What is pelvic floor physical therapy?
Painful intercourse, vaginal pain, incontinence (urine or stool leakage), overactive bladder, pelvic organ prolapse, and constipation are more common than you may think. They’re also more treatable. You don’t need to “just live with” these distressing conditions, and in most cases you don’t need surgery. Pelvic floor physical therapy may be just what the doctor ordered.
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a relatively new specialty at the intersection of physical therapy, gynecology, and urology. Like traditional physical therapy, it employs hands-on techniques and exercises to rehabilitate an injured body part. But instead of treating the shoulder or knee, for example, it focuses on the pelvic floor. This is the “sling” of muscles and tissues in the lower abdomen that supports, and holds in place, the bladder, uterus, and rectum.
Growing numbers of evidence-based studies are proving the effectiveness of pelvic floor physical therapy, and women around the world are testaments to its success. The American Physical Therapy Association created the Section on Women’s Health to support this specialized, and much-needed, type of physical therapy.
Painful intercourse and vaginal pain
Painful intercourse and vaginal pain can be devastating blows to a woman’s sex life and self-esteem. Many women don’t seek help or can’t find the right help, so they suffer in silence. The good news is that after a course of pelvic floor physical therapy, the majority of women can start to enjoy pain-free, pleasurable sex—some, for the very first time.
Incontinence, overactive bladder, pelvic organ prolapse, and constipation
Incontinence, overactive bladder, pelvic organ prolapse, and constipation can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, and can disrupt daily life. Too often, women assume they “just have to live with” these conditions. Fortunately, after completing pelvic floor physical therapy, most women can return to a normal, comfortable life—free of leakage, bathroom emergencies, and distress.
Pain and incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth
Pain and incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth can go unaddressed during this exciting, exhausting time. Pregnant women and new mothers may not seek help for their vaginal pain, pubic pain, joint pain, or urine leakage. But after pelvic floor physical therapy, most moms and moms-to-be are much better—even back to normal.
Back and hip problems,
Back and hip problems, in their own right, can trigger a musculoskeletal chain reaction ending in pelvic pain and painful sex. Fortunately, pelvic floor physical therapy can unwind this twisted chain of pain, restoring ease of movement and sexual pleasure.
Diastasis recti (gap in the abdominal muscles)
This afflicts many new moms—but is diagnosed by too few doctors. It can cause “baby pooch,” pain, and bladder and bowel problems. Standard core exercises can actually make matters worse. But physical therapy can close the gap and make all the difference.