Most life sustaining body functions are the same to both men and women.
- Our hearts pump blood,
- Our lungs fuel that blood with oxygen,
- Our brains have nerves that send messages controlling all bodily functions.
- However, unique to women is the opportunity to carry a child in the creation of a life.
- With that carries a myriad of functions that are complicated and completely amazing and unique to the female!
My name is Lori Haring, and I have treated hundreds of women and men in the specialty of pelvic floor rehabilitation over the past 15 years. In that time, I have come to realize that the pelvic issues that affect both women and men are grossly misunderstood and drastically under-addressed. Patients say time and time again, “I never knew PT’s could do this!” or “I wish someone told me about this sooner!”
It is so important that we spread the word about pelvic floor health. Through our workshops and newsletters, we are hoping reach many people like yourself! If you have benefitted from pelvic floor rehab, please share about your experiences with others and help to decrease the stigma and secrecy of these problems in order to help teach others what pelvic floor rehab can do to improve lives.
Even though the muscles of the pelvis and deep abdomen are out of sight, they must not be out of mind! They do too much!!!
In 2000, I was a very active person competing in road races, triathlons, and master’s swim races; I thought I was prepared to have a baby. I was actually quite unprepared. My “perfect” delivery left me with nerve damage that caused serious problems which continue to affect me today. At my 6-week post-partum check-up, my doctor said my problem was “normal” and that was that. I asked for a prescription for physical therapy to get some help & direction. Even after I finished my therapy, I still had a serious problem and I decided to take a 3-day course about pelvic floor PT to further help myself. Throughout the 3-day course, I realized that this was a new direction I was going to take as a physical therapist!
Our OB-GYN’s and midwives have an important job…. It is to ensure that moms and babies live and stay healthy. They focus on the baby, uterus, all the vital organs that keep us alive and healthy, which is perfect. However, we have many other working parts, specifically within the musculoskeletal system, that keep us functioning and feeling well. When our bones and muscles do not work properly, our overall happiness and function with day to day activity can be quite poor!
To properly address pelvic pain, dysfunction, and musculoskeletal changes during pregnancy, with hormonal changes in menopause, in reproductive dysfunction in women or men, or with loss of bowel and bladder control, or any type of pelvic and abdominal pain, it is important to find health care personnel that specializes in pelvic floor physical therapy as a first conservative treatment option!
In the US, unlike most countries in Europe, Australia, and many other countries around the world, physical therapy is not a part of ‘standard routine’ care during or after pregnancy. In many countries physical therapy is part of ‘routine patient care’ in both the prenatal and postpartum periods. This education and training is key to the prevention or reduction of injury and dysfunction which often are a result of pregnancy and/or during delivery. This education and training is critical to prevent future low back pain, urinary and fecal incontinence or dysfunction, and to prevent often unnecessary surgeries and complications that can have permanent adverse effects.
If you strain your quadriceps or tear a rotator cuff muscle, an orthopedic doctor is most likely going to refer you to PT for strengthening, stretching, scar tissue management, etc. When you plan to have an orthopedic surgery, most often, you are required to go to therapy before and after for optimal outcomes. Physical therapists and orthopedists are routinely combined in a team approach to address musculo-skeletal issues. But good luck ladies, because in pregnancy, the abdominal muscles may stretch up to 5x their normal length, the pelvic floor muscles will stretch, tear, or be cut, abdominal muscles will be cut in a cesarean and it is not “routine standard care’ to refer women to physical therapy. All of these issues are left to repair on their own. Let’s hope for the best, right?!?
It doesn’t stop there… after a birth related problem presents, such as prolapse, incontinence, or nerve damage, at times, the initial or only recommended treatment option is surgery. Women need to know about conservative treatment options, i.e. physical therapy, before being exposed to pelvic surgery. The nerves in the pelvis control many important functions and in surgery, they can become scarred down, cut, or damaged at times leading to a lifetime of serious pain that cannot be undone. Some pelvic surgeries include the use of mesh which can lead to devastating and permanently disabling complications. Some patients ask why the pelvic therapy was not suggested to them in the first place!
Diagnoses (for women & men) that are effectively treated by a pelvic floor physical therapist include the following: stress urinary incontinence, urge urinary incontinence, cystocele or rectocele (prolapse), interstitial cystitis, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), dyspareunia (painful penetration or painful intercourse), irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis, fecal incontinence, constipation, persistent arousal disorder, erectile dysfunction, rectal pain, pudendal neuralgia, diastasis recti, sacroiliac joint or pubic symphysis dysfunction (in-general or in pregnancy), pre-natal or post-partum posture dysfunction or back pain. Much education can be provided when preparing for pregnancy and delivery to offer solutions to support vaginal birth or vaginal birth after cesarean.
It’s time to learn about the pelvic floor and find the help you or your loved ones need!!!
If you are currently or were previously pregnant, if you are planning to become pregnant, if you experience urinary leaking when you cough, sneeze, jump, exercise or put your key in the front door, please seek the help of a physical therapist who specializes in treatment of the pelvic floor to learn if you are properly using your muscles and to learn about normal bladder function. If you have pelvic or abdominal pain, pain with your periods, with tampon use or intercourse, with extended sitting or standing positions, please understand that routine diagnostic tests, such as X-ray, MRI, or CT scans, often do not show evidence of a specific condition.
This Is Important: Many pain problems in the body, including those in the pelvis, are often are related to soft tissue impairments. The soft tissues involved can include: muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and fluids. Many soft tissue impairments that cause pain and dysfunction do not show up on an x-ray and functional movement problems will not appear on an MRI or CT scan. Despite this, it is important to understand that a real problem can exist in the soft tissue in the absence of a true finding on a diagnostic test. And these soft tissue impairments lead to dysfunction and pain because they are connected to the nerves that transmit pain messages. It is a great relief and validation for patients when a painful area is identified by the diagnostic palpation of a therapist without the patient even needing to pinpoint the spot, especially after they’ve been told by others that their pain is in their head or caused by anxiety! Soft tissue restrictions can be identified with skilled manual palpation, reduced by specific soft tissue manual techniques resulting in a dramatic improvement in function and reduction of pain.
Please contact Lori Haring at Robbins Rehabilitation at 610-841-3555 to answer any questions you may have about pelvic floor rehabilitation, release of soft tissue restrictions, myofascial release, visceral mobilization, craniosacral release, etc and get started on the path to healing right away.
Please invest some time to learn important information you never knew about the pelvic floor,
To put yourself in the driver’s seat of your body.
There is so much to learn that you cannot see!