*This article was originally published by Neurologic Physiotherapy, which is part of the Lifemark family. We are republishing it here with permission.
You may have seen advertisements for pelvic health physiotherapy and wondered how a physiotherapist can help with pelvic health. When we think of physiotherapists, we often think of therapists that treat pain and orthopedic problems, but there are many other forms of physiotherapy.
So what exactly is pelvic floor physiotherapy?
Pelvic floor physiotherapy (PFPT) is a specialized branch of physiotherapy involving internal and external assessment and treatment of the pelvic floor muscles. Those muscles are located between the hip bones and the sacrum, and they serve as a bowl to support the pelvic organs including the bladder, colon and uterus.
Why might I need pelvic floor physiotherapy?
You may benefit from pelvic floor physiotherapy if you have any type of pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction can be classified into two problems: your muscles are too tight or they are too weak.
A tight pelvic floor can contribute to urinary frequency and urgency. It can also make urination painful or incomplete and can be responsible for you waking up during the night with a need to pee.
Moreover, it can contribute to urinary incontinence (when you just can’t make it to the washroom). A tight pelvic floor also contributes to constipation, straining during bowel movements and painful bowel movements.
If you suffer from a tight, dysfunctional pelvic floor, you may also experience sexual dysfunction. This can present as pain with penetration, inability to have vaginal penetration, pain with or inability to orgasm, and pain with sexual stimulation. In men, it can also present as painful erections and premature ejaculation.
A weak pelvic floor can contribute to stress incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine or stool during or after activity. This includes leaking during sports, or with coughing and sneezing.
Weak pelvic floor muscles also contribute to pelvic organ prolapse, which is when one of the pelvic organs starts to shift out of place. This contributes to heaviness or bulging at the vaginal or rectal opening.
These are conditions typically associated with women after they give birth, and as a result, most women think this is a normal turn of events and do not realize this is something that can be fixed! The good news is, there is a solution beyond pads and diapers.
Most people find success with treatment for a weak pelvic floor after five to seven sessions. If you’re really worried, pre-delivery assessment and strengthening can help you achieve a strong, supportive pelvic floor while still pregnant!
What does treatment look like?
Every treatment is tailored to your individual needs as a client. There is an external examination component where the skin, fascia, and muscles of the abdomen, lower back, and inner thighs are assessed. There is also an internal component to the exam which is done via a digital (finger) vaginal and/or rectal exam.
An internal exam is not always necessary, but it is encouraged to get a full picture of the issues you may have. It also adds valuable insight to better enhance your treatment plan and reach the best outcomes possible, in the shortest amount of time.
When is the best time to book an appointment?
The best time to book an appointment is at the time you notice there is a problem. Unlike other muscle strains or sports injuries, which can disappear on their own, pelvic dysfunction tends to get worse over time.
It is much easier to correct a minor prolapse or mild incontinence than it is to correct a problem that has been worsening over multiple years! It’s also easier to address persistent pelvic pain or sexual dysfunction early on.
If you notice your pelvic floor is not operating to its fullest extent, it is best to book an appointment today! Check out our Locations page to schedule an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist at a Lifemark clinic near you.