Pelvic Floor Therapy
More than 11 million men, women and children suffer from some form of pelvic floor problem such as incontinence, constipation, prolapse, pelvic pain/discomfort, or postpartum changes. The good news is many cases of pelvic floor problems can be treated successfully.
At OSF HealthCare we have specially trained pelvic rehabilitation specialists who can help determine the factors contributing to your symptoms. They will work with you to create a treatment plan.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor consists of three layers of muscle across the pelvic outlet that support the pelvic organs against gravity and resist any increases in abdominal pressure during coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting and stabilization of body’s trunk during physical activity such as strong movements of the arms and legs.
These pelvic muscles may become overactive or underactive for a variety of reasons throughout a person’s lifetime.
Problems may then occur affecting the function of the bladder causing unintentional loss of urine (incontinence), high frequency of bladder emptying, difficulty with fully emptying the bladder leading to urinary tract infections, leakage, or frequent voiding; bowel problems may include constipation, leakage, or prolapse; and uterine problems may include pain or prolapse.
Pelvic floor dysfunction may also cause abdominal, back, hip, or pelvic pain. Pelvic floor therapy addresses the role of these muscles as well as other physical and lifestyle factors that may contribute to the problems.
Treatment plans may include the following:
- EMG – a process that allows an individual to monitor the ability to contract or relax a muscle
- Bladder training – learning to control the need to urinate with techniques such as distraction and timed voiding
- Exercises for the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder (for example, Kegels)
- Trigger point and myofascial release techniques that may include internal work
- Diet modifications
- Lifestyle changes
- Physiological quieting techniques
- Keeping a bladder diary to increase awareness of patterns and habits
Pelvic Floor Conditions
25 to 45% of the population have episodes of incontinence (unintentional loss of urine) with rates increasing with age. Although urinary leakage may be common, it is never considered normal. Some people react to episodes of incontinence by decreasing social interactions with family and friends.
Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or the difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer. Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Though occasional constipation is very common, some people experience chronic constipation that can interfere with their ability to go about their daily tasks. Chronic constipation may also cause excessive straining to have a bowel movement and other signs and symptoms.
Pelvic organ prolapse is the bulging of a body part, such as the rectum or vagina that commonly occurs because of weakened supportive tissues around the organs. Prolapse may cause discomfort with sitting, lifting and sexual function; and it may interfere with bladder emptying and bowel movements.
Pelvic pain or discomfort
Pelvic pain can arise from muscle or other soft tissue imbalances in the lumbar or pelvic floor region. Other medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal issues or issues with the reproductive system, can also contribute to pelvic pain. Physical therapy will address these imbalances. Through a detailed assessment and partnership with a therapist, treatment can bring positive results.
Pregnancy and delivery can cause changes in a woman’s posture, muscle length and strength. These changes may contribute to pain, discomfort, or incontinence, as well as difficulty with returning to full daily function.
What to Expect
You would undergo physical therapy according your customized treatment plan. Usually, formal physical therapy continues for two to six sessions. A home program of exercises and lifestyle modification to achieve the best outcomes efficiently goes hand-in-hand with formal physical therapy.
The goal of therapy is to make weak muscles strong and overactive muscles relax their tone. Pain reduction may be a relevant goal. Therapy hopes to reduce incontinence episodes and achieve normal frequency of trips to the bathroom.
Ultimately, depending on the specific needs of the individual patients, we want to improve function so you can perform all the activities you would like to do without distraction from symptoms.
If you’re having pain and discomfort, speak to a member of your care team about how you could benefit from pelvic floor therapy from an OSF HealthCare physical therapist.
How to Get Started
You’ll need a physician’s referral to set up an initial evaluation appointment.
What to Bring
Please bring your insurance card and a photo ID. Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
When to Arrive
Arrive about 15 minutes prior to your scheduled visit to complete your registration process. For children under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must be present for the initial appointment.