Wait a second…physical therapy has women’s health programs? Believe it or not, a rapidly growing specialty in the field of Physical Therapy is women’s health. But what exactly does this entail? At the base of your pelvis there is a bowl-shaped set of muscles called your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are very important for providing support and stability, sphincter control over urination and bowel movements, as well as sexual response.
What happens when these muscles are dysfunctional?
Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to issues such as urinary or bowel incontinence, pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, or pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor dysfunction can even contribute to low back or hip pain.
How does pelvic floor dysfunction arise?
Most commonly, pregnancy and childbirth cause pelvic floor issues. It doesn’t matter if you are 6 weeks postpartum, 6 months postpartum, or 6 years postpartum. If your body has carried a child you should see a women’s health PT. In most European countries, this is a standard of care to prevent women having pelvic floor dysfunction later on in life. But pelvic floor dysfunction isn’t always related to pregnancy and childbirth. It can also arise from poor stress management, muscular imbalance in the lumbopelvic region, or even have unknown causes.
What else can a PT help with that isn’t related to pelvic floor dysfunction?
Another common women’s health condition is what is known as a “diastasis recti.” This is something that occurs during pregnancy, where the rectus abdominus muscle separates to create more room in the abdomen for the growing baby. This is something that can be addressed through manual therapy techniques, kinesio taping, core stability, and managing pressure transfer. Closing this gap is very important to helping with lumbosacral stability.
Each women’s health PT has undergone specialty training to be able to appropriately assess the pelvic floor muscles, which may require them to perform an external and internal pelvic exam. This will be performed based on necessity and comfort level. It is important for the therapist to assess these muscles when necessary to be able to appropriately guide their treatment plan.
Ladies, it is not “normal” to urinate when you cough, laugh, or sneeze. It is not “normal” to have pain during or after intercourse. It is not “normal” to feel heaviness or pressure in your pelvic region. It is a common misconception that this is “just what happens after having a baby” or “every aging woman must endure these burdens”. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you may benefit from seeing a women’s health PT! Ask your OBGYN or primary care doctor about visiting a PT certified in women’s health, or if you live in a “direct access” state just schedule an evaluation!