Just in case you missed this post on our learning page, here it is again!
At dinner parties and when meeting new people, the inevitable question arises: “so…what do you do?” As pelvic health physiotherapists, there are many ways to answer this question – and depending on the crowd, we can have a lot of fun delivering the answer. Reactions range from blank stares to shock and horror to genuine curiosity about what we do (and of course the odd inappropriate joke).
Although pelvic health physiotherapy is gaining traction in Canada, we still have a long way to still go. If you’re part of the majority who has never heard about pelvic health physiotherapy, here are 5 things you ought to know.
1) We’re like any other physio.
Pelvic health physiotherapy (sometimes called pelvic floor or women’s health physiotherapy) is just like any other physiotherapy in many ways. We are primary health care providers who are concerned about rehabilitation, pre-habilitation, optimizing movement, maximizing function, eliminating pain, and improving quality of life. We are highly qualified professionals who use orthopaedic and other manual skills to assess, diagnose and treat everyone, including women, men and children.
2) We’re unlike every other physio.
In addition to our basic physio skills, pelvic health physiotherapists have graduate level training that allows us to perform manual internal examinations that access the pelvic floor vaginally or rectally. Doing so allows for greater success in assessing and treating conditions that manifest in the abdominal-lumbo-pelvic-hip region of the body. These include urological, gynecological, obstetric, sexual, gastrointestinal, anorectal, orthopaedic, neurological, myofascial, visceral, and pain conditions. We take the context of the whole body into consideration when treating the pelvic area.
3) The most robust research backs us up.
The 2010 Cochrane Collaboration concluded that physiotherapists with specialized training in pelvic floor rehabilitation should be the first line of defence, before surgical consultation, for stress, urge and mixed incontinence in women. Many other excellent studies have been published which provide strong evidence for the efficacy of pelvic physiotherapy for prolapse, pre and post-natal conditions, core dysfunction, pelvic pain and bowel/bladder dysfunction.
4) We are unique among health care professionals.
There are only a handful regulated health professionals who are trained to complete internal assessments. GPs, specialists, naturopathic doctors, nurse practitioners and midwives all do a lovely job of diagnosing pathology that may arise in the pelvic region. And we work closely with other health professionals to rule out problems that physio may not be able to address. Because we often have more time to spend with clients, pelvic health physiotherapists are perfectly situated to address function. Rather than focusing on pathology, we ask the question “how does this condition impact your daily life activities and what can we do to improve that?”
5) The pelvic floor doesn’t have to be a mystery.
The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that sits like a hammock across the bottom of the bony pelvis. It is part of a wonderfully complex system that includes muscles, ligaments, connective tissue, nerves, lymphatics, blood vessels and of course, organs (the bowel, bladder, uterus in women and prostate in men). The pelvic floor has several roles including:
Supporting the pelvic organs
Counteracting downward forces generated from lifting, straining or other pressures
Allowing for a pleasurable sexual experience
Providing sphincteric control for normal bowel and bladder emptying
Progressively expanding and opening to allow for physiological childbirth
Acting as a sump pump to keep the pelvic region decongested
Providing anticipatory control for movement as it works with the rest of the core muscles
It truly is a phenomenal set of muscles. Since pelvic floor physiotherapist are experts at treating muscular dysfunction, it make sense to see us for a comprehensive assessment of a pelvic health condition. Trust us. We know what we’re doing.