Are all physical therapists the same? When you have a broken arm do you go to a general primary care physician only, or do you consider seeing an orthopedic? Similarly, if you have pelvic pain would you prefer your primary care physician or a gynecologist? Physical therapists can offer subspecialties similar to when you are choosing what type of doctor to go to when you have a problem. One such subspecialty is physical therapists that specialize in pelvic floor rehab. Yes ladies...and gentleman too, there is physical therapy for that!
Physical therapists that specialize in pelvic rehab can treat not only the external muscles, but also the internal muscles of the pelvic floor in both male and females. Dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles can increase your risk and cause pelvic organ prolapse, sexual pain or lack of stimulation, urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence,chronic constipation, and hip, pelvic and low back pain. Having any of the previous listed symptoms is a potential sign of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, and physical therapists specializing in pelvic floor rehab can be a valuable part of your medical team.
The pelvic floor is composed of three layers of muscles. These muscles are part of a larger system known as the catch- all phrase “the core.” The pelvic floor muscles provide support for your internal organs (like your bladder), aid in stability of the pelvis, sacrum, and lumbar spine, contain structures known as sphincters that open and close your anus and urethra, and are vital in sexual functioning. The pelvic floor muscles have to be able to accept loads appropriately as part of a larger support system in order to prevent leakage of urine or conditions such as a pelvic organ prolapse.
Now if you are thinking that attending pelvic floor rehab will be similar to going to a gynecologist appointment, you are wrong. There are no stirrups or large speculums involved in pelvic floor rehab. All treatment is gentle and to the patients’ tolerance and may include manual therapy to the internal and external muscles, biofeedback training to retrain the pelvic floor muscles to function appropriately, exercises to help strengthen the appropriate muscles, postural retraining, and education on lifestyle habits. Appointments are one on one and behind closed doors. Your physical therapist will form a home exercise that is tailored to your needs and help give you independence in your recovery. It’s time to handle the type of pain that so many people hide because they are embarrassed or simply do not know there is help through conservative treatments.