This is a guest blog post by Allison Ariail PT, DPT, PRPC, BCB-PMD, CLT-LANA. She is a physical therapist at Parker Adventist Hospital where she treats women’s and men’s health issues. I have worked with her to collaborate and treat women who have incontinence issues and need pelvic floor physical therapy.
By Allison Ariail PT, DPT, PRPC, BCB-PMD, CLT-LANA
Many women do not know that there are physical therapists that specialize in women’s health. A women’s health physical therapist is one that obtains additional post-graduate training in topics that are focused towards areas of concerns that are unique to women. A women’s health physical therapist will specialize in rehabilitation of the muscles around the pelvic ring, including the pelvic floor, as well as other topics that are pertinent to women such as strength training for osteoporosis, and treatment for pain during pregnancy.
So, what is the pelvic floor? The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that run from the pubic bone to the tailbone. The functions of the pelvic floor include support of the pelvic organs, help with urinary and fecal incontinence, stabilize the pelvis and low back, aid in sexual performance, and assist in lymphatic flow. Women often hear about performing “kegels” to strengthen their pelvic floor. A Kegel is a pelvic floor muscle contraction that helps keep the pelvic floor strong. However, how many women can do a pelvic floor contraction properly?
A study by Bump et al found that only about 50% of women can do a pelvic floor muscle contraction correctly with verbal instruction alone. Additionally, about 25% of the women were performing a technique that would promote urinary incontinence rather than a proper pelvic floor muscle contraction. This is where a women’s health therapist can be helpful. Women’s health therapists are trained in assessing a pelvic floor muscle contraction and teaching a woman to do one properly. Therapists have access to different biofeedback equipment that allows a woman to see for herself if she is doing a “Kegel” in the correct manner. The therapist and the woman then work together to create a program for the woman to do at home to strengthen her pelvic floor, in addition to other treatments that the woman may need addressed.
In future blogs, I will go into more depth regarding how to perform Kegels properly, as well as how a women’s health physical therapist will go about treating various conditions. In the many years I have specialized in women’s health, I have had numerous women tell me that they were glad that their doctor had recommended physical therapy by a women’s health specialist because it had changed their lives for the better. Some women’s lives were changed dramatically, so they could finally do the activities they were once able to do that they could not do after having a baby. I have seen women for various diagnoses, from urinary or fecal incontinence, to painful intercourse, to back pain, to abdominal pain.
In each and every woman, it has been an honor to work with them to improve their life! I look forward to sharing information with you in future blogs in hopes it may improve your life as well!
Photo Credit: Primal Pictures and Allison Ariail