Physical Therapy for Women’s Health

For years women have been led to believe that “Being a Woman” means you
have to deal with pain during pregnancy, leaky bladders, and other
discomforts as we age. But a new line of physical therapy is targeting
women’s health issues and bringing relief.

Ashley Nelson is a Phsyical Therapist with Hand and Orthopedic
Rehabilitation Specialists and specializes in Woman Care, and she shares
information on what that entails.

For years women have been led to believe that “Being a Woman” means you
have to deal with pain during pregnancy, leaky bladders, and other
discomforts as we age.

I’m a Physical Therapist certified Women’s Health Specialist and want to bring
some insight to the community about the conditions that this group of
specialists treat.

A Women’s Health Specialist is trained to treat conditions specific to women
that occur through the different stages of life, from childbearing years
through the post menopausal period. Physical therapists are experts in
treating the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, joints and surrounding
tissues of the body). A certified Women’s Health Specialist has obtained
additional training for treating pelvic floor dysfunctions, prenatal and
postpartum conditions. We provide treatment to address spinal and pelvic
joint dysfunction and pain, instruct in exercises to address muscle weakness
and imbalance, and provide guidance and instruction related to modifications
of activities of daily living.

Pregnancy pain

Pregnancy can often be uncomfortable. Multiple changes in your posture,
muscle and body composition contribute to mid and low back discomfort.
However, sharp, catching pain in your low back that radiates into your hips or
pubic bone is not a normal pain of pregnancy. It may occur when climbing
stairs, moving from sitting to standing, rolling in bed or walking. It’s
different than low back pain and is called pelvic girdle or sacroiliac joint
dysfunction. Pelvic girdle pain and other symptoms such as: Sciatica (pain
that radiates from your lower spine to your buttock and down the back of
your leg), pain or burning in your middle back that radiates to your upper
belly and ribs, and neck and upper shoulder pain are NOT symptoms you
should have to suffer with during pregnancy. They can be addressed by a
Women’s Health Specialist trained in prenatal and post-partum care.

Do you leak small amounts of urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh or
are unable to make it to the restroom without leaking? Do you get up more
than once a night to go to the bathroom or seem to have to urinate more
frequently than others?

This is called urinary stress incontinence, urinary frequency, or urgency. It’s
a common condition found in many child-bearing and post-menopausal
women. Studies show that more than 15 million American women have
urinary incontinence, which may be an underestimation because this
condition is often so embarrassing that most women do not talk about it.
Just because you had a baby or have been deemed “older”, does NOT mean
you need to suffer with incontinence.

These conditions are often contributed to weak, tight or in-coordination of
the pelvic floor muscles. The muscles are found at the bottom of your
pelvis, hence the name “pelvic floor” and are responsible for control of bowel,
bladder and sexual function. A pelvic floor specialist is the ideal provider to
help both women and men who suffer from incontinence. Multiple medical
studies have shown physical therapy can reduce symptoms of incontinence
by 75-80%.

Pelvic Pain

Another condition of the pelvic floor that can be addressed by a Women’s
Health Specialist trained in treating pelvic floor dysfunctions is pelvic pain. It
affects women and men of all ages and as a Pelvic Floor Specialist, I do treat
men as well as women for this condition.

Pelvic pain is described as aching, burning or sharp pain in the lower
abdomen, pelvis, or perineum (the area between your legs from the pubic
bone to the tail bone). Symptoms may include: pain in the hip or buttock,
pain in the tailbone (coccyx), limited sitting tolerance, pain in the joints of
the pelvis, pain with sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), tender points in the
muscles of the abdomen, reduced range of motion in the hips and lumbar
spine, painful bowel movements, constipation and/or straining with bowel

Pelvic pain can be initiated by events such as:

· Infection (yeast, bacterial, urinary tract)

· Childbirth

· Endometriosis

· Abuse(physical, sexual, emotional)

· Scar tissue after pelvic or abdominal surgeries (hysterectomies, cancer,
cesarean section, colon surgery etc.)

· Pressure on one or more nerves in the pelvis

· A fall or trauma creating a pelvic girdle dysfunction

· Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

· Imbalance within the muscle of pelvic floor, trunk or pelvis

· Injuries or problems with abdomen, hips, lumbar spine or pelvis
(including sacroiliac joints, pubic bones or tailbone (coccyx)

· Prostatitis (for men)

Unfortunately, most of the men and women I treat with pelvic pain have been
to multiple physicians and specialists and have been told “We can’t find
anything wrong with you” or “It is all in your head.” I’m here to tell you that
your pain is very REAL and you don’t have to suffer with it! Physical
therapists are trained to evaluate and treat joint dysfunction, muscle
tightness, weakness or imbalance in muscle groups, and nerve entrapment.
These are all potential causes of pelvic pain. A Physical therapist trained
specifically in the area of pelvic health can identify the possible generators of
pelvic pain and develop a treatment plan specific to the patient.

Since pelvic pain can be a multi-factorial condition, it is important that you
also consult your gynecologist, urologist or other health-care specialist to
rule out infections, cancer or other conditions that may not be treated by a
physical therapist.

The best thing about using physical therapy to treat all of these conditions is
that it is non-invasive, does not involve medications and is less expensive
and often more effective than surgery.

If you more questions, want more information about the conditions treatable
with physical therapy or would like to schedule an appointment with Ashley
Nelson, DPT, visit www.handandortho/woman-care.

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