Pelvic physical therapy is an often-misunderstood field. Understandably, many men and women feel uncomfortable talking about intimate issues and might even choose to keep these problems private out of embarrassment. Because pelvic physical therapists are used to dealing with these issues, they are more sensitive to your questions and concerns. We’ve heard it all – nothing surprises us! If you’re still apprehensive about talking to a pelvic therapist and don’t know what to expect, here are some misconceptions about the field that may help you feel more comfortable.
Misconception #1: Pelvic therapy is only for pregnant women or women who have given birth
Many pregnancy and post-partum issues can be treated with pelvic PT, but all men and the vast majority of women who seek a pelvic specialist are dealing with other problems. For example, incontinence, pelvic or coccyx pain, constipation or bowel incontinence, urinary urgency, and vaginal or rectal pain can all be treated with the help of a pelvic PT.
Misconception #2: Pelvic therapy only works in minor pelvic issues
Not true. In fact, pelvic therapy alone can often address pelvic problems and reduce the need for surgery, medication or other more invasive treatments. In cases when surgery or more invasive interventions are necessary, pelvic therapy continues to be an important component of recovery. Because you can be taught many of the techniques used in pelvic physical therapy, it offers tools that empower you to manage your own pain, discomfort and recovery.
Misconception #3: Pelvic physical therapists do not do vaginal or rectal exams
All PTs are experts in evaluation and treatment of the body’s musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. PTs who specialize in the pelvic floor must undergo additional subspecialtiy training to be able to perform internal vaginal or rectal exams to fully assess the pelvic floor. Although an internal examination is not mandatory, it provides the most accurate information about the nerves, muscles, bones and connective tissues of the pelvis.
Misconception #4: Pelvic floor exercises are not really a form of therapy
You might be surprised to hear that pelvic floor exercises can help with a number of issues, including urinary and fecal incontinence. The exercises work especially well in patients who have these issues due to a weak pelvic floor.
If these Kegel exercises are appropriate for you, it is crucial to learn how to do them correctly. Studies show that 50% of people do not do them right! Just watching a video or reading a pamphlet and trying to do the exercises at home might not work. Done correctly and under the supervision of a specialist, however, pelvic floor exercises can be transformative in addressing problems with the pelvic floor muscles. At our North Carolina pelvic health practice, our pelvic PTs can not only teach you how to correctly perform the exercises, but also supervise and address any issues that might come up during treatment to ensure the best possible result.
Misconception #5: Pelvic floor dysfunction is a normal part of aging so I should just accept it
Definitively not. Although some issues, like urinary/fecal urgency and incontinence do become more prevalent as people age, you don’t have to live with it. Training your pelvic floor muscles to relax and contract appropriately and making a few lifestyle changes can resolve many of these problems and even ease pain and constipation. A mix of biofeedback, physical therapy and behavior changes is key to treating pelvic floor dysfunction.
Although your doctor might be able to help you with underlying medical issues, a pelvic PT can teach you the right tools to achieve and maintain the best possible results. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy are happy to work in collaboration with your other healthcare providers, especially if you’re considering surgery or if you are taking medications that might be contributing to the problem.