Pelvic Floor Therapy: What To Expect on Your First Visit
- Written by Nancy Hoi Wong OTD, OTR/L, RYT200
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Unlike other offices, your first visit to Femina Physical Therapy is a thorough 90 minute evaluation.
Here's an outline of what to expect.
The goal of this initial evaluation is to understand all the different layers that could possibly be contributing to your condition. Once we understand the root causes of your issue, we will formulate a treatment plan to help you start feeling better, experiencing less pain, and getting back to the activities that you care about.
Getting 90 minutes alone with a practitioner is pretty rare. At our clinic we believe in the importance of having time to hear your story, perform a thorough orthopedic exam, and of coures the pelvic floor exam.
In this article we will outline exactly what to expect on your first visit.
Part One: Listening to Your Story and Education About Pelvic Floor Therapy
The therapists at Femina Physical Therapy are specialists in pelvic health and all of the different things that can contribute to pain: medical history, past surgeries, conditions such as endometriosis, menopause, pregnancies, bowel/bladder habits, diet, sexual history, and so on. The bottom line is that we want to hear your stories, and will listen closely to what you have to say.
So what's the lowdown on pelvic floor therapy?
Your therapist will begin by answering questions such as:
- "What is the pelvic floor?"
- "What does pelvic floor therapy look like?"
- "How will this therapy help?"
And we will of course address any other questions or concerns you may have. We want you to feel that you are in collaboration with your therapist, and a primary goal is to help you learn how and why pelvic floor therapy may help you.
Part Two: The Orthopedic and Whole Body Assessment
Most pelvic floor conditions involve other parts of the body. At Femina Physical Therapy, we believe in treating the whole person, not just individual areas or muscle groups.
Following the discussion of your history, your therapist will screen the entire body, looking for muscle imbalances, dysfunctional movement patterns, and neuropathic or orthopedic issues that might be playing a part in your pelvic floor issue.
We will evaluate your posture, pelvis position, hip and spine flexibility and range of motion, position of the sacrum, and muscle tone throughout your abdomen, back, hips, glutes, and thighs. We may do tests to see if the peripheral nervous system is involved in your pain. We will also test your core strength and how stable your pelvis/back area is, and test for issues like Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal muscles that is common after pregnancy).
Part Three: The Pelvic Floor Assessment
After your orthopedic exam an evaluation of your pelvic floor muscles will be performed with your informed consent.
Our pelvic exams are much different than what you may have experienced at the gynecologist or urologist - there are no stirrups and you will not be asked to scoot to the end of the table. There are NO speculums. YOU are in control of what happens and how far your therapist examines.
Instead, you’ll be asked to relax on a big comfy pillow and to throw your legs over a big soft bolster, the idea is to help you and your pelvis relax so we can best assess what your pelvic floor muscles are doing that day.
The examination is generally performed with a single gloved finger, and the therapists will always work with you and your body so as to not cause you any unnecessary pain. The therapist will leave the room so you can undress from the waist down and put on an examination gown. When the therapist returns they will begin the pelvic floor examination with a skin check, looking for any irritation or dryness of the tissues.
After that, there will be an external palpation of the pelvic floor muscles from the outside. The therapist will palpate around your pubic bone and sitting bones, assessing pelvic floor activity and looking for dysfunction. After a palpation, the therapist may ask you to do a kegel (contract the pelvic floor muscles as if you are stopping the flow of urine), and they may also ask you to bear down as if you are passing gas or a bowel movement. This is in order to see if muscle control is normal and to screen out possible conditions such as dyssynergic defecation (read my blog about that by clicking the link).
After this external assessment of the pelvic region, is the internal portion of the pelvic floor exam. For adults, this is generally done either intra-vaginally or intra-rectally. Again, this is performed generally with a single gloved finger, no speculums, tools, or anything else. All of our therapists have a very gentle touch and are constantly checking in with you to make sure you are comfortable, safe, and feel in control. I do have to be honest, the lube is cold, so be ready for that! But you can be sure that our therapists will work with you to keep the exam as tolerable as possible, and YOU are in charge of how far we examine you.
Part Four: Treatment on the First Visit
Since our evaluations are a full 90 minutes, there is often time to start treatment on your first visit. Your therapist will communicate to you what they are finding and will start treatment that day, often prescribing you some “homework” to work on right away, to start improving your condition.
What does the treatment look like?
The treatment modalities you will receive in pelvic floor therapy depend on your body and the issues present. In general, if your muscles are tight, the techniques used will focus on releasing the tension. If your muscles are in need of strengthening, the therapist will work with you on gaining strength and coordination in your muscles.
Some of the modalities used at Femina Physical Therapy can include (but are not limited to):
- Manual therapy including soft tissue massage, connective tissue manipulation, muscle energy techniques, and myofascial release to treat connective tissue dysfunction and myofascial trigger points
- Internal pelvic manual therapy to treat sensitive tissues, muscle spasms, trigger points, and muscle guarding that can cause issues like pain with sex, frequency and urgency of urination, and pain with bowel movements
- Therapeutic exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor
- Biofeedback technology to help you focus on relaxing the pelvic floor
- Electrical stimulation using the InTone device
- Photobiomodulation Therapy for pain relief and encouraging cellular healing and desensitization of scar tissue adhesions, tender trigger points, and muscle spasm pain.
- Visceral mobilization (gentle massage techniques that loosen internal adhesions and restore movement to the organs including the intestine, bladder, uterus, and ovaries) to improve motility and GI organ function
- Training in self treatment techniques so you can start to manage your systems at home. These techniques can include self pelvic floor massage using medical dilators
- Neuromuscular re-education and autogenic relaxation to reduce chronic muscle over-activity and improve parasympathetic nervous system function, including pain management and digestion
- Patient Education and Empowerment
- Lifestyle modifications like sexual positioning, stress reduction, bladder and bowel habits, hygiene, and optimal fluid intake and dietary fiber intake.
Pelvic floor issues can greatly affect quality of life. Let the therapists at Femina Physical Therapy help you along the journey back to wellness and happiness! Make an appointment today and let’s get started.