Women: Incontinence and Pelvic Pain
Women’s health physical therapy is an area of rehabilitation that specializes in the unique needs of women throughout their life cycle. From the young female athlete, before, during and after pregnancy and menopause, as well as geriatric women all have specific needs and problems that can be successfully treated with physical therapy.
Women’s health physical therapists are licensed professionals usually with a master’s or doctorate degree in physical therapy with additional training in treating pelvic floor disorders. Pelvic floor disorders include incontinence, (leakage of urine), pelvic pain, organ prolapse and constipation.
Urinary Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. Over 13 million American’s suffer from this condition with more than 50% being middle-aged women. Physical therapists successfully provide conservative, non-surgical treatments for the following types of urinary incontinence.
Stress Urinary Incontinence: Leakage of urine that occurs during coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercise and lifting. Leakage occurs when the intra abdominal pressure exceeds the urethral closure pressure. A combination of weak pelvic floor and abdominal muscles contribute to this disorder. A history of low back pain and pelvic pain can contribute to weakness of these muscles.
Urge Urinary Incontinence: Also, known as over active bladder, is the leakage of urine associated with a strong urge to urinate. Those suffering with this condition will frequently leak urine during the sound of running water, or as they are trying to run to the bathroom.
Pelvic pain can present itself as vaginal pain, pain during sexual intercourse, urination, or pain in the pelvis that radiates to the thighs.
Pain in this area can be from musculoskeletal dysfunctions such as low back pain, sacroiliac or pubic symphysis separation, lumbo-sacral spine dysfunctions, interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, abdominal scars, vulvodynia, or levator ani syndrome. Pain or dysfunction in any of these areas can cause muscle spasms in the muscles of the pelvic floor.
When the muscles and tissues of the pelvis get stretched and weak from pregnancy, constipation and other conditions the organs in your pelvis such as your bladder, uterus and rectum drop from the lower belly into the walls of the vagina. Patients complain of a bulge or heaviness in their vagina.
What to Expect During Therapy
A women’s health physical therapist will provide a thorough evaluation and develop an individualized treatment program specific to your problems and functional goals.
Treatments may include a combination of therapeutic exercises to strengthen and coordinate the muscles of the core: which encompass the pelvic floor, abdominal, hips and spine muscles.
Other treatment options may include: bladder training, education on bladder irritants, manual therapy, trigger point dry needling, posture correction, visceral mobilization, functional training, EMG biofeedback and electrical stimulation.