You Don't Have To Be Pregnant To Try Pelvic Floor Therapy - Here's What To Know

Pregnancy brings about numerous physical changes to your body, and a weakened pelvic floor is among them. Marian Donnelly, a Women's Health Physiotherapist, explained why to Queensland Health. She said, "Pelvic floor muscles work harder than normal during pregnancy: they are required to support the weight of the growing baby. They are also softened by the effects of pregnancy hormones." Donnelly added that giving birth vaginally or via cesarean can further affect your pelvic floor. If you're unfamiliar with the pelvic floor, they are the muscles that protect your urinary and reproductive tracts. Pregnancy can cause pelvic floor dysfunction and can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as constipation, pelvic floor prolapse, and incontinence issues. 

The latter is why some pregnant individuals can't stop peeing their pants and are thus encouraged to undergo pelvic floor therapy to alleviate any discomfort. This is not exclusive to pregnancy though, as pelvic dysfunction can strike at any age. Due to diminishing estrogen and hormone changes, pelvic floor dysfunction can occur in older women. Other indications you suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction include painful sex or pain when inserting a tampon.

Of course, these physical issues can manifest in emotional distress, leading to feelings of humiliation, stress, and anxiety. Even if you're not expecting, experts recommend pelvic floor therapy to find relief if you're experiencing these symptoms.

This is what to expect during your first pelvic floor therapy session

While age and pregnancy are common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction, other triggers exist. This includes obesity, pelvic surgery, weightlifting, certain injuries, and much more. If you decide to pursue pelvic floor therapy, you will meet with a physical therapist specializing in this condition. They can help address symptoms such as incontinence and painful sex. In an article for Healthline, Allyson Byers explained why she turned to pelvic floor therapy. She wrote that she could not have an intimate relationship or wear a tampon. Her doctors believed this stemmed from anxiety, and she went to therapy. When that didn't help, she opted for pelvic floor therapy, which she said was a game changer.

So what can you expect at your first pelvic floor therapy session? You will discuss your medical history and symptoms. Then, there will be two physical exams. One is to check your posture and core strength. The other is internal and is to inspect the tightness and condition of your pelvic floor muscles. Byers noted that her physical therapist, Kristin Christensen, said that not everyone is comfortable undergoing an internal exam on their first visit, and many chose to postpone it until a subsequent appointment. After these steps are complete, your physical therapist will devise a treatment plan for you.

Treatment options vary

The amount of pelvic floor therapy sessions needed varies from patient to patient. However, you can expect to undergo at least eight sessions, each lasting an hour. Treatment options also depend on the issues you're having.  One example is Kegels, an exercise that strengthens the pelvic floor. Breathing exercises and trigger point massages are also common. Furthermore, vaginal dilators can be used to relax tight pelvic floor muscles. In her article for Healthline, Allyson Byers wrote that she used dilators in her treatment. She said she was apprehensive about using them at first, but felt encouraged not to give up by her physical therapist, Kristin Christiansen.

Other treatment options include biofeedback — which uses sensors to measure the strength of your bowel and bladder and functions – and electrical stimulation therapy. Although treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction can cause some trepidation, the result of pelvic floor therapy includes better pain management, sexual function, and control of your bladder and bowels.

Christensen explained why someone might decide against getting help. She said, "It is very common for women to feel disconnected from this part of the body. It is an extremely personal area, and pain or dysfunction in this region seems easier to ignore than to address." She notes that if you decide to get pelvic floor therapy, finding the right physical therapist makes all the difference, and she encourages people to do their research.