We would like to share the following blog post written by Linda Grayling who writes for Drugwatch.com. Linda's article outlines the benefits of physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction, specifically pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence and pelvic pain, and describes how physical therapy techniques can be utilized to possibly help prevent surgical interventions from becoming necessary. She also accurately describes some of the pelvic floor treatments and techniques commonly used in pelvic floor physical therapy offices such as ours.
Can Physical Therapy Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor?
The fact is that the majority of women will face a certain degree of pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives. Pelvic floor disorders occur when the sling-like supporting structure of the pelvic organs becomes weak and allows the organs to shift out of position.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is often not diagnosed until symptoms occur. Among the most common are symptoms: pelvic pain or pressure, pain during sexual intercourse, incontinence, lower back pain and a feeling of fullness in the pelvic area.
Women who have pelvic organ prolapse symptoms that interfere with normal function may consider surgery. Surgery should be approached with caution and only after discussing all the options with a doctor. This will help women avoid the serious complications that can occur with transvaginal mesh implants, which are used to restore pelvic floor function.
Before considering surgery, physical therapists specializing in pelvic health can offer traditional and less-invasive treatment options that can be equally effective. Proper strengthening of the pelvis through physical therapy offers women a high chance of success in treating pelvic floor disorders.
Isolating the Pelvic Floor
Physical therapists can offer manual stimulation and posture correction, perform pelvic massage and instruct patients or their partners how to do these at home. They will also educate patients on addressing factors that increase risk for pelvic floor disorders, such as obesity, smoking, chronic coughing and high-impact activities.
For women experiencing pelvic pain that is limiting their sex life, physical therapists employ breathing and relaxation exercises, manual therapy using massage and trigger-point release techniques. They can offer instruction on stretching using dilators, and will suggest daily pelvic exercises.
The backbone of pelvic floor physical therapy is called biofeedback therapy. For women who are having trouble locating which muscles to contract during Kegel exercises, biofeedback therapy can help. Small electrode pads, similar to an EKG, are placed on the skin of the pelvic region. The pads are connected to a monitor that gives women the ability to see when the correct or incorrect muscles are contracted, and learn how to control the pelvic muscles.
Once women have successfully located the right muscles to use, the best exercises to improve pelvic strength are Kegels. These clenches of the pelvic muscles can heighten sexual sensation, improve the ability to reach orgasm, and restore bladder control. It is important to isolate these pelvic muscles in each contraction, so do not engage muscles in the abdomen or buttocks.
Consistent, daily Kegel exercises should be performed to maintain healthy pelvic floor function. When starting out, women can begin lying down or in a seated position, and simply perform these contractions in intervals of about 10 contractions throughout the day.
As women become proficient, increasing the time they hold the contraction and decreasing the rest time in between, or trying sprints (several contractions right in a row as fast as possible) or trying them standing up—will make them a pro.
Women can also engage the pelvic floor while doing other exercises, such as yoga or Pilates, to strengthen the core, low back and hip muscles.
Linda Grayling writes for Drugwatch.com. Linda has a number of professional interests, including keeping up with the latest developments in the medical field. Join the Drugwatch community on our Twitter to find out more.