If you’ve been diagnosed with a pelvic condition, there will be different treatment options available.
You might think surgery is the first choice, but that’s not always the case. Other treatments including physical therapy can often help. What is pelvic health physical therapy? Let’s take a look.
Your Pelvic Floor
To understand pelvic health, it’s important to understand the role of the pelvic floor. This is a group of muscles and connective tissues that act like a hammock, supporting the important organs in your pelvis, like your bladder, urethra, vagina, uterus, bowel (large intestine), rectum and anus. Besides holding the organs in place, the pelvic floor also provides the flexibility to assist with bodily functions like peeing, pooping and sex, as well as control your bowel and bladder function, known as continence.1
As well, the pelvic floor and other key muscle groups in your torso, or core, allow your body to absorb outside pressure from lifting, coughing, etc. in a way that protects your spine and your organs.1
Over time and due to different factors, these muscles can weaken, leading to pelvic disorders. In fact, female pelvic floor disorders are highly prevalent, with up to 25 percent of women having one or more, including urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The Mayo Clinic reports that a woman’s lifetime risk of undergoing surgery for pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence by age 80 is roughly 20 percent.2
Pelvic Health Physical Therapy
When your pelvic floor muscles don’t work properly, it can lead to different conditions. Your muscles may weaken and not contract properly, or they may contract too strongly—and in either instance it can contribute to incontinence, constipation, pain during intercourse, or pain in the lower back, pelvic region, genitals, or rectum.3 Stress incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and high tone pelvic floor dysfunction are examples of conditions that can arise.
Depending on the diagnosis of your condition then, the treatment plan taken for physical therapy will depend on your symptoms: for instance, whether you need to relax and lengthen pelvic floor muscles or strengthen those muscles.3 The goal will be to restore a higher level of mobility, movement, and healthy function, as well as identify trigger points of pain or discomfort.3
Here are some examples of pelvic health physical therapy:
- exercises to stabilize and strengthen your core3
- strengthening your pelvic floor muscles3 including Kegel exercises4
- stretch and relax muscles that are overly tight3
- postural exercises, relaxation techniques, and diaphragmatic breathing3
- behavioural modifications, including dietary and lifestyle modifications that could help relieve symptoms3
- vaginal or rectal trigger point releases4
- possible electrical stimulation4
- manual therapy as needed 5
- at-home exercise program5
- cardiovascular training5
- stress management strategies5
- Biofeedback to retrain pelvic floor muscles6
A physical therapy treatment plan for pelvic floor conditions and chronic pelvic pain should be customized to your condition, focusing on the muscles, joints, and nerves of the low back, pelvis, and perineum (the bottom of your pelvic cavity). Conditions affecting the trunk, hips, and abdomen may also be included in a treatment plan.5
Ask Your Doctor
If you’ve been diagnosed with a pelvic floor condition, ask your doctor about pelvic health physical therapy as part of your treatment plan. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health, who can help with your pelvic floor condition and recommend therapy to help.