If you’ve had a child in the last few years or have gone through menopause, you may be familiar with weak pelvic floor symptoms. These include pressure in the pelvic region on an empty bladder, pressure or stretching sensation in the groin area, low back pain, incontinence, pain during or after sex, and sporadic menstrual bleeding. Importantly, women who experience chronic constipation, constant cough, obesity, and pelvic tumors are also at risk for a weakened pelvic floor.
Fortunately, there is hope for women who struggle with pelvic disorders and need to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor physical therapists specialize in rehabilitating pelvic floor muscles and work with patients to relieve pain and disruptions to their quality of life. They may introduce pelvic floor stretches to improve weak pelvic floor symptoms as well.
If you’ve never been to physical therapy but you’re struggling with a pelvic floor condition, consider consulting with a pelvic floor physical therapist who can help you. With the right exercise routine, pelvic floor issues do not have to dominate your life. Physical therapists treat a variety of pelvic floor conditions and are ready to help you get your life back on track.
Which Pelvic Floor Issues Can My Physical Therapist Address?
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a special type of treatment program to help strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles for optimal function. Strong pelvic floor muscles help to ensure proper urination, sexual function, and bowel movements. Without this foundation, patients can develop several related conditions, including pelvic floor dyssynergia and vaginal prolapse.
Treating Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia
One condition pelvic floor physical therapists commonly treat is pelvic floor dyssynergia. This is a painful pelvic floor condition that causes the puborectalis muscles and other muscles in the pelvic floor to become uncoordinated and prevents patients from being able to relax the pelvic floor. It’s more common amongst women, but men can also develop the condition. Causes of pelvic floor dyssynergia include obesity, nerve damage in the pelvic floor, childbirth, pelvic floor trauma, pelvic muscle overuse, and age.
Symptoms of pelvic floor dyssynergia include female pelvic floor spasms, pain or failure to relax the pelvic floor muscles during bowel movements, pelvic pain, incontinence, lower back pain, and pain during intercourse. If your doctor has diagnosed you with pelvic floor dyssynergia, you can work with a pelvic floor physical therapist to strengthen your pelvic floor and relieve your symptoms. Specifically, a physical therapist can teach you how to relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles, as well as prescribe exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor over time.
Addressing Vaginal Prolapse
Another condition pelvic floor physical therapists often address is vaginal prolapse. Vaginal prolapse occurs when the muscles in the pelvic floor weaken and stretch and cause the bowel, uterus, or bladder, to protrude into the vagina. Like pelvic floor dyssynergia, this condition can cause pain during intercourse, abdominal pain, and discomfort during defecation. More advanced prolapse can leave a feeling of “fullness” in the vagina, a visible lump in the vagina, recurring UTIs, and other symptoms. The most common cause of vaginal prolapse is pregnancy and childbirth, with one in two women experiencing some form of prolapse.
Once a doctor diagnoses a patient with vaginal prolapse, a physical therapist can work with the patient on a treatment program tailored to their needs. A pelvic floor physical therapist may recommend Kegels, perform manual therapy to relax the pelvic floor muscles, or use biofeedback to gauge the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, electrical stimulation to activate the muscles, and weighted cones to help with pelvic floor exercises and provide needed resistance. Physical therapists may also recommend certain types of yoga to strengthen the pelvic floor as well.
A weak pelvic floor can cause many complications, but if you struggle with weak pelvic floor symptoms, all is not lost. A doctor and pelvic floor physical therapist can work with you to explore your treatment options. To learn about which conditions pelvic floor physical therapists treat and if pelvic floor therapy is right for you, visit Advanced Gynecology for more resources.