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pelvic floor physical therapist

A 101 on the credentials, training, and skills of a pelvic floor physical therapist

Two recently published articles, in the International Urogynecology Journal and in Neurourology and Urodynamics talk about the positive outcomes of treatment with trained pelvic floor therapists. Today is a basic rundown of what kinds of credentials, training, and skills a pelvic floor physical therapist has to offer you.

Credentials

Pelvic floor therapists are often physical therapists (PT), a discipline that requires academically rigorous coursework and covers topics from anatomy and kinesiology, to neuroscience, and the evaluation, treatment, and management of common diagnoses. They are also trained in a medical system, and are aware of "red flags" in signs and symptoms that patients may present with. These "red flags" will typically require additional medical referral to rule in or out (i.e. suspected masses, infection, etc).

You will often find a jumble of letters after your pelvic floor therapist’s name. Here is a breakdown of what those letters mean:

PT, MPT, MSPT, or DPT: These letters represent the degree that your pelvic floor physical therapist earned. For many years, physical therapists earned a bachelor's degree prior to becoming licensed. Later, schools transitioned to master's degree programs. The letters MPT or MSPT indicates a master's degree in physical therapy. Most programs today now train therapists for a DPT degree, which stands for doctorate of physical therapy.

Training

In addition to the academics that go into getting a PT degree, pelvic floor physical therapists have advanced training in everything about the pelvis: the bone structure, muscles, nerves, tissues, and organs of the pelvic area. This knowledge extends to the other systems that may affect the pelvis: movement patterns, neurological pain perception patterns, constipation and motility issues, water intake, etc.

With all of this extra training, pelvic floor physical therapists are better able to understand the complexities of your body and your symptoms. With such a holistic and all-encompassing view of everything “pelvis,” pelvic floor therapists can then design a treatment plan that is totally personalized to you and what you need in the moment.

Diagnoses Treated

Pelvic floor dysfunction is complex, with many dovetailing issues contributing to symptoms and pain. pelvic floor physical therapists treat conditions including:

Some clients often see a multidisciplinary team to treat their conditions. These teams often include a pelvic floor PT, other specialists including OB/GYN, pain specialists, massage therapists, yoga therapists, dieticians, and others.

Be wary of “Pelvic Floor Therapists” without proper licensure or training

There are some practitioners who claim to do pelvic floor therapy, but their practices may not be science based or medically sound. It is good to make sure that their licensure, credentials, training, and practices are up to par with the care that you deserve.

How to find a pelvic floor physical therapist

The best first step in getting care for your pelvic floor issues is to see your doctor. Pelvic floor therapists work in most major hospitals, large clinics, and in smaller outpatient clinics like Fusion Wellness PT/ Femina PT. In some states a doctor’s referral is required, so be prepared with some articles about pelvic floor therapy to show your doctor, in case they don’t know what it is (a surprising amount of practitioners do not know about pelvic floor therapy).

Resources

American Physical Therapy Association. Appropriate use of designations. Accessed on 10/17/18 at https://www.apta.org/Designations/

Berghmans, B. (2018). Physiotherapy for pelvic pain and female sexual dysfunction: an untapped resource. International Urogynecology Journal, 29(5), 631–638. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-017-3536-8

Sun, et al. Comparison of outcomes between postpartum and non-postpartum women with stress urinary incontinence treated with conservative therapy: A prospective cohort study. [Neurourol Urodyn] 2018 Apr; Vol. 37 (4), pp. 1426-1433. Date of Electronic Publication: 2017 Dec 11.

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.

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After having my second baby via C-section I searched for months to try to find help for my lower back pain and separated abdominal muscles. I finally came across Heather Jeffcoat via a mommy blog. I reached out to her via email and set my first appointment. My first appointment went amazing … she listened to what my symptoms, check my separation and explained to me in detail what the next steps would be. Not only did my abdominal separation go from 3 to about 1 -1/2 but my back has pain has significantly reduced. I’m personally recommending all my mommy friends to Heather!

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I wanted to let you know that my pelvic floor held strong and gave me no trouble whatsoever in my trail race this morning (12 miles)! In a way, I felt like I ran better than ever because my core feels so rock solid from all the exercises you have me doing. That was especially valuable on the technical downhill - I just flew down the trail because I had confidence in my balance and form. Thank you for helping me get back to doing what I love.

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I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

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Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

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Testimonial by A.W., age 32

I wanted to let you know that my pelvic floor held strong and gave me no trouble whatsoever in my trail race this morning (12 miles)! In a way, I felt like I ran better than ever because my core feels so rock solid from all the exercises you have me doing. That was especially valuable on the technical downhill - I just flew down the trail because I had confidence in my balance and form. Thank you for helping me get back to doing what I love.

-- A.W., age 32
(completed Post-partum Renewal Program using the InTone biofeedback/stim unit)

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