Benefits of Pelvic Floor Therapy

Explore the benefits of pelvic floor therapy with New Heights Physical Therapy in Vancouver WA and Portland OR!

Over the years, women may notice that their pelvic muscles are just not as strong as they once were. They may feel pain in the pelvis, overall weakness, decrease in sexual pleasure, or leaking of urine during normal daily activities. It’s a form of Sarcopenia, otherwise known as a weakening of muscle mass across the body due primarily to age. Other symptoms of a weak pelvic floor could include the following:

  • Painful urination
  • Constipation
  • Back pain
  • Pelvic muscle spasms
  • Pelvic pressure

It happens naturally as you get older, but pelvic muscles can also be affected by factors such as pregnancy, physical trauma to the area, or simply through chronic overuse.

Pelvic Floor FAQs

Q. What is the pelvic floor? 

A. The pelvic floor is a term to cover the muscles that support the organs of all human beings. It supports the bladder and colon, as well as the uterus of biological women.

Q. What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

A. Pelvic floor dysfunction is when a person is unable to coordinate and relax their pelvic muscles to do things like process a bowel movement. It’s estimated that nearly half of people live with this condition.

Q. What does pelvic floor dysfunction look like?

A. That depends on your biological sex. For men it may involve erectile dysfunction or a swelling of the prostate, while women may experience pain during penetrative sex.

Q. How do you know if you have pelvic floor dysfunction?

A. This is something that is typically diagnosed by a medical professional. But, if you have a history of UTIs, an overactive bladder or fecal incontinence, these are all major symptoms of pelvic floor distress.

What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor?

If this has been something you’ve been enduring for a while, you’ve likely seen the tools and equipment that advertise effects through Kegels, or exercises that, in women, are meant to tighten and strengthen the muscles of your vagina. But do Kegels work?

Yes, they do! In fact, they’re a verified form of treatment for both men and women! When done correctly you’ll find that Kegels can help strengthen the muscles needed to reduce incontinence and sexual disfunction. However, it can be difficult to make sure you’re working the right muscles, as it’s calculated that a third of people attempting the exercise are actually tightening their buttocks or inner thigh.

It’s because of this that the team at New Heights Therapy suggest pursuing professional pelvic floor therapy. With us, you can make sure you have the support and insight of the most qualified physical therapists in the area.

Is Pelvic Floor Therapy Right for You?

When pelvic floor therapy is used with the guidance of a physical therapist, you may feel more comfortable, eliminate some symptoms and get back to the activities that you love. There are specific circumstances when a woman can really benefit from pelvic floor therapy.

Pelvic Floor and Postpartum Therapy

This therapy is perhaps best known for being used in women who have given birth. The pressure that occurs as you push a child through your vaginal canal can stretch and even tear pelvic muscles, leading to weakness. The pelvic muscles, which are meant to hold up the bladder and uterus, soften and sink. Therapy tightens and lifts these muscles again.

Post-Abdominal Surgery and Pelvic Exercises

Therapy is also very beneficial after pelvic surgery. When the muscles are cut, it takes a while for them to grow back together correctly and to regain their former strength. Healing from surgery can also involve scar tissue and flexibility issues, and pelvic floor therapy can help to address these issues. Physical therapy is an excellent choice after a hysterectomy, episiotomy, colorectal surgery, or C-section.

Pelvic Floor Therapy and Incontinence

If you are aging, you may be noticing some bladder weakness. Instead of turning to an incontinence pad, assuming that this is a normal part of aging, choose pelvic therapy. It can strengthen and lift your pelvic muscles, providing better support for the bladder and ureters.

Therapy for General Pelvic Health

Women may also need physical therapy for the pelvic muscles for a variety of other generalized concerns, including the following:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Abnormally tight pelvic floor muscles
  • Obesity
  • Nerve damage

While you may need months of therapy, and will continue pelvic muscle strengthening exercises at home, you can turn around the health of your pelvic floor and experience great muscle tone in the area. At New Heights Physical Therapy, we believe in taking care of your total health and well-being. This applies not only to pelvic health, but to a whole range of treatments that we specialize in. So if you think you could benefit from support and experience in your pelvic floor therapy, give us a call today!

Postpartum Physical Therapy

New Heights Physical Therapy provides postpartum physical therapy services in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Postpartum Physical Therapy

Doctors are starting to recognize more and more that regular doctor and physical therapy visits are necessary post-delivery. Ongoing care after delivery is typically limited to one visit, six weeks after delivery. A special task force from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recently embraced the idea of a “fourth trimester”, or ongoing care for postpartum mothers that extends beyond one doctor’s visit.

Injuries After Pregnancy

Delivery can have a variety of complications, and not all of them are immediately felt or seen after delivery. Postpartum moms can experience a range of physical injuries or disorders, including:

  • Perineal tearing
  • Pelvic floor dysfunctions
  • Mid-line separation of the abdominals
  • Urinary or fecal leakage
  • Tailbone pain
  • Lower back, hip, or pelvic pain
  • Pain with intercourse/orgasm
  • Constipation
  • Uterine, rectal, vaginal, or bladder prolapse

The Importance of Postpartum Physical Therapy

Any injury, if left to heal itself without proper recovery, can develop further complications, including muscle imbalance, worsening of symptoms, and scar tissue. Depending on the severity of the injury, these complications could lead to chronic pain and other conditions. Postpartum pain is typical, but if you have symptoms of a more serious injury, schedule a doctor’s appointment or treatment with a physical therapist.

How Can Physical Therapy Help After Pregnancy?

If you’re a postpartum mom who’s concerned about injuries or pain, during or after pregnancy, a postpartum physical therapy examination can help determine and identify the injury that was caused. A licensed physical therapist can also help heal and strengthen the underlying structures and muscles involved in the injury.
At New Heights, we understand how important postpartum physical therapy can be for a mother. We’ll work with you to identify any possible injuries, creating a specialized program to heal and strengthen your body. Don’t wait for an injury to heal itself–schedule an appointment for postpartum physical recovery today!

Should You Use A “Waist Trainer” Post-Pregnancy?

Should you use a "waist trainer" post-pregnancy? New Heights Physical Therapy in Vancouver WA and Portland OR.

Short Answer: No.

In recent years, “waist training” post-pregnancy has dramatically increased in popularity. Often promoted by business-savvy celebrities who conveniently have their own line of these devices, waist trainers are said to undo the problematic changes to a woman’s body that occur during pregnancy. The advertised benefits of waist trainers include a narrower waistline, improved posture, toned abdominals, healing of a diastasis recti, and correctly repositioned internal organs. Sounds great, but are these claims too good to be true?

While being worn, a waist trainer can certainly create a smaller waistline and improved posture. This is hardly surprising – corsets have been used for these purposes for centuries. However, the additional claimed benefits of these devices are simply not achievable through this passive “training”. More importantly, using a waist trainer is not necessarily benign – it can actually worsen some of the problems it claims to fix by interfering with the normal function of the core muscles. With a small amount of relevant anatomical knowledge, women can avoid this trend and choose more effective measures for regaining strength, function, and fitness post-pregnancy.

The Abdominal Muscles

The abdominal muscles are a large, complex muscle group that runs from the ribcage to the front of the pelvis and pubic bone. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles stretch, the base of the ribcage expands, and the pelvis tilts downward in order to accommodate the growing baby. Abdominal laxity and postural changes can persist post-pregnancy, leading to dysfunction and discomfort. So, why not forcefully corset the body back to its original shape? Problem solved, right? Wrong. Prolonged bracing of any muscle in a contracted position will not make it stronger. Over time, the body will learn to rely on the external support of the brace instead of the internal support provided by its own muscular system. For this reason, wearing a waist trainer will actually result in weaker abdominals and undermine autonomous healthy posture in the long run. If a person had weak biceps, we would never recommend bracing their arm into an uncomfortable and restrictive device in order to strengthen and tone the biceps. Why are postpartum women being told to do this with their midsections? Rather, through progressive strengthening of core musculature, a full abdominal contraction can be developed which automatically narrows the base of the ribcage and lifts the front of the pelvis. In this way, abdominal tone and balanced posture are naturally restored.

What About Healing A Diastasis Recti?

The term diastasis recti refers to the thinning and widening of the fibrous connective tissue that separates the right and left halves of the abdominal muscles. This connective tissue, known as the linea alba, runs down the front of the body from the ribcage to the pubic bone. During pregnancy, the linea alba is stretched along with the rest of the abdominals. After months of being stretched, the abdominals often have difficulty fully contracting and the space between them can widen. This leads some women to notice gap between the two sides of their abdominal muscles which can persist post-pregnancy. The fact is that any muscle group placed in a continuously stretched position for months at a time would have some difficulty contracting post-stretch. If you held a hamstring stretch for several months you would end up with a lengthened hamstring that didn’t remember how to bend your knee. Please don’t try this experiment at home!

There will be some natural shrinking of a diastasis recti in the months post pregnancy, but a waist trainer is unlikely to assist in this process. If you sustain a bad cut, it makes sense to have the two sides stitched together to allow proper healing. But a diastasis recti is not a tear or cut whose sides need to be held together in order to heal. A diastasis recti is a symptom of abdominal weakness that results from the stretching of abdominal muscles and their connective tissue during pregnancy. The only thing that can eliminate a diastasis recti is to train the abdominals to fully contract again.

Can A Waist Trainer Help Reposition The Internal Organs Post Pregnancy?

The answer to this one is yes – but unfortunately not in a good way. As the abdominal muscles contract, the internal organs and the muscles of the pelvic floor lift up towards the ribcage. This action mobilizes and strengthens the pelvic floor. A waist trainer will impede normal abdominal contraction and prevent this lift. Instead, the waist trainer will apply a downward pressure to the viscera and the pelvic floor, which can have problematic effects. Imagine tying a string around a balloon: the displaced air will increase pressure and stretch on either side of the string. In the same way, the increased pressure exerted by a waist trainer can stretch and weaken the pelvic floor musculature, contributing to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
In conclusion, scrap the waist trainer in favor of progressive core strengthening. Muscles can return to what they were designed to do without the help of this device.