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!

Recovery for Post Breast Cancer Surgery

New Heights Physical Therapy provides excellent support and recovery for post breast cancer surgery in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

Recovery for Post Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast cancer can be treated in several ways. Surgery is often part of the picture to enable the oncologist to get rid of all of the cancer. The surgeon may remove the entire breast, which is known as a mastectomy, or they may only remove part of the breast. While this is often a life-saving treatment, it can result in some unwanted side effects, such as lymphedema.

What Is Lymphedema?

At its most basic, lymphedema is a swelling of the lymph nodes. In the post breast cancer surgery recovery time, it may occur in the lymph nodes of the arm, chest, breast or hands. It may occur for only a brief period, or it may continue for years following the treatment.

Lymphedema happens gradually as the lymphatic fluid can no longer drain as it once did. This happens because some of the lymph nodes around the breasts or armpits have been removed as part of the surgery to prevent or treat the spread of cancer. The symptoms of lymphedema may include the following:

  • Numbness and tingling
  • Aching
  • Difficulty moving the arm
  • Swelling in the arm, chest, hand or armpit
  • Inflexibility
  • Tight skin

How Does Lymphedema Limit Arm Movement?

When the shoulder and underarm area is stiff or sore, it can be difficult to move the arm. The shoulder joint is a special type of ball-and-socket joint that is designed to move in all directions. However, individuals with lymphedema here may find that they cannot lift the arm above the height of the shoulder, or that they cannot swing it as far to the front or the back as they once could.

How Can Physical Therapy Help with Post Breast Cancer Surgery?

Physical therapy has proven helpful in many cases of lymphedema. During recovery from post breast cancer surgery to improve range of motion in the joint, thus reducing stiffness and weakness. New research from early 2018 shows that even one session can improve arm movement. Plus, it was shown that an individualized physical therapy program can further improvement movement.

A physical therapist can help individuals know what exercises are safe after surgery, and can help patients move past the post-surgical discomfort to discover full range of motion. Therapy can also decrease fatigue and improve one’s overall quality of life.

Professional Therapy For Post Breast Surgery Recovery

Research continues to show the amazing benefits of physical therapy for improving body dynamics. In particular, it can help dramatically in those who have undergone surgery for breast cancer, helping them feel more like themselves once again. By being able to return to their normal ways of life quickly, patients can feel empowered to live healthfully and happily despite their prior diagnoses. If you think you could benefit from physical therapy, call New Heights Therapy today! Our staff of therapists would be more than happy to work with you, helping you recover from breast cancer surgery.

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!

Physical Therapy for Women’s Health

Physical Therapy for Women's Health. New Heights Physical Therapy in Vancouver WA and Portland OR.

Physical Therapy for Women’s Health

Physical Therapy for Women’s health is specialized treatment for a number of women specific health problems. An evaluation is done to first establish what type of treatment will be best for you. Treatment plans can vary in length depending on the type of treatment needed and the extent and nature of your problem. It is important that this treatment is followed through with suggested exercises at home to prevent further pain from occurring. Common physical therapy for women’s health include;

  • Pelvic floor dysfunction including incontinence or prolapse
  • Gynecology surgery
  • Pregnancy related issues
  • Pain related issues including painful intercourse, painful menstruation, amongst others
  • Postnatal exercises
  • Osteoporosis

These are all prevalent problems that women face daily. Often times, if these problems are left untreated, they can lead to other, more serious issues. Seeing a specialist for help can ease pains and/or complications providing for a more comfortable day-to-day life.

Nutrition and Healing

Although it is important to have a well-balanced diet day-to-day, if you are seeking physical therapy for surgery related treatment, nutrition is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating well-balanced and properly proportioned meals will keep your body at its best. Well-balanced meals will help your body get the sufficient vitamins is needs during the healing process.

A well-balanced diet includes staying hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help your body heal in a more timely manner. Staying away from water can cause your body to work harder and in turn, you will feel the exhaustion. Physical therapy will cause your body to dehydrate faster due to the work you are doing. It is very beneficial to drink water before, during, and after a visit to the physical therapist.

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.

Abdominal Separation In Post-Partum Women

By: Gema Sanchez, PT (Edited by Bradley Brown)

Diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) is a structural impairment of the muscular and connective tissue of the abdominal wall which presents as a separation of the abdominal muscles along their midline. It is measured as the distance between the right and left sides of the abdominal muscle grid (the “six-pack”), and is referred to as the inter-recti distance (IRD). Measurement of IRD in the clinic is generally made by hand or with calipers. Criteria for the diagnosis of DRA vary, but IRD is generally considered abnormal if it exceeds 2 fingers width at rest, measured at or just above the navel. DRA has been linked to support-related pelvic floor dysfunction and lumbopelvic pain.  One study in 2009 found that 74% of women seeking physical therapy for abdominal or lumbopelvic symptoms exhibited increased IRD and had significantly greater pain than those without DRA.

Risk of pregnancy-related DRA is about 27% during the second trimester and peaks in the third trimester at 66-100% due to the baby’s increase in size. Luckily, there is some research which suggests that exercise during pregnancy may mitigate the occurrence of DRA. In 2005, one such study looked at the effect of abdominal strengthening on the presence and size of DRA in pregnant women. Eight women who participated in a prenatal exercise program of abdominal muscle strengthening, pelvic floor exercises and education were compared to 10 non-exercising women. They found that only 12.5% of the exercising women exhibited a DRA as compared to 90% of the non-exercising women.

Incidence of DRA decreases postpartum but is still present in as many as 39% of women six months postpartum, and some women still have not fully recovered one year postpartum. DRA-related abdominal instability can be especially limiting during this time, as women return to previous normal activity in addition to the load of caring for their child.

Integrity of the anterior abdominal wall is essential to stability, posture, breathing, trunk movement and support of internal organs.  Specific abdominal exercises are used to narrow the IRD and help prevent future separation. In two recent studies, ultrasound measurements were used to assess the effect of active abdominal contraction on DRA in post-partum women. Both studies concluded that IRD was reduced with regular, static abdominal contraction. In another study, researchers used ultrasound to measure IRD at rest and during abdominal exercises in 84 women during and after their pregnancy. Their results support the notion that conservative abdominal exercises consistently produced a significant narrowing of the IRD.

It is important that women with DRA receive individual supervision and assessment so that adjustments can be made based on each patient’s reaction to exercise as well as rate of improvement.

New Heights Physical Therapy Plus has physical therapists with the training, skill, and knowledge to assist your clients with DRA during and after their pregnancy.