What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?

Today, we are inundated with commercials for products to help deal with incontinence, but did you know physical therapy can help incontinence as well as other issues? That’s where Magee’s new Pelvic Health Program, offered at Magee Riverfront Outpatient Center, comes in.

Pelvic floor physical therapists are specially trained in the assessment and treatment of the pelvic floor muscle group. The pelvic floor is essentially a bowl-shaped set of muscles that support the pelvic and abdominal organs. These muscles have two other main functions: they assist in bowel and bladder control to maintain continence, and they contribute to sexual function. The pelvic floor muscles and the connective tissue around them form a sling that fills in the pelvic ring. They also interact with other muscles such as the diaphragm. The pelvic floor contracts in anticipation of a cough, a sneeze, or a laugh.

A person may be referred to pelvic floor physical therapy to treat urinary or fecal incontinence, bladder emptying problems, constipation, chronic pelvic pain, painful intercourse, and sexual dysfunction. A person may also be referred for pregnancy and postpartum recovery and musculoskeletal aches and pains, such as dysfunction at the lumbar spine (low back), hips, SI joint, and abdomen.

The physical therapy evaluation includes a detailed history of the problem, past medical and surgical history, and a review of medications. The evaluation also includes a thorough orthopedic exam, including lumbar spine, hips, posture, and walking. An external and, if appropriate, internal exam of the pelvic floor assesses muscle tone at rest and with strain.

There are a number of techniques used in pelvic floor physical therapy. These can include:

Education: Patients are educated on their pelvic anatomy and how different components work alone and together. The therapist may also teach how habits or hygiene affects a patient’s symptoms. In some cases, behavioral training can help with issues of urinary frequency and urgency.

Pelvic floor exercises: Patients are taught how to contract and relax pelvic floor muscles in relation to other muscles. They are also taught breathing and timing techniques to make the exercises more effective. These exercises can stretch tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, and improve flexibility.

Manual therapy: A physical therapist may use hands-on massage or stretching to help with treatment of dysfunctional muscles in order to help improve mobility, posture, and circulation.

Electrical stimulation: A low voltage electrical current may be used to teach patients how to coordinate their muscle contractions.

If you think you could benefit from pelvic health physical therapy, contact your physician for a prescription. If you have questions about Magee’s new Pelvic Health Program or to schedule an evaluation, please call Magee Riverfront Outpatient Center at 215-218-3900.

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