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Using physical therapy to treat pelvic floor disorders

Paoli Hospital December 8, 2014 General Wellness

A leaky bladder. Pain during intercourse. Frequent urinary tract infections. Pelvic pain. For patients who struggle with pelvic floor disorders, these symptoms are common ones. And although pelvic floor disorders can affect both men and women, it is women who are more likely to be affected.

“Gender-specific risk factors like a history of vaginal delivery and menopause make women especially susceptible to pelvic floor disorders, so much so that the number of women affected is expected to increase to more than 40 million women by 2050,” explains Wendy Schlessinger, physical therapist with the Pelvic Floor Program at Paoli Hospital.

Pelvic floor disorders are a broad category, and encompass a number of different symptoms and conditions that can affect the pelvis, bladder, uterus, and vagina. What makes pelvic floor disorders so unique is that they can affect women in many different ways. From difficulty emptying the bladder to persistent constipation to low back or pelvic pain, the symptoms vary from woman to woman.

Fortunately, as an increasing number of women have begun being diagnosed with pelvic floor disorders, the treatment options for these conditions have expanded to include methods like physical therapy, massage and relaxation techniques, and bladder re-training.

“Every woman’s case is different, and we’re sensitive to that in choosing the appropriate treatment options,” says Schlessinger. “Typically, we use physical therapy to treat women who come to use with pelvic floor muscle disorders, pelvic organ prolapse, or pain in the pelvic region.”

Physical therapy interventions include:

  • Bladder retraining and timed schedules
  • Biofeedback, wherein women can use training to gain control of bladder functions
  • Electrical stimulation to help muscles contract, control, and relieve pain and irritability
  • Behavior and dietary modifications to reduce bladder irritants
  • Relaxation techniques and massage to reduce strain and spasm

Regardless of what treatment option is used to treat your pelvic floor disorder, Schlessinger encourages women to talk to their doctor if they experience symptoms similar to those of a pelvic floor disorder.

“Many women feel like it’s an embarrassing topic to talk about, but strides have been made to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic floor disorders. These symptoms are common ones, and making your physician aware of it can mean relief in the future.”

Main Line Health offers treatment for pelvic floor disorders at a number of locations, including the Pelvic Floor Program at Paoli Hospital. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.