May 8th through the 13th is Women’s Health Week and the goal is to empower women to make their health a top priority and educate on the steps women can take to improve their health. During the week, you can get the answers to top questions that are asked about Women’s Health.
~Lynne Schill, Physical Therapist, Guest Author
Lynne Schill is a Women’s Health Physical Therapist at FMH Rehabilitation Women’s Center Crestwood. She has experience in treating women’s health diagnoses and has found this work to be extremely rewarding because of how significantly it can improve quality of life. Her compassionate nature coupled with an incredibly warm bedside manner inspires confidence, determination and empowers the individual to become proactive in their own recovery.
Does your bladder dictate your life? Do you have to plan your day around where the next bathroom is? Are you afraid to leave your home for fear of not making it to the next bathroom or leaking? Do you feel something bulging in your vagina or have you been diagnosed with pelvic prolapse? Do you suffer from pelvic pain which affects your lifestyle and intimacy? Do you skip the jumping jacks or walk instead of run during your exercise routine?
May 8th through the 13th is National Women’s Health Week with the goal to empower women to make their health a top priority and to educate women on the steps to take to improve their health. Women’s issues are important and most women suffer needlessly because they are not aware of the rehabilitation programming designed especially for women.
So, did you answer yes to any of the questions above? If so, you may be a candidate for women’s health physical therapy! Physical therapy (PT) is a great alternative for women who don’t want to take medication and want to avoid surgery for incontinence, pelvic pain, and pelvic prolapse. Don’t let your bladder dictate your life or continue to suffer from pelvic pain, which can affect your lifestyle and intimacy.
Women often suffer in silence, not mentioning these problems to their healthcare provider and think they just have to “live with it”. However, there is hope—and help available, with physical therapists who have been specially trained to treat these conditions.
According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), 26% of women between the ages of 18-59 have involuntary leakage, 20% of women over 40 also have overactive bladder, and 66% of women and men ages 30-70 have never discussed their bladder health with a healthcare provider.
It’s time to start the conversation!
There are three types of incontinence: urge, stress, and mixed (which is combination of the first two).
Urge incontinence is when there are strong urges to urinate even though the bladder may not be full and there is an increased frequency of urination. Physical therapy treatment approaches include filling out a detailed three-day bladder log. Information gathered in this log includes the number of voids per day and night, how much is voided, what the patient was doing at the time, determining if the patient is drinking enough water, and identifying any dietary triggers. Often, eliminating bladder irritants from the diet including caffeine, alcohol, citrus, carbonated beverages, and artificial sweeteners can help decrease or stop the problem. Smoking can also be a factor, as can constipation.
Running to the bathroom and frequent emptying ‘just in case’ can actually make the problem worse. Teaching patients urge control techniques including standing or sitting quietly, doing a few quick Kegel contractions, and deep breathing can help decrease the urge. Another mistake women make is restricting their fluid intake. This can not only lead to dehydration, but it can also cause the urine to be more concentrated, which can be irritating to the bladder lining and lead to further urgency.
Urge incontinence and overactive bladder sufferers can benefit from physical therapy relaxation techniques including deep breathing and nervous system quieting in order to help calm the bladder.
Stress incontinence happens with coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting. The increased pressure in the lower abdominal and pelvic region can cause leakage because of weakened pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles provide support to the pelvis and pelvic organs. One exercise many women know that can help strengthen the pelvic floor is Kegels. However, it might be surprising to know that more than 50% of women perform Kegels incorrectly! A physical therapist can educate you further on pelvic floor anatomy to help identify which muscles you need to be contracting, how to isolate the contraction in order to do a correct Kegel, and then advise you on a home exercise program. Strengthening the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles is especially important for this type of incontinence. Also, modifying activities and exercise by avoiding a lot of heavy lifting, jumping and running can decrease symptoms.
My pelvic prolapse diagnosis…
Pelvic Prolapse is when a pelvic organ—such as your bladder, rectum or cervix—drops from its normal position. If you suffer from pelvic prolapse, you may benefit from postural education, strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles, activity modification, and positioning techniques to help reduce prolapse symptoms. Eliminating constipation is also important; a physical therapist can teach strategies to achieve regularity in order to avoid bearing down hard, which can potentially increase prolapse.
My pelvic pain…
Pelvic pain can be another life-changing problem for women—causing problems with simple daily activities and affecting intimacy. Pelvic pain and pelvic discomfort can be associated with menopause, post hysterectomy and other surgeries, trauma/injury, pregnancy/child birth, and pelvic malalignment. A physical therapist performs a thorough assessment and develops a program to meet individual needs. Treatment may include hands on soft tissue techniques, biofeedback, and/or relaxation techniques.
Biofeedback is a valuable tool that is used to assess the muscle activity of the pelvic floor muscles and helps patients recognize when their pelvic floor is relaxed versus in a contracted state. While being coached by a physical therapist, the patient can become more aware of the pelvic floor muscles and how to use them via visual feedback.
Ask yourself, “Would I like to improve my pelvic health and quality of life without surgery or medication?” It’s time to do something about it and Women’s Health Week is the perfect time to start!
A Physical Therapist trained in treating pelvic floor dysfunction is available for your specific needs and diagnosis. Your bladder doesn’t have to dictate your daily routine; you don’t have to live with pelvic pain in silence. You deserve your life back!
Tx:Team Women’s Health Physical Therapy programs can be found at FMH Rehabilitation in Frederick, MD, St. Vincent Frankfort Hospital in Frankfort, IN, and St. Vincent Jennings Hospital in North Vernon, IN. Ladies, it’s time to take the steps to improve your health and Women’s Health Week is the perfect time to start!