By Stacey Ellingson, PT, DPT
When I was in physical therapy school, my program very briefly touched on the pelvic floor; we were instructed to learn the anatomy, offered a lecture, and then guided as “this is something you can pursue with additional education f you have interest.” At the time, I had no interest. I wanted to do orthopedics (work with backs/hips/knees/ankles) and I was content with that. Fast forward to 5 years later when I gave birth to my first child. I had a whole new prospective on the role of the pelvic floor, how critical it is, and how debilitating a dysfunction it is. A vaginal delivery, while a very common experience for many women, is essentially a train wreck to your pelvic floor. If any of us expelled a 5-10 pound mass from any other muscle group in our body, we most certainly would be referred to physical therapy; but in the post-partum world, this is often not the case. If you are experiencing dysfunction, do not hesitate to seek out pelvic floor physical therapy, as it can so greatly improve your quality of life.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is essentially the bowl of muscles that lines our pelvis from the pubic bone to the tailbone. There are three layers of these muscles and they play three important roles: 1. Sphincteric– they help maintain continence. They help keep things closed when they should be closed, and open when they should open. 2) Supportive– They help to support and hold our pelvic organs all day/every day for our entire life (talk about a BIG job! And in the case of pregnancy; this includes a growing fetus!), 3) They play a role in sexual function. Just like any other muscle group in the body they can go through dysfunction , they can get tight, spasm, or stretched and weak; or a combination of the two.
What happens during a pelvic floor physical therapy session?
First off, we chat! We want to know everything that has been going on as it pertains to your pelvic dysfunction, clarify what your concerns are, and take a thorough history so we get a clear picture of why you came to see us. Next we will perform a physical exam which most often includes both an internal and external component so we can objectively pinpoint what type of dysfunction may be present. We will provide you with lots of education to help keep you as proactive and involved in your treatment plan as necessary. You may learn more about your bladder than you ever wanted to know! PT treatment can look very different from person to person, based on what your issues are. It may involve hands on therapy, exercises, behavior modification strategies, or a combination of things!
What are some signs that I could benefit from pelvic floor PT?
Leaking urine or stool
Difficulty emptying bladder or bowels
Excessive urinary urgency and/or frequency
Vulvodynia (pain in vulvar area)
Diastasis recti (muscle separation at abdominal wall)
Pelvic organ prolapse; heaviness/pressure in vaginal canal
While ANYONE can experience pelvic floor dysfunction at any time of their life, due to the demands on the body of pregnancy, labor, and delivery; mom’s often fall victim. We also tend to put our own needs out the window, or blow off our symptoms because we think its “normal”. But please know you are not alone, and there are people who can help if you are experiencing pelvic dysfunction. The pelvic floor team at Flex Physical Therapy can’t wait to meet you!
Yes I’m a PT, but I’m a mom too. And I get it.