A physical therapist (PT) is a licensed healthcare professional with a graduate degree – either a masters or a doctorate in physical therapy. They are trained as generalists and can treat patients in many different settings and in various stages of recovery. Physical therapists who choose to work in the specialty of pelvic health often have taken multiple continuing education courses and certifications and have found mentorship to guide them in their practice. Beware, however, PTs do not have to have any minimum number of hours of education or patient care to treat patients with pelvic floor dysfunction. In other words, almost any PT can call themselves a pelvic floor PT – there is no regulation or certification enforcing the use of this term.
Deciding whether to see a pelvic floor physical therapist or a regular physical therapist depends on your specific condition and symptoms. Here’s a general guideline to help you decide:
Reasons to see a pelvic floor PT:
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Pelvic floor physical therapists can help with pelvic organ prolapse, where organs like the uterus, bladder, or rectum drop from their normal positions. They can provide exercises and strategies to manage or alleviate symptoms.
- Pelvic Pain: Pelvic pain encompasses any area from your belly button to your mid-thighs. That includes pain in your hips, pelvis, lower back, tailbone, lower abdomen, vagina/penis, anus, testicles, perineum, buttocks, and/or groin.
- If you’re experiencing pain in the pelvic area, including pain during intercourse, pain with urination or bowel movements, chronic pelvic pain, or pain related to conditions like endometriosis or vulvodynia, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help identify and address the underlying causes.
- But keep in mind that pain in your lower back, hip, groin, sciatica, lower abdominal pain, and pain with sitting can all be related to your pelvic floor. So if you haven’t found relief from general PT (or anything else), seeing a pelvic floor PT may uncover that what seems like lower back pain is actually stemming from your posterior pelvic floor.
- Sexual Dysfunction: If you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction related to pelvic floor issues, such as pain during intercourse or difficulty achieving orgasm, a pelvic floor physical therapist is specially trained in treating these sensitive conditions.
- Urinary dysfunction: Including, but not limited to, urinary incontinence (leaking urine whether from coughing/sneezing or while rushing to the bathroom, or both), urinary frequency (needing to urinate less than every 3 hours during the daytime), nocturia (needing to urinate at night), pain with urination, difficulty emptying your bladder, pain with any phase of urination can all be treated by pelvic floor physical therapy.
- Pre- and Postpartum: During pregnancy, and after vaginal or C-section childbirth, women may experience various impairments. A pelvic floor physical therapist can provide guidance on exercises and techniques to support a healthy pregnancy, a more satisfactory birth, and a full recovery. General rehabilitation from pregnancy and childbirth is much more than kegels and we can get you back to what you love to do while taking into account the effect childbirth and pregnancy has had on your body and your pelvic floor muscles in particular.
- Post Surgical: If you are recovering from any urogenital or abdominal surgery for anything from a hysterectomy to a prostatectomy to a hernia repair, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you rehabilitate from your surgery and in some cases pre-rehab has been shown to lead to more favorable surgical outcomes.
Reasons to see a general PT:
- Musculoskeletal Issues: If you have general musculoskeletal problems, such as joint pain, muscle strains, or injuries unrelated to the pelvic region, a regular physical therapist can address these issues effectively.
- Orthopedic Conditions: For orthopedic conditions like back pain, knee injuries, shoulder problems, or post-surgery rehabilitation that do not have a direct connection to the pelvic floor, a regular physical therapist is the appropriate choice.
- Post-Surgical Rehabilitation: After surgeries not related to the pelvic floor, such as joint replacements or orthopedic procedures, a regular physical therapist can help with recovery.
In some cases, a collaborative approach involving both pelvic floor and regular physical therapists may be necessary, especially if you have multiple health concerns. If you aren’t sure if your symptoms can be treated by a pelvic floor PT please email us at email@example.com or call us at 914-768-3802. We offer free 15 minute phone consultations to answer any questions you may have.