Written by Doctor Catherine McKelvey of Physiotherapy - Women's Health Physio
The majority of people we talk to are unsure what we mean when we say we are a Women’s Health Physio. If you are reading this and thinking the same, you are not alone. You probably have no idea that there is a difference between a regular Physiotherapist and a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
If you know what we do then you have probably given birth, had pelvic floor concerns, or been referred by a GP.
Let’s take some time to explain what we do so you understand why ALL women should have a Women’s Health Physio in their health team.
We talk about your bladder and bowel habits, sex, menstrual cycles, and more. These are topics that are seen as taboo, but through education, this is slowly changing.
If you have ever had a sore back, you have probably told a friend who have given you advice, creams, professional referrals, or more. It is less likely that if you experienced pain with intercourse last night that you would tell a friend over coffee the next morning, or if you leaked at the gym that you would tell your instructor to allow for modifications.
Did you know that pelvic floor issues are prevalent as low back pain?
1 in 3 women experience urinary leakage
1 in 3 women who have ever given birth will experience some degree of prolapse
1 in 5 women suffer from painful intercourse
Women's health physiotherapy is a specialized branch of physiotherapy that focuses on the unique needs of women. It involves the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, bowel, and uterus.
A women's health physiotherapist is trained to address issues that are specific to women, such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and pain during sex. We integrate our skills as general physio, Pilates instructors, and exercise lovers to optimize health and wellbeing.
Firstly, take a moment to answer the questions below:
Do you leak when you cough or sneeze?
Do you feel a heaviness or dragging sensation in your lower abdominal region or around the opening to your vagina?
Have you ever noticed a bulge vaginally?
Do you struggle to make it to the toilet on time without leaking?
Do you ever get a sudden uncontrolled urge that you need to go to the toilet?
Do you wake frequently during the night to go to the toilet?
Do you struggle and strain on the toilet to empty your bowels?
Do you experience pain with intercourse?
Do you ever leak from your bladder or bowels
Are you planning on conceiving in the next few months?
Are you currently pregnant?
Have you ever given birth?
Have you noticed changes in your body down there since menopause?
We can help you achieve optimal pelvic health and function. We do this by implementing a range of techniques, including pelvic floor muscle exercises, bladder and bowel retraining, manual therapy, and education on lifestyle modifications.
Below are some of the conditions that a women's health physiotherapist may treat:
Urinary Incontinence: This is a common condition that affects women of all ages. It is characterized by the involuntary leakage of urine, which can occur during activities such as coughing, sneezing, or exercise. Women's health physiotherapists can help to improve the strength and control of the pelvic floor muscles, which can reduce the severity and frequency of incontinence.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse: This is a condition in which the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, drop down from their normal position and push against the vaginal wall. Women's health physiotherapists can use exercises to improve the strength and support of the pelvic floor muscles, which can help to reduce the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.
Pain During Sex: Pain during sex is a common issue for women and can have a range of causes. Women's health physiotherapists can help to identify the cause of the pain and develop a treatment plan, which may include pelvic floor muscle exercises, manual therapy, and education on sexual positions and techniques.
Pregnancy-related Issues: During pregnancy, the weight of your baby places large amounts of pressure and extra stress down on your pelvic floor. This is said to be the equivalent of a 100kg man standing on a trampoline! This can lead to issues such as back pain, pelvic girdle pain, and incontinence. They can also provide education on exercise, posture, breathing techniques, and perineal massage to prepare for childbirth.
Postpartum Issues: After childbirth, women may experience issues such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). Women's health physiotherapists can provide treatment and education to help women recover from these issues and return to normal function.
Other Areas Include: Painful menstruation (periods), menopause, exercise concerns, post-surgical intervention, and more!
During your consult, we spend time discussing your body in depth to see if there are any signs & symptoms that may be causing your concerns and we wish to look into them further. We discuss everything from your overall bladder and bowel health, your menstrual cycle, sexual activity, work, exercise, and more.
Your assessment will vary depending on your main concern, if you are experiencing pelvic floor issues it will likely consist of an internal vaginal examination (although preferred is not required), vs an abdominal examination for diastasis recti. This will allow your physio to more accurately determine the length and strength of the pelvic floor, assess for any areas of pain or overactivity, assess for any signs of pelvic organ prolapse, and allow individual prescription of exercises and guidance on recovery if postpartum.
Overall, we help women to achieve optimal pelvic health and function, improve their quality of life, and prevent future health issues. If you are experiencing any pelvic health issues, seeking the help of a women's health physiotherapist may be a valuable step toward improving your health and well-being.
Want to know more about your pelvic floor?
Book online at www.ripplepp.com.au and follow us on socials for more information.
This information is an educational tool and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of the pelvic floor.
Questions: Comments below