety of functions including supporting the pelvic organs, controlling bowel and bladder and controlling sexual health.
What kind of patient would benefit from this type of physical therapy?
Those with urinary leakage, difficulty with urination, pelvic pain or dysfunction related to pregnancy or postpartum would be great candidates to benefit from pelvic health therapy.
Are there pills or surgery available for this? Why should a patient consider physical therapy first?
The option for surgery or medication is available for some issues. However, surgery is more invasive and carries with it an increased risk of complications. Medication can come with various side affects. While it brings relief in the short term, it doesn’t directly address the cause of the issues.
Physical therapy it is a more holistic approach. It is a safe and effective option for treating most pelvic health issues.
What can patients expect at their first visit?
The first session with a pelvic health therapist is completed in a private room. A thorough evaluation will take approximately an hour and will include reviewing medical history to gain a clear understanding of the patient’s symptoms.
The therapist will take specific measurements to help determine the potential causes of the issue and create a treatment plan. Depending on the patient’s symptoms and level of comfort, an internal pelvic floor exam may be an option — but it’s never required, especially at the initial visit.
How long does it take to notice improvement?
It typically takes about four to six weeks of treatment before a patient will notice changes in their symptoms. This can vary based on the specific issue a patient is dealing with, as well their medical history.
What does treatment for pelvic health issues involve?
Pelvic health therapists take an evidence-based approach to treatment. Treatment plans are individualized for each patient’s specific needs.
Pelvic floor contractions used when appropriate, as well as core and hip strengthening, muscle lengthening and myofascial manual therapy. Biofeedback therapy is also used to practice relaxation exercises that help fine-tune control of different body functions,
If a patient is uncomfortable with certain techniques, are other options available?
Patients are encouraged to express questions or concerns about any portion of their plan of care. Understanding what each patient hopes to get out of therapy helps therapists create treatment plans and exercise programs designed to achieve those goals.
A good therapist is always willing to adjust the treatment to make patients feel safe and comfortable.