The week serves as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and build positive health habits for life.” This resonates with me as a physical therapist and more specifically as a Pelvic Floor and Women’s Health Physical Therapist. A few months ago, I challenged myself and others with a #selfcarechallenge. Well first of all, what is self-care? Is it taking a time out? Is it eating healthy? Is it going to a movie? Is it getting a massage? Is it a yoga class or a run in the park? Is it getting a physical? The answer is yes to all of those as long as it is something you enjoy and/or something that will make you feel better. Self-care is a personal choice as to the activity. It is self-initiated and controlled. It allows you to care for your emotional, mental and/or physical well-being. Self-care can also mean preventive care!
There are so many changes in our bodies, as women, we face throughout our lifespan. Having a visit with a Women’s Health Physical Therapist can make a difference and prevent you from any further injury. Did you know you can have an evaluation with a physical therapist without a referral?
Here are some ways a Women’s Health Physical Therapist can help during the lifespan:
In their teens, girls may endure pain with menstruation, difficulty using a tampon, urinary incontinence and sports injuries. Women’s Health Physical Therapists can help you decipher if further assessment for Endometriosis may be needed. Modifications may be required in your sport to reduce the strain on the pelvic floor if you are dealing with pelvic girdle pain and or urinary symptoms.
In their 20’s, women may come across sports injuries, sexual dysfunction, UTIs and/or pelvic pain. Women’s Health Physical Therapists can help you decipher whether the symptoms are muscular in nature. Perhaps you injured your back or hip and this led to pelvic (girdle) pain. Have you noticed repetitive infections? In some women, these are symptoms, but it is the muscles of the pelvic floor which may be in spasm leading to urinary urgency, frequency and pain.
In their 30’s, many women have children and changes in their pelvic floor, abdomen, pelvis and hips, thorax and other areas may need further assessment. Women’s Health Physical Therapists can assess your musculoskeletal system for all the changes which may have occurred in your pregnancy and postpartum. Does your belly feel weak and overstretched? You can be assessed and treated for Diastasis Rectus Abdominis. Do you have difficulty holding your newborn due to shoulder and scapular pain? Are you having difficulty getting pregnant? Visceral manipulation and myofascial release may help you with these issues.
In their 40’s, women may complain of pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, LBP or just not feeling the same support as they did in their 30s. Some of these issues may be related to pregnancy but can be seen in women without a history of pregnancy. Women are so busy when children are born, we forget to take care of ourselves. Or we are busy with our work and lifestyle, we delay seeking help for these issues. This makes me think of the emergency procedure on an airplane. Aren’t we told to place the oxygen masks on ourselves and then onto our children? If we don’t protect and care for ourselves, how can we provide for our children and family?
In their 50’s, women start to experience changes related to menopause, estrogen and other hormonal imbalance and osteoporosis. There are complaints of symptoms such as pain with intercourse, urinary frequency/urgency, incontinence and prolapse. Women may be affected by changes in hormone levels and notice atrophy in the pelvic floor. Sex may be uncomfortable and now avoided. You may be searching for bathrooms because of urinary urgency.
In their 60’s, women complain of pain in their hip joints, pelvic floor strength has diminished and intercourse is uncomfortable. Repetitive use and old injuries may be affecting the hip joints. Often, we see pelvic floor connection to hip dysfunction such as weakness or spasm related to these injuries. Releasing and re-strengthening the pelvic floor and surrounding muscles and joint will allow you to be more active.
Other issues that a Women’s Health Physical Therapist can assist with throughout the lifespan include: tailbone (coccyx) pain, constipation, symptoms related to Vulvodynia and Interstitial Cystitis, and more.
Have you stopped going out because you need to use the bathroom all the time or because urinary or fecal incontinence is embarrassing you? Are you avoiding your favorite exercise class due to hip and pelvic girdle pain? Are you avoiding intimate relations because of pain? These symptoms, you may think are normal, but I disagree. Women may commonly complain of such issues, but they are NOT NORMAL.
You can find a Women’s Health Physical Therapist near you through our PT locator: www.womenshealthapta.org.
Niva Herzig, PT, PRPC, BCB-PMD, CMTPT is the owner and director of Core Dynamics Physical Therapy in Englewood and Hoboken, NJ, pelvic floor clinics. Niva is the chair of the Women’s Health Special Interest Group of the APTANJ.