Physical Therapy for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common condition, affecting about 25% of women age 20 and over. Unfortunately, many suffer in silence. But pelvic floor physical therapy can address urinary incontinence and other symptoms of this condition.

What is a pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor refers to a group of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues in the lowest part of your pelvis. These tissues work together to provide support to the contents above them, such as your bowel, bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. They lend to pelvic stability and help with the function of pelvic organs, such as voiding and sexual function. Additionally, they play a huge role in posture and breathing.

What is a pelvic floor physical therapist?

Pelvic floor physical therapists are specially trained in the anatomy, physiology, and function of the lumbopelvic region. Pelvic floor physical therapists are trained to identify and treat dysfunction with the pelvic floor, as well as the contributing systems. The goal is to have a positive effect on the system as a whole.

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction presents in many ways. One of the most common and easily recognized is urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence refers to accidental urinary leakage. This can occur with urge, but also with intra-abdominal pressure. Examples include coughing, sneezing, and laughing. Functional activity, such as walking, standing, lifting, exercising, etc., may also be a cause.

Though very common, urinary incontinence is not normal. Television commercials suggest the use of protective pads to deal with the symptoms of urinary incontinence. However, pelvic floor physical therapy can have such a positive effect, these things are not necessary. A complete resolution to urinary incontinence is possible.

How does pelvic floor physical therapy work?

You may have heard about Kegel exercises as a means to strengthen the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor physical therapy goes way beyond Kegels. Examples of common treatments include strengthening muscles that are weak and relaxing muscles that might be too tight and not doing their job effectively. Soft tissue manipulation may be involved to help with soft tissues and joints that may be contributing to pelvic floor dysfunction. Patients are educated on lifestyle modifications, bladder retraining, and other ways to have a positive impact on the individual’s symptoms.

Who suffers from pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction is very common. Women of all ages are affected. Statistics suggest that about 25% of individuals aged 20 or older suffer from some level of pelvic floor dysfunction. Most likely you or someone you know is affected by this. Unfortunately, many individuals suffer in silence for years.

“I wish I would have come in sooner,” is something pelvic floor PTs hear often. Many times individuals are embarrassed or feel this is a normal part of aging. Others are unaware physical therapy can treat their condition, while some are afraid of what pelvic floor physical therapy entails. Hopefully reading this eases any discomfort you may have. These are muscles like any other, and a pelvic floor physical therapist will treat them as such.

Kelsie Martin is a physical therapist at New Braunfels Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. Kelsie holds a bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a focus on family and child development, and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Texas State University. Kelsie has completed specialized training in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction, through Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute, as well as pregnancy and postpartum care through the American Physical Therapy Association. Kelsie loves having the opportunity to positively impact the lives of members of her community through physical therapy and is passionate about providing patient-centered care.