What is Pelvic Floor Therapy?

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By Erika N. Johnson and Carolyn Seale, Physical Therapy at UNC REX Outpatient Rehabilitation, Erika.Johnson2@unchealth.unc.edu, 919-784-4696

Who (would benefit):  YOU!

Who (is the provider):  Physical and Occupational Therapists

What:  Pelvic floor therapists are specialists in assessing and treating pelvic floor dysfunction, which includes a wide range of impairments that often involve either weakness or tightness of the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor therapists have the same initial training as “regular” PTs or OTs, with additional specialized training in the anatomy and physiology of the pelvic region, as well as in bowel and bladder function. Your initial evaluation would take place in a private setting and may involve a pelvic exam to assess your pelvic floor muscles. Each rehab program is individualized to meet your needs and may include patient education, exercise training, biofeedback, manual therapy, postural retraining, and more.  The number of therapy visits needed varies from person to person and can range anywhere from two times per week to every other week.

When: You may be a candidate for pelvic floor rehabilitation if you are experiencing bladder or bowel symptoms such as accidental leakage, incomplete emptying, increased urgency, increased frequency, or pain with elimination. Pelvic floor rehabilitation may also help women with pelvic organ prolapse, and women who experience pain with vaginal intercourse, vaginal exams, or the insertion/removal of tampons. Pelvic floor rehabilitation can also help women before and after they give birth, with any of the before mentioned symptoms, and with diastasis recti (DRA).

Where: These services are available in outpatient rehabilitation settings but may also be offered in inpatient and skilled nursing facilities. UNC and UNC REX both offer Pelvic Floor Rehab at multiple outpatient locations in Wake and Orange counties.

How: Your insurance may require a referral to Pelvic PT or OT. If not, you can refer yourself but we recommend that you have had a pelvic exam within the past year and/or have discussed your concerns with your medical provider.

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Where Is the Research At?

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By Jennifer Wu, Associate Professor, Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery

Pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) include problems such as incontinence, which is the accidental leakage of urine or stool, and pelvic organ prolapse, which is the dropping of the pelvic organs into the vagina. These conditions are incredibly common, affecting at least 1 out of every 4 women, with older women having an even greater risk. Also, 1 out of every 5 women will have surgery for one of these conditions over her lifetime. Unfortunately, even after surgery, symptoms may return.

Currently, we do not have a complete understanding of why these conditions occur. We also do not know which women are at highest risk and what the best treatment options are. We need to study these important questions in order to provide better care for women, and to eventually prevent these conditions from occurring in the first place.

Recently there has been more of a focus on PFD research, and we hope to see this trend continue in the future. Women’s health IS important! We are just now beginning to get a sense of how common these conditions are and what some of the risk factors are, such as age, childbirth and obesity. However, more research needs to be done to address these unanswered questions so that we can improve the lives of women suffering from these disorders.

Welcome

This is our very first post! We’re starting this page to share a series of blogs written in honor of National Bladder Health Week, November 6th – 12th. Each day during Bladder Health Week we will post stories and links that highlight what every woman should know about pelvic floor disorders and what can be done to prevent and treat them. Too long have women suffered in silence. It’s time to speak up and speak out!

We are also hosting a Break Free From PFDs community event during Bladder Health Week on Wednesday, November 9th, from 6-8pm at The Arts Center in Carrboro.  Please join us for food from Med Deli, drinks, and conversation with our providers and other community members about PFDs. We hope to see you there!

You can register for this event at: https://goo.gl/O0BQNi