What is Pelvic Floor Therapy and How Can It Help Me?
Pelvic floor therapy is a non-surgical rehabilitation approach that addresses complaints in the pelvic region. Pelvic floor PT is a specialized form of physical therapy where examination techniques and treatments are specific to pelvic floor functions including bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual health and pelvic pain. General orthopedic physical therapy and pelvic floor physical therapy could involve patient education, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular re-education, soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization. Pelvic floor physical therapy targets treatments to the lumbopelvic girdle to address pelvic floor dysfunctions.
The conditions pelvic floor therapy address:
Pain during intercourse
Pelvic floor issues are diagnosed through the patient’s history and an examination of the lumbopelvic region. This can include an internal and/or external exam of the pelvic floor. During an external exam, the therapist can assess tenderness of the muscles through the skin and assess the pelvic floor’s ability to lengthen and contract. An internal exam assesses the muscles through the vaginal wall. With an internal exam, the therapist can score the patient’s pelvic floor strength and endurance, as well as its ability to relax.
Some techniques and exercises include:
Soft tissue mobilization and myofascial release to relax pelvic floor muscles
Joint mobilization to improve range of motion of the pelvis, spine and hips
Biofeedback to assist with proper recruitment of pelvic floor muscles
Exercises to strengthen and lengthen the pelvic floor muscles
Strengthen: pelvic tilts, kegels, squats, deadlifts, bridges, clamshells
Lengthen: butterfly stretch, pelvic rocks on hands/knees and on ball,
happy baby, child’s pose
Local and global core strengthening
Some relaxation techniques include:
Education on diet and lifestyle changes
Stronger core = less low back pain
Stronger pelvic floor = no more leaking when you cough or sneeze, helps with
pressure from organ prolapse
More relaxed pelvic floor = less discomfort with sex, decreased constipation,
decreased pelvic pain
Bladder training = decreased urinary urgency, urinary frequency
Preparation for labor and birth
Some patients will see improvements immediately whereas most will see them between 4-6 weeks, depending on the prognosis.
I will usually see patients 1x per week for 4 weeks and then decrease to every other week and then to every 3 weeks for a check in. Generally, I’ll see patients for anywhere from 1 visit (1 week) to 6 months.
1/3 of women will experience pelvic floor dysfunction
40-50% of post-menopausal women will experience incontinence
Only about 25% of women living with incontinence seek professional help
Men can benefit from pelvic floor therapy too!
Up to 50% of women are unable to correctly contract their pelvic floor
Correlation has been found between grinding teeth and pelvic floor tightness
Joanna Fisher, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT has been practicing physical therapy for 7 years. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science in 2013 and Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2016, both from University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. She became a board certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist in 2019. She completed her fellowship in Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy from the Manual Therapy Institute in 2020. She works with all orthopedic conditions and especially enjoys treating equestrians and women suffering from pelvic floor complaints. She served on the House of Delegates for the Connecticut chapter of the APTA and on the Nominating Committee. She is an active member of the APTA and the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. You can visit her or make an appointment here: https://forwardmotionpt.net/
Read more about the pelvic floor on Rosewoman.com.