Physical therapists can treat symptoms involving my bladder, bowels, or sexual function? True! Many have been doing this for several years. As this area of practice continues to advance, more providers are recognizing physical therapy as an effective and conservative treatment intervention for these diagnoses. However, every patient is different and everyone has a different experience. So with so much information available on healthcare, especially online, how do you know what is correct? Medical Associates Clinic physical therapist Britt Gosse, DPT, shares her experience and training below to help you sort the facts from the myths.
“Physical therapists can’t do anything to address this.”
Physical therapists are experts in treating the musculoskeletal system. There are 14 muscles, several joints, ligaments, and nerves making up the pelvic floor. Not all physical therapists are trained in treatment of the pelvic floor, but there are some who have completed further training to become experts in this specific type of therapy.
“I’ve already done kegels, physical therapy can’t help me.”
Physical therapy can help. Many kegel programs can be beneficial but not for all symptoms. Additionally, a balance of muscles that engage for activities is required. Finding someone who can assess all your symptoms and the balance of your body will give you the optimal outcome.
“Only women who have had a baby go to pelvic floor physical therapy.”
Yes, post-partum women are a group that commonly benefit from pelvic floor PT, but everyone has a pelvic floor. Therefore anyone could have symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy.
“I had surgery on my (ex. bladder, uterus, etc.) for these symptoms and it didn’t help, so physical therapy won’t either.”
Sometimes surgery isn’t the answer or it’s not the whole solution to the underlying issue that is creating your symptoms. Physical therapy may be a great non-invasive option for you as well. Discuss this with your doctor and physical therapist. Even after surgery you can benefit!
“I don’t have any pelvic floor symptoms but I just had surgery on my (abdomen, bladder, uterus, bowel, etc.).”
Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, a result of surgical procedures is scar tissue. Scar tissue can restrict normal tissue function and impair daily activities. Maybe not now, but possibly in the future you might exhibit symptoms. Being proactive with therapies to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles is a great idea for preventive health.
“My diagnosis is related to genetics. Physical therapy won’t address that.”
If this is the case, physical therapy likely won’t change the driver of your symptoms but it CAN help you manage the secondary issues occurring because of your symptoms, such as urinary urgency, constipation, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, etc. You can learn new strategies and ways to help you manage symptoms you experience.
“Other people I know said they leak when they workout. It must be normal.”
It is not normal to leak when you lift, run, jump, sneeze, sit…the list goes on. Leaking may be common but it is not normal. You can learn new recruitment strategies, balance your muscular system, and optimize overall function by working with a skilled physical therapist.
“I just had a baby; isn’t leaking or prolapse normal?”
Again, I want to stress that while these are common symptoms for many women, it is not normal. Just because something is common does not mean you have to live with it. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help you.
“I have the separation of the abdominal muscles. They said I’d have to avoid core work forever.”
This separation occurs as a natural part of pregnancy but it can create symptoms following delivery, such as feelings of instability, abdominal pain, low back pain, pelvic pain, urinary leakage/urgency. You may not have to avoid the exercises or activities you love. Many women benefit from learning recruitment strategies to protect the core, optimize function, and not create further symptoms.
“I already went to pelvic floor physical therapy and it didn’t work.”
Therapists treating the pelvic floor are all trained differently. They may have a different focus, see a different number of patients per week, or have a different type of experience or approach. Seeing another therapist just gives your symptoms another set of eyes. Research and consider a new therapist that specializes in pelvic floor therapies. Be open to your therapist and be honest about your previous experience. They will use their expertise and knowledge to address your needs with a new approach.
If you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, you may be a candidate for pelvic floor physical therapy. Contact your primary care provider and receive an appointment referral or contact the Physical Therapy Department at Medical Associates directly at 563-584-4465. For more information or to submit an electronic inquiry, follow this link.
Brittany Gosse, DPT
Department of Physical Therapy
Medical Associates Clinic