Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy: What to Expect From Treatment
What is pelvic floor physical therapy? It’s a type of therapy specifically used to treat pelvic floor dysfunction, a condition in which an individual cannot correctly relax and coordinate pelvic muscles to have a bowel movement. While the exact cause of pelvic dysfunction is unknown, a few known factors that might lead to this dysfunction include traumatic injury to the pelvic area, being overweight, overuse of the pelvic muscles, pregnancy or pelvic surgery. Left untreated, pelvic floor dysfunction in both men and women may lead to conditions such as urinary incontinence, chronic pain syndromes, pelvic organ prolapse or sexual dysfunction.
The good news? Most pelvic floor dysfunction can be treated! Since this is a muscular dysfunction, most treatment revolves around physical therapy rather than surgery. Read on to learn what to expect at your therapy appointment, what to wear to pelvic floor therapy, how long you should expect to go through treatment, and what types of therapy exercises may be recommended.
Getting Started with Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Once you’ve made an appointment to begin therapy, you might begin wondering: What should I expect at my first pelvic floor physical therapy appointment? The first thing that will likely happen is your therapist will ask you questions and be sure to get a thorough medical history from you, discussing your current symptoms and what specifically led you to seek therapy. Are you experiencing incontinence? Sexual dysfunction or pain? A combination of these? It’s important for your therapist to assess your current symptoms to begin to identify the best therapy techniques to help you. They will also perform an examination to identify any mobility or movement restrictions or causes of pain. This exam will also likely include an internal exam of your pelvic floor, both for men and women. While this may be an uncomfortable notion for some individuals, it’s highly important that your therapist be able to palpate the pelvic floor to narrow down the potential cause or causes of your symptoms.
Once your therapist has completed the exam, you’ll be educated on the options for treatment, the types of exercises you should expect to work on during therapy and at home, and how long your therapist expects you will need therapy before you begin to see relief from your symptoms.
How Long Does Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Take?
The length of your treatment will all depend on the cause of your symptoms, how long they have gone untreated and the severity of the dysfunction. For instance, someone who is going through pelvic floor physical therapy for incontinence may not see relief from symptoms as quickly as someone who is undergoing therapy for myofascial pelvic pain or sexual dysfunction. For many individuals, it may take a few to several months of therapy, possibly in combination with medication or biofeedback, to see an improvement in symptoms.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Exercises
So now you know what to expect during your first visit – but you may still be wondering, exactly what do they do in pelvic floor physical therapy? And what do you wear for pelvic floor physical therapy? Well, when it comes to deciding what to wear, comfortable clothing is definitely encouraged! You’ll need to wear clothing you can stretch in. If you need any specific exercise clothing, which is unlikely, your therapist should let you know during your first meeting.
In terms of exercises, several techniques can have a positive impact on both men and women, including:
- Deep, abdominal breathing, which is the foundation of all pelvic floor exercises and can help relax tight muscles causing pelvic pain.
- Certain yoga poses and stretches, including the happy baby pose, child’s pose, piriformis stretching and adductor stretching.
- Kegel exercises – while many tend to associate Kegel exercises with women’s health, they are also incredibly beneficial for men! In this article, Harvard Health explains how to locate and exercise your pelvic muscles.
When it comes to pelvic floor physical therapy, men and women can benefit from any of the above exercises, as well as pelvic floor manual therapy with the help of a trained therapist.
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