What is Pelvic Floor Therapy?

What to expect before attending pelvic floor therapy
for incontinence or endometriosis

If you’re suffering from the effects of pelvic floor issues, you may believe surgery is your only option.

Pelvic floor therapy performed by a physical therapist or occupational therapist remains an excellent alternative to a surgical procedure. Therapists must have special training in this type of therapy, however. Each person with a pelvic floor problem needs to acquire an individualized training program for their specific issue for the best results.

The activities done during this therapy either strengthen or re-train your pelvic muscles. One of these exercises might include the Kegel exercise that women frequently learn during pregnancy.

You might only see your physical therapist once or twice to learn exercises, or to evaluate your progress. Or you might need to attend more sessions to maximize your treatment. You’ll also receive instruction on how to get and keep your pelvic floor in good condition to avoid more problems in the future.

What conditions does pelvic floor therapy treat?

Incontinence and endometriosis remain 2 frequent types of pelvic floor problems treated through therapy.

Usually pelvic floor issues occur in combination with other symptoms and cause cascading effects. The issues a therapist helps address include:

  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Incontinence
  • Prolapse
  • Painful intercourse
  • Vaginismus
  • Genital skin conditions and vulvar pain (vulvodynia)
  • Discomfort in the lower back, groin, abdomen, hips and legs

In addition to seeing a pelvic floor specialist, you might also need to see specialists in the area of back pain and skin problems. Massage, bodywork, yoga and nutritional guidance work well in combination with physical and occupational therapy to improve your symptoms.

What to expect during pelvic floor therapy

During your first appointment, you’ll have a detailed interview about your medical history, lifestyle and symptoms. Specialists not only have training in helping people with their pelvic floor problems, but are also trained to deal with any emotional discomfort you may feel when talking about this intimate area of your body.

Next, your therapist will evaluate your posture and the functioning of your back and hips. While this exam happens, the therapist will explain their findings and the benefits of physical therapy.

Your therapist also might need internal examinations to determine the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor muscles. These internal examinations are not always necessary, however.

Some incontinence issues that are treatable by this physical therapy include:

  • Stress urinary incontinence that occurs when coughing, laughing or during a physical activity

  • Urge urinary incontinence where a woman has a sudden, strong desire to urinate

  • Mixed urinary incontinence which is a combination of both of the above types of incontinence

  • Fecal incontinence which occurs due to the weakened muscles of the sphincter and pelvic floor

Biofeedback is used as a part of assessing your condition, too. Your therapist will use a sensor in your rectum or vagina for this examination. He or she may also use external sensors. You won’t feel anything while the sensors monitor your pelvic muscles at work.

Treatment options

During the initial consultation, you’ll receive advice about your pelvic floor disorder. At the second appointment, you’ll receive a more detailed treatment plan. This plan may change according to your body’s response. You might have exercises and internal soft tissue work to do at home. Sometimes tools and lubricants may assist in your rehabilitation.

A list of possible treatment options include:

  • Exercises that might include a tool such as an egg or wand
  • Trigger point massage to reduce muscular tension
  • Generalized massage
  • An inserted silicone dilator or vibrator
  • Strength-increasing exercises
  • Yoga and stretching
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Improving your nutrition and lifestyle

Your physical therapist might also suggest that you lose weight. You may also need treatment for certain disorders such as chronic constipation or a recurrent cough.

Once you and your therapist develop a treatment plan and you’ve used it regularly for a while, you should start feeling better and your symptoms should dissipate. For more information about women’s health and taking care of your body, please contact our experts.