As a practicing physical therapist for nearly 12 years I sometimes forget that most of the population has NO IDEA what a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health does. I would love to help people understand in case they or someone they know is in need of services. It varies from provider to provider, but generally pelvic physical therapists specialize in anything related to the muscles of the pelvis, abdomen, hips and low back that can affect general function, in addition to bowel, bladder and sexual function.
For bladder impairments this could mean
· Urinary incontinence (stress, urge, functional, etc…)
· Over activity or frequency/urgency syndromes
· Urinary retention
· Painful bladder or interstitial cystitis
· Dysfunctional voiding (dribbling, hesitancy, poor emptying)
For bowel impairments this could mean
· Defecatory dysfunction or incomplete emptying
· Fecal incontinence
· Post rectal cancer and subsequent surgeries
For sexual dysfunction this could mean
· Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)
· Vaginismus (Involuntary muscle contraction with any penetration)
· Vulvodynia (pain in vulvar region)
· Vestibulodynia (pain in vestibule region)
· Difficulty with any penetration (tampon, speculum, finger)
· Erectile dysfunction
Prenatal and postpartum populations can be a large part of a pelvic PT’s caseload with diagnoses ranging from pelvic organ prolapse, diastasis rectus abdominus, cesarean or episiotomy scar management, general weakness or pelvic/back/hip asymmetry and pain. Endometriosis is another important diagnosis that can be treated with PT. Pelvic physical therapists also treat post-surgical patients with any type of abdominal, back or pelvic scars. These incisions can result in unwanted symptoms immediately post op or later in life, including low back, neck or hip pain.
Pelvic PTs are very hands on using a wide variety of manual skills to appropriately treat their patients in addition to exercises and behavioral strategies. Pelvic PTs tend to be very passionate about what they do because it is so highly specialized and intimate that you have to LOVE it to practice it regularly. Many pelvic physical therapists also treat orthopedic impairments ranging from back, neck, shoulder, knee, and ankle injuries which may or may not be related to any concurrent pelvic dysfunctions.
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