So you may have heard that there is now a Pelvic Floor specialist here at District Performance and Physio. However, some of you may be wondering, “what on earth is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?”. Even if you may have heard of it, you may not really know much about it. Well, I am here to help answer that question for you!
What is the pelvic floor?
First off, let's talk about what the pelvic floor is. Our pelvis is a structure supported by our hip bones on the sides, the sacrum and the tailbone in the back, and the pubic bone in the front. These bones make up a bowl like structure called the pelvis. The muscles that lay inside of this “bowl” is the pelvic floor.
The Pelvic floor muscles have many different functions. They assist in sexual function, support your organs, bladder, a growing fetus during pregnancy, help you go to the bathroom and overall can play a role in stability and movement.
What is Pelvic floor PT?
Pelvic Floor PT is just like any other form of Physical Therapy, just with a focus on these muscles. You strengthen what is weak, release/lengthen what is tight, and coordinate these muscles with the rest of the body. They are the center of your body after all, and play more of a role than one might think in how the body functions as a whole. Due to the intimate location of these muscles, they require more specialized training in how to work with them and assess them. Most of these muscles can be manually assessed either vaginally or rectally. Therefore an internal assessment or manual work may be recommended, but never required. In addition, due to the many systems that the pelvic floor is involved with, specialized training allows one to recognize when/how the pelvic floor is affected. There are many symptoms that one may not realize PT could even help with that has traditionally been thought to be treated by medication or surgery.
What does Pelvic Floor PT help with?
There are many things one might go seek a pelvic floor therapist for. Sometimes, it may be apparent that there is a pelvic floor issue however one may also not realize their pelvic floor is affected at all.
If the pelvic floor is weak, it can lead to issues such a leakage of urine or fecal matter, separation of abdominal muscles (Diastasis recti), instability of the hips or pubic joint. If the pelvic floor is too tight, this can lead to sharp and burning pain in the groin, hips, or to the genitals, constipation, decreased urinary frequency, or pain with sex.
Here is a list of just some (but not all) of the things the Pelvic PT can help with:
Vulvodynia or vulvar pain
Pubic symphysis dysfunction
Abdominal pain or bloating
Pain with sex or ejaculation
Pregnancy or postpartum help
Do Pelvic Floor PTs only treat women?
Absolutely not! There are occasionally therapists that may only treat women, or may only treat men, but here at District Performance & Physio, we treat anyone with a pelvic floor, which is everyone! There are some issues that will be specific to certain genders as well as some differences to anatomy, however there are also many similarities in how these muscles work for different genders, and anyone who needs help is encouraged to seek us out.
There can be a misconception that Pelvic PT is only for women, or even more in particular, pregnant women or women who just gave birth. The pelvic floor is very involved during this time and there are lots of changes in the body that occur. While it is recommended that women who are pregnant or have just given birth to seek out a Pelvic floor PT, they are certainly not the only ones who can use some help.
What does a Pelvic floor PT session look like?
Just like any other PT session, after talking about your symptoms, history, and goals, there will be a thorough evaluation of your body mechanics, strength, range of motion, gait, posture, and functional movements. Other additional things that may be assessed are breathing patterns, abdominal tension, and core activation. In order to look at the pelvic floor muscles more in depth and be able to look at tension and strength, the best way to assess this is internally. What this means is that these muscles are assessed either vaginally or rectally using a gloved and lubricated finger (not as intense as one might think, no uncomfortable stirrups or tools). This is only done with consent from you, and can be completely adjusted based on comfort levels, or also not done at all. Treatments that occur during these sessions are mostly the same as other PT sessions; consisting of exercises, stretching, soft tissue massage, muscle releases, etc. All PTs are different and evaluations/sessions may differ depending on the therapist, however this is a good overview of what to expect in general, and what to expect with us.
Okay…so that was a lot of information. However, there is certainly a lot more to discuss, and you still may have many more questions. It is a very complex topic! I hope this post has at least been helpful in getting a better understanding on what Pelvic Floor PT is and can hopefully help either yourself or someone else you know! It also can be difficult or uncomfortable just not knowing what to expect, so having an idea of what a session may look like can better prepare someone if they are thinking of attending a session. Please let us know any questions you may have, and stay tuned for future posts here and on our social media pages for more info into the wonderful world or pelvic health.