Maybe you or someone you know has had physical therapy – perhaps for a shoulder injury, or a knee replacement, or even a stroke. If so, when you think of therapy, you probably think of doing repetitions and sets of certain exercises, lifting weights, pulling on colorful rubber bands, and being in a gym full of other patients. It’s no wonder that you would be more than a little confused when your doctor recommends physical therapy for your pelvic pain or bowel and bladder symptoms. Aren’t those symptoms an unavoidable part of aging or childbirth? They don’t have to be. Pelvic floor disorder affects nearly 25% of Americans, young and old, men and women, and it doesn’t have to be something that you live with.
What is Pelvic Floor Disorder?
Generally speaking, pelvic floor disorder (PFD) occurs when the muscles that protect and support the pelvic organs become weak or damaged. This covers a variety of things including when the muscles are too loose preventing them from contracting properly and when they are shortened and irritated. Sometimes muscles were damaged by childbirth, surgery, or other activities and did not heal properly on their own. Thankfully, physical therapy can go a long way towards correcting these symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms?
Many people assume that weak pelvic muscles only present themselves in incontinence, but the effect can be much greater. Some of the symptoms that frequently occur with PFD are:
- Urinary incontinence (including the urge to go frequently)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Constipation or pain during bowel movements
- Muscle spams in the pelvis
- Sexual dysfunction or pain during sex
- Chronic pain syndromes (typically in the hips or lower back)
A poorly functioning pelvic floor can present itself in a variety of ways, so if you are experiencing any pain or unusual symptoms surrounding the pelvic area, ask you doctor about a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Does Physical Therapy Really Help?
The short answer is yes. Therapeutic strategies for pelvic floor dysfunction have evolved beyond the traditional Kegel exercises for incontinence. Physical therapists customize treatment plans and select treatments based on patients’ individual examination and evaluation. The muscle rehabilitation employs a variety of strategies to improve their capacity including
- Triger point release
- Electrical stimulation (for pain relief)
- Myofascial release
- Soft tissue lengthening and manipulation
- Deep tissue manipulation
- Joint mobilizations
What About Personal Privacy?
One of the common concerns patients have about being treated for pelvic floor disorder is their privacy. After all, no one likes having to talk to a doctor about urinary frequency, bowel movements, and possibly their sex life, but avoiding the topic won’t do anything to help your pain go away. Here at Haymarket PT, we know that this issue can be a sensitive topic and we are committed to helping you be a comfortable as possible during the therapy process. It’s true that we may have to ask some personal questions in order to help evaluate where your pelvic floor issues are stemming from, but our gentle and professional staff is committed to treating you respectfully and we can always slow down or take a break if you are feeling uncomfortable.
Many women who seek medical treatment for pelvic issues find themselves more comfortable working on such a sensitive issue with a female doctor. We would like you to meet Dr. Catalina, an excellent physical therapist here at Haymarket PT who would be happy to work with you.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to a pelvic floor disorder, the staff at Haymarket PT would love to talk with you about how physical therapy may be the solution to your discomfort. To make an appointment, you can call our Bristow or Haymarket offices or contact us via our website.