A pelvic floor physical therapist is a general term for the instruction of pelvic floor muscle strengthening, relaxation, and coordination by a trained physical therapist1. Pelvic floor physical therapy is a very individualized program to treat a multitude of symptoms related to the bladder, bowels, generalized pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, pelvic organ prolapse and much, much more. There are 5 functions of the pelvic floor: (1) sphincter control, (2) support, (3) sexual function, (4) stabilization and (5) sump-pump. Pelvic floor physical therapy is recommended in treating pelvic floor dysfunction as a first-line, low risk, and minimally invasive therapy1.
A common diagnosis we treat is urinary incontinence; it primarily affects women of all ages and skill levels. The goal of pelvic floor physical therapy in treating urinary incontinence is to gain control of your symptoms, and reduce the need for medications or a surgical intervention. In addition, pelvic floor physical therapists can address your diet and nutrition, behaviors and techniques that may worsen your symptoms, learning proper toileting habits and maintaining proper hydration2.
What to expect if you come to a pelvic floor physical therapy appointment: (1) communication, (2) measurements, (3) education. The goal of communication is to gather as much information about the patient, their condition, symptoms and functional limitations; we want to hear from YOU! Measurements may include an external component of posture and alignment, joint mobility, flexibility, muscle strength as well as an option for an internal examination to assess the deep pelvic floor muscles for pain, tightness or weakness.
If you think you could benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy, please address your concerns with your medical provider who can refer you for an evaluation.
About our Author
Alyssa Itzkowitz has a doctorate of physical therapy, and works at Rockville General Hospital in the Rehabilitation Services Department.
1) Wallace SL, Miller LD, Mishra K. Pelvic floor physical therapy in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction in women. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Dec;31(6):485-493. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0000000000000584.
2) Physical Therapists Guide to Incontinence. https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapist-s-guide-to-incontinence-2; accessed February 20, 2020.