What is pelvic floor physical therapy?
Pelvic floor physical therapy and rehab aims to restore normal function, strength, and tone to the pelvic floor muscles. Using physical therapy, the providers at Central Texas Urogynecology & Continence Center can help women who experience urinary incontinence, overactive or painful bladder symptoms, pelvic floor myalgia (muscle pain) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles are weakened and undergo stretching and occasional trauma during delivery. Since the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles share the same connective tissue, you can experience pelvic floor issues even if you have had a C-section. If you’ve been given birth, pelvic floor physical therapy may be right for you!
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is made up of muscle fibers (levator ani and coccygeus) and connective tissues that support the pelvic organs (in women: the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, and rectum). In addition to childbirth, aging, menopause, chronic metabolic disorders (diabetes), morbid obesity, high blood pressure, surgery, long-term smoking, and high impact exercises can also affect the potency of your muscle fibers and increase the risk of urinary incontinence.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when a pelvic organ prolapses (falls) from its normal position. An injury to the tissues or muscles that support the pelvic organs causes it. The leading cause of this injury is pregnancy and childbirth.
The symptoms of POP include:
- A feeling of pressure, aching, discomfort or fullness in the pelvis
- Uncomfortable pressure during physical activity or sexual intercourse
- Feeling or seeing a bulge or something coming out of the vagina
- Problems inserting a tampon
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
Some women express that these symptoms are worse at certain times of the day, during physical activity, or after standing for a long time.
What does pelvic floor physical therapy involve?
There are three main components to pelvic floor rehabilitation:
- Biofeedback training
- Muscle training
- Neuromuscular re-education
Your healthcare provider may also recommend postural exercises, behavioral therapy, massage therapies, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and myofascial release therapy.
Biofeedback training relies on electrical stimulation to increase control over your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are trained to stimulate activity to assess the strength of contraction effectively.
Muscle training is commonly done with Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises are performed with three easy steps:
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles (around the urethra and vagina) – the feeling is similar to holding your stream of urine.
- Lift your muscles (a feeling of sucking in your muscles) and keep your pelvic muscles contracted for 5-8 seconds.
- Let go of your muscles and relax your pelvic floor.
You will repeat this exercise 8-12 times a day, and it can be done from a sitting, standing, or lying down position. To improve your results, do not squeeze your buttocks, relax your thighs, and maintain normal breathing while lifting and squeezing. Research data shows that, when appropriately executed, pelvic floor physical therapy results can be seen in as little as 2-8 weeks.
Neuromuscular rehab exercises encourage women to focus on joint positioning and movement. The key to these exercises is maintaining balance while performing specific actions. For example, pelvic tilt exercises help to position the pelvis properly. Unilateral balancing exercises help you to establish a proper pelvic tilt while balancing on one foot. A variety of bending and stretching techniques on an exercise ball also have neuromuscular benefits.
Request an appointment at Central Texas Urogynecology & Continence Center
If you suffer from POP or urinary incontinence, schedule an appointment today. From our urogynecology & continence center in Austin, we can provide treatments and advice for proper pelvic floor rehabilitation. To get started, request an appointment online or give us a call at 512-716-0861.