If you have health conditions related to the pelvic area, take note: physical therapy may be able to assuage the symptoms.
October was National Physical Therapy Month, and the Healthy State editors wanted to highlight a subspecialty of the practice that isn’t widely known but very effective: pelvic physical therapy. In addition, November is Bladder Health Awareness Month, so this is the perfect time to highlight this growing modality.
Pelvic physical therapy involves a muscle group in the, you guessed it, pelvis. This cohort of muscles is responsible for a variety of functions. When something goes wrong down here you’re likely to know. This could be leaking urine when you cough or sneeze. It could be chronic constipation, or pain with bowel movements. Or, it could be sexual dysfunction like pain with orgasm or intercourse. These muscles are critical in supporting the pelvic organs, assisting in bowel and bladder control, and they contribute to sexual arousal and orgasm. In short, all things we don’t love to talk about.
A person may be referred to pelvic floor physical therapy by their doctor to treat issues like the ones described, and more. Pelvic physical therapists treat pregnant and post-partum women, men with prostate issues, and even people who have undergone radiation in the pelvic area.
“In a lot of ways we see and treat patients just like every other area of physical therapy,” said Veronica Asence, a Physical Therapist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. She added one important difference in pelvic physical therapy is that treatment takes place in a private room rather than an open gym.
“We’re looking at a much more personal area in the body, but in terms of restoring the body’s function and giving a better quality of life, that’s what we do,” she said.
A pelvic physical therapist will conduct an intake, perform an assessment, and create a unique plan to meet a patient’s goals.
“We like to highlight that improving muscle function is not just about strengthening but more so about ensuring the muscles are pain-free and the patient has good control over the movement of their muscles,” said Chenin Duclos, a physical therapist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. “In some cases we see that a more commonly known exercise –Kegels (in which you squeeze your pelvic muscles as if you are going to stop the flow of urine), for example – can actually exacerbate a pelvic problem. Pelvic physical therapy involves identifying which muscles are affected and helping the patient to use them correctly.” Currently Lahey Health is offering pelvic physical therapy services at its Gloucester, Reading, Winchester, Danvers and Burlington locations.
If pelvic physical therapy is right for you, here are five things to know about your pelvic PT appointment:
- An overall health history and physical examination.
- Wear comfortable clothes because you may be moving around.
- You’ll learn all about the pelvic floor and set goals in improving muscle function.
- Like other physical therapy, pelvic PT is covered by many insurance companies.
- There will be an individualized approach to treatment. Physical therapy is about helping an individual body, there’s no cookie-cutter approach.
If you think pelvic physical therapy could help you, chat with your doctor or even call a physical therapy site to speak with a pelvic physical therapist about your questions.