By: Ashley Johnson
Fixing a problem often starts with talking about that problem, but when it’s something like pelvic pain, pain during sex or leakage, this can be a difficult, but necessary step. As we leave Pelvic Pain and Mental Health Awareness Month, there’s no better time to help those who may have been suffering in silence take a step toward treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 in 4 women experience this leakage (also known as incontinence,) and the American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics reports that as many as 75% of women will experience pain with sex at some point. And it’s not all just the elderly or pregnant and postpartum women. This means that it’s not only likely, it’s highly likely that you’ve met someone experiencing either of these issues. But how often have you felt comfortable enough to talk about it?
This is why mental and emotional support and health play such a large role in our physical health and should be a normal part of our care. Finding a healthcare provider you feel comfortable relaying these symptoms to and who makes you feel heard and respected is often a necessity when it comes to getting proper treatment for issues that feel so personal.
Here’s the good news: these issues aren’t something you just have to live with. Trained professionals, like physical therapists who specialize in the pelvic floor, assist with problems like these on a daily basis. It starts with knowing that you deserve care that not only provides solutions, but answers questions like “why did this happen in the first place?” and “how can I prevent this in the future?” Sometimes, the solution is as simple as learning techniques to relax your pelvic floor. That’s right, more Kegels isn’t necessarily the answer (you may be doing them all wrong anyway,) but relaxation may be and even more importantly, a pelvic floor examination is vital to getting the proper care for you.
Maybe filling out a form online feels better for you, or maybe starting with a phone call or meeting a PT who can provide you with the knowledge to do your own self-assessment better matches your comfort level. Talking to pelvic floor physical therapists who are trained to care is a huge accomplishment in the process of getting back to living your life.
Take care of your mental and physical health and start improving today. In the meantime, try these tips from our very own Doctor of Physical Therapy and Pelvic Floor Specialist, Dr. Katie to access your pelvic floor:
Deep breathing: The pelvic floor and diaphragm (our main muscle of breathing) have a very close relationship. Starting with mastering breathing is always a great place to begin when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction.
For this exercise, start by lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your sides, near the bottom of your rib cage.
Now, inhale. Focus on feeling the belly expand forward, the ribs expand to the side, the back expand into the floor and the pelvic floor expand downward (toward the feet.) Imagine a 360 degree expansion of the entire core.
Next, exhale. Your core should gently return to its starting position.
Work on this for a few minutes each day to work on connecting to your pelvic floor and maximizing your breathing pattern.
Dr. Katie and Dr. Jessica at PACE specialize in pelvic floor health and are always happy to answer questions or help someone feel more supported. Have a specific question? Reach out to PACE via email or watch our Doctors of PT answer Pelvic Floor FAQs.
Khalife, T. (2018). Is urine incontinence normal for women? Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/is-urine-incontinence-normal-for-women#:~:text=Urine%20incontinence%2C%20or%20the%20involuntary,age%2065%20report%20urine%20leakage.
When Sex Is Painful. ACOG. (n.d.). https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/when-sex-is-painful.
Meet Your Therapist
Jessica has been in Austin, TX for the past four years. She grew up in Idaho and attended PT school at Idaho State University. She completed an Orthopaedic Residency and became a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist in 2016.