If you’re starting to look into pelvic floor physical therapy, chances are you’ve had a baby. Possibly more than one. After all, one of the biggest stressors to a woman’s pelvic floor is pregnancy and delivery.
What is your pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor refers to the muscles that hold a bunch of important things up and in place. Those “things” are your bladder, uterus, bowels, etc.
So if you sustain damage to your pelvic floor, it’s not difficult to imagine how this can result in some seriously unpleasant consequences. Pelvic floor damage can lead to incontinence, constipation, and uterine or rectal prolapse, to name just a few.
What is pelvic floor physical therapy?
Pelvic floor therapy consists of a series of treatments designed to strengthen your pelvic floor and restore proper function. Your pelvic floor is a series of muscles that must work together. Such therapy aims to strengthen and coordinate muscle movements.
The range of treatment options varies widely. It may be as simple as recommending Kegels and other exercises and showing you how to do them properly. On the other hand, it could include more complicated treatments such as electronic measurements and stimulation to help your muscles regain proper function.
Who should have pelvic floor physical therapy?
Pelvic floor physical therapy is somewhat new on the scene in terms of more popular, mainstream treatments. While the concepts have been around since the Greeks, and were written about in the US in the early 20th century, more women are just starting to learn about the importance of the pelvic floor.
Providers are also becoming increasingly likely to recommend pelvic floor therapy. Still, many women first discover pelvic floor therapy when they hear about it from a friend or stumble upon it on the internet as they Google their many postpartum body changes.
From my own experience, a few years ago, I’d never even heard of physical therapy for your pelvic floor. Fast forward a few years (and a few children) later and I’ve seen recommendations for this given in my local mom’s group twice in just the past few weeks.
How do I find a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor therapy?
Because pelvic floor therapy has only become more mainstream in the past decade or so, it can be tough to find a good recommendation for a pelvic floor physical therapist. While you may have no problem getting women to recommend an OB/GYN or a typical physical therapist, many have no experience with a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor treatment.
There are two great places to get a provider recommendation. First, check with your OB/GYN practice. They often have a referral list of various providers, including pelvic floor physical therapists.
With that said, don’t be surprised if a check-in with your OB/GYN comes up short. As I said, this is a bit of an emerging field in mainstream medicine. Many practicing OB/GYNs simply weren’t trained to consider referrals in this area.
Second, check out this website. It includes a bank of pelvic floor physical therapy practitioners and is at least loosely connected to the Hernan and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute, which promotes evidence-based treatment for pelvic floor conditions.
A registry like this doesn’t tell you anything about bedside manner or compatibility. Still, it at least improves your chances that the provider you contact is actually experienced in pelvic floor therapy treatments. This may not seem like much, but it will save you a lot of phone calls and emails to physical therapists who don’t provide pelvic floor therapies (or even know what that is!).
If you decide to pursue pelvic floor physical therapy, be patient.
It may take some time to find the right provider for you. Even if you find a pelvic floor physical therapist quickly, this can be a bit of an awkward process. You want a provider you feel comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to keep looking if you don’t mesh well with the first physical therapist you see.
Pelvic floor therapy is typically a series of appointments, not just one visit. Your treatment plan may encompass multiple exercises and practices, not just a quick fix. Having realistic expectations can help you stick with the process and see it through.
What if physical therapy doesn’t solve my problems?
If at the end of your treatment plan, you’re still unhappy with your progress or condition, there are other options. You may then want to consider pelvic floor surgery to make permanent repairs.
Still, surgery can be quite costly and involve significant recovery time, so it’s definitely worth exploring pelvic floor physical therapy first. Even if you ultimately do end up with surgery, that doesn’t make your therapy efforts a wast. The pelvic floor strengthening work may help you better prepare for the procedure and aid in your recovery afterward.
If you’re struggling with pelvic floor challenges, definitely explore your options for physical therapy!
As always, remember: this isn’t medical advice, it’s just helpful information. For actual medical advice and treatment, talk to your health care provider.