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 and/or discomfort, or postpartum changes.

Woman with pelvic pain in office. At OSF HealthCare we have specially trained pelvic rehabilitation specialists who can help determine what may be causing your symptoms and create an individualized treatment plan.

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 add to the problems. 

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is made up of three layers of muscle across the pelvic outlet that support the organs against gravity and resist increases in abdominal pressure during coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting and stabilization of the body’s trunk during physical activity.

These 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 unplanned loss of urine (incontinence), high frequency of bladder emptying, difficulty fully emptying the bladder leading to urinary tract infections, leakage, or frequent voiding.

Bowel problems may include constipation, leakage, or prolapse. Uterine problems may include pain or prolapse.  

Pelvic floor conditions

  • Urinary IncontinenceUrinary leakage is fairly common, affecting 25-45% of patients, however it is never considered normal.
  • Constipation Long-lasting constipation is infrequent bowel movements or the difficult passage of stools that lasts 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.
  • ProlapsePelvic 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 DiscomfortPelvic 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.
  • Postpartum changes – 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.

Treatment options

Treatment plans may include the following:

Middle-aged woman looking off in the distance

  • EMG – allows patient to monitor the ability to contract or relax a muscle
  • Bladder training – learning to control the need to urinate with techniques
  • Exercises for the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder (for example, Kegel exercises)
  • Trigger point and myofascial release techniques that may include internal work
  • Diet / lifestyle changes
  • Physiological quieting techniques
  • Keeping a bladder diary to increase awareness of patterns and habits

What to expect?

Your treatment plan is individualized to fit your needs. Most patients progress through two to six sessions with a combination of home exercises and lifestyle modifications. 

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.

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