It goes without saying that female bodies are different from males. Women have unique bone structures, hormones, and bodily stressors. So, it takes a specifically trained professional in women’s health physical therapy to evaluate and understand how female physiology impacts overall wellness. For example, a physical therapist (PT) can teach you how to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and eliminate vaginal pain. Likewise, physical therapy can treat incontinence, prolapse, pelvic pain, diastasis recti, and more.
1. Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence (UI) can impact women of all ages, from teens to post-menopausal women. For example, high-impact sports, such as gymnastics and track, often lead to urinary incontinence in adolescent female athletes. UI also occurs later in life. For example, many women experience urinary leakage following childbirth and after menopause. Fortunately, you can counteract UI with pelvic floor physical therapy.
2. Organ Prolapse
The pelvic floor muscles support pelvic organs such as the bladder and uterus. If these muscles become weak, or there is laxity in the supporting structures, the organs can drop down, bulge, or prolapse into the vagina. Fortunately, prolapse is very treatable. A PT can teach you exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor. Early treatment can prevent invasive surgery down the road.
3. Pelvic and Vaginal Pain
Women can have many different types of pelvic pain. Some discomfort is associated with menstruation, infections, or pregnancy. However, other causes are musculoskeletal. For example, vaginal muscle spasms can lead to painful penetration. Pelvic floor physical therapy offers individualized treatment plans designed to eliminate pelvic pain.
4. Diastasis Recti Abdominis
Many women experience stretching of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy. This stretching may lead to what is called diastasis recti abdominis: the separation of the external abdominal (stomach) muscles. This is because the connective tissue between them stretches as the left and right sides separate. Fortunately, strengthening and stabilizing your core muscles before, during, and after pregnancy can help!
5. Lower Back Pain
Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the lower back. Before childbirth, the hormone relaxin softens the joints and ligaments. However, additional weight can aggravate the joints. For example, sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction causes pain in the lower back and buttocks. Physical therapy treatment can help strengthen the surrounding muscles and support the SI joint.
6. Postpartum Scar Restrictions
Cesarean and vaginal deliveries can leave behind scars. Following a c-section, some people experience discomfort along the scar tissue. Likewise, many women have tenderness from scar tissue left by episiotomies or natural tears. Therapy for postpartum scars involves soft tissue massage, scar mobilization, stretching, and strengthening of the surrounding muscles.
FAQ: What does a women’s health physical therapist do?
Women’s health PTs use evidence-based treatment for musculoskeletal disorders affecting women. They can help you eliminate pain and return to your everyday quality of life. For example, pelvic floor physical therapy improves the stability of the pelvis. Treatment usually involves muscle exercises, massage, and patient education.
Women’s health physical therapy is a first-line treatment for these conditions and is far less invasive than surgery. Our women’s health expert, Dr. Rachel Feldman, has extensive experience treating female-specific dysfunctions. Don’t live with pain and discomfort. Schedule an appointment online today.