Your pelvic floor may be the most underrated muscle group – it’s involved in your posture, sexual activity and supports your bladder and bowels. So, needless to say, when your pelvic floor is not functioning as it should, it can greatly impact our day-to-day lives.
In recent years, you may have come across clinics or advertisements that offer pelvic floor physiotherapy and wondered, “what does that entail?” or “who benefits from that?” So let’s take a look at what pelvic floor physiotherapy actually is and if it’s something you should consider.
What is Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy?
The pelvic floor muscles are located between the hips and sacrum (base of the lumbar spine). Pelvic floor physiotherapy addresses symptoms and dysfunctions of the pelvic floor muscles using assessment, education, manual therapy, exercise and other treatment as indicated (dry needling, acupuncture, etc).
What Conditions Does Pelvic Floor Physio Treat?
If you are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction your muscles will typically be too tight or too weak, resulting in a range of symptoms.
If the muscles of your pelvic floor are too tight you may notice:
- Urinary symptoms: urgency, frequency, pain, or incomplete emptying of the bladder, incontinence.
- Bowel symptoms: constipation, painful bowel movements, straining.
- Sexual symptoms: pain (with penetration, with orgasm, with any sexual stimulation, with erections), inability to have penetrative sex, inability to orgasm, premature ejaculation.
- Pain: In low back, hips, pelvic region.
- Muscle spasms
If the muscles of your pelvic floor are weak, you may notice:
- Incontinence: bowel and bladder, typically induced by stress or activity (exercise, sneezing, etc).
- Prolapse: When the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel) shift out of place.
Aside from experiencing certain symptoms, there are particular conditions that may benefit from pelvic floor physiotherapy:
- Prenatal care
- Postpartum care
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Vulvodynia, vaginismus
- Painful bladder syndrome
If you experience any of these symptoms or have been diagnosed with a condition that affects the pelvic region (bladder, bowel, uterus, genitals) consider reaching out to a qualified pelvic health physiotherapist like the ones at Inspire Health Buckhead – Atlanta.
What Can You Expect At Your First Visit?
Your first appointment serves as the baseline for you and your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist should make you feel comfortable, supported, and talk you through each step of the process.
Before your appointment, or when you arrive, you will likely be asked to complete a full health history. This gives your physiotherapist a snapshot of your current symptoms and concerns, previous health issues, and any other health information they may need to build a better understanding of your health and use it to build an appropriate treatment plan.
Once in the room, you and your physiotherapist will discuss your health history, fill in any gaps of information they may not have collected on the form and perform initial testing and assessments to see where you’re at right now (your baseline). These assessments typically include – postural assessment and manual external examination.
Internal manual assessments are sometimes indicated in pelvic floor physiotherapy as many of our pelvic muscles are internal. Internal manual assessments, when deemed necessary, are often done at your second appointment or when you are comfortable.
After completing your assessment, your physiotherapist will often provide you with some initial information about what they think is going on and their preliminary thoughts on how to address it. This includes a certain level of education that will carry on throughout your relationship with your physiotherapist (most physiotherapists want to empower you and give you the information you need to be an active participant in your health care). This education may include more information on the condition or symptoms you’re experiencing, exercises, information on diet and lifestyle choices that may be impacting your condition, etc.
Often your physiotherapist will use this as an opportunity to explain their approach to treatment, and an overview of what you can expect from your treatment plan, how to gauge what is helping and what isn’t, and different therapies and modalities that may be incorporated into your care plan.
Follow-up Appointments and What to Expect
A typical follow-up appointment is guided by your treatment plan but may include:
- Manual therapy to address soft tissue tension and restriction, fascia, and joint function.
- Strength training and exercise.
- Relaxation techniques.
- Dry needling, biofeedback, electrical stimulation, ultrasound.
- Ongoing assessments and evaluation.
Every follow-up visit may be different and should be guided by a treatment plan addressing your particular needs. Throughout your treatment, your physiotherapist will assess your progress and adjust your plan as needed.
If you are experiencing any symptoms or have been diagnosed with a condition like the ones listed above, or you’re experiencing unexplained pain in your low back, hip or pelvic area you should consider seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist for assessment. Pelvic floor dysfunction can impact your overall quality of life, but with support from a physiotherapist, it doesn’t have to!