Editor’s note: The following article is part of a partnership between Chambanamoms and Christie Clinic to help create a healthier lifestyle for you and your family.
Do you leak urine when you cough, sneeze or during exercise? Do you have pain that takes away from your enjoyment of intimacy?
Chronic pelvic pain and/or incontinence are not something that you have to live with, even as you get older. Physical therapists who are specially trained in women’s health can help women who have problems that they are often too afraid or too embarrassed to talk about such as bladder and bowel incontinence, or sexual dysfunction and pain. With physical therapy and rehabilitation, the muscles of the pelvic floor can be strengthened or stretched in ways to address and diminish or eliminate these common problems.
If you are diagnosed with stress incontinence as a result of weakness in the pelvic floor muscles (PFM), your physical therapy may involve strengthening both the PFM and the core. We like to think of your core as a cylinder. Your pelvic floor is the bottom of this cylinder and plays a significant role in keeping your cylinder strong. When the pelvic floor is weak, the core is often weak as well. This weakness not only leads to incontinence, but can also lead to low back, buttock or hip pain. If you suffer from urge incontinence, which can involve urinary frequency and urgency, you may also benefit from instruction in various behavioral techniques as well as strengthening exercises for the PFM and core.
If pain is your primary concern you may have tightness in the PFM. A women’s health physical therapist may use a variety of manual techniques to mobilize the soft tissue of the PFM, hips and low back. To learn to take control of your pain, instruction in a home program may consist of learning to relax and down-train the muscles in addition to stretching the PFM.
Who may benefit from women’s health PT services?
Any woman who experiences any of the following:
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary urgency or frequency
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Fecal/bowel incontinence
- Low back and pelvic joint pain during or after pregnancy
What’s involved with pelvic floor rehabilitation?
- Pelvic floor muscle exercise and training
- Manual therapy, Joint mobilization and myofascial release
- Electrical stimulation
- Pain management
- Therapeutic exercise, strengthening and core stabilization
- Home program development
How do I get started with Women’s health physical therapy?
You need to see your physician first, just as you do when seeking physical therapy for your shoulder or knee. He or she will first address any medical issues that could be causing your problems and then determine if you are appropriate for pelvic floor PT.