You have incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse or pain during intercourse. You have just seen your gynecologist and she/he recommends pelvic physical therapy. “What??” you ask. “What on earth can a physical thttp://www.womenshealthapta.org/herapist do for me?”
This is a common scenario. Women’s health physical therapists are physical therapists that have specialized training in treating the muscles of the pelvic floor. These therapists use every facet of their physical therapy training to evaluate and treat female clients, promoting and enhancing health through the life span. All treatments are individually designed after thorough evaluation. These physical therapists are trained to evaluate and treat joint dysfunction, muscle imbalances, and nerve entrapment which may contribute to pelvic pain. A physical therapist trained in this area may utilize hands on techniques to address hypotonic muscles or prescribe exercises to improve muscle strength and reduce faulty patterns of muscle recruitment. Other treatment strategies may include biofeedback, retraining of uncoordinated muscles, postural training, and strengthening of the abdominal core muscles.
Patients who are referred to a women’s physical therapist include those with urinary or fecal incontinence, urgency, increased frequency, pain and burning with urination, pain in the abdomen, low back or pelvis, painful pelvic exams, difficulty with walking, sitting, or standing for a long period, diminished sexual desire, arousal or sensation, pain with sexual intercourse, pain with bowel function, chronic constipation, pain related to pregnancy or post-partum, symptoms following surgical procedures (abdominal or pelvic), osteoporosis, lymphedema, post-breast cancer musculoskeletal dysfunction, general orthopedic dysfunctions.
A patient with any of these diagnoses will be thoroughly evaluated by a women’s physical therapist, and a treatment plan typically lasts 1-2 times per week for 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the condition.
Many cities have specialized women’s physical therapists. A quick search using the “Find a PT” feature on the APTA website can find a therapist in your area who can treat these problems. If possible, look for a therapist who is a board-certified Women’s Health Clinical Specialist (WCS). To obtain this specialization, candidates must demonstrate knowledge, skill and experience in this specialized area of physical therapy, and successfully pass their board exam. In 2010, there are currently 61 women physical therapists with this designation. The area of women’s health is growing fast, and certainly the number of therapists seeking to achieve this specialization will expand quickly as women continue to take control of their health and seek to improve their quality of life.