The female anatomy is truly unique, allowing a woman to give birth and provide nourishment to her children. But the same physical traits that help women reproduce can also present problems as we age. Over time, certain health conditions can take a toll on a woman’s pelvic area, causing pain and other challenges.
“Women who have given birth may have changes in their pelvic floor that result in bladder leakage, pain in the stomach or lower back or other discomfort,” said Heather Norris, DPT, director of physical therapy at Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald.
In addition to childbirth, other health conditions and procedures have the potential for straining or causing changes to muscles in the pelvic area. These conditions include:
- Abdominal surgery
- Bladder surgery
- Chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome
- Neurological conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
- Recurring urinary tract infections
When pain in the pelvic region or incontinence interferes with quality of life, therapy conducted by a physical therapist trained in techniques to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles is often recommended.
“Therapy for pelvic floor issues can greatly improve a woman’s quality of life. We use biofeedback, electrical stimulation, manual therapy and a range of therapeutic exercises to help strengthen muscles in this area,” said Norris.
Regular, low-impact exercise can help build strength and muscle tone, which can reduce the risk of further straining pelvic muscles during routine activities. Relaxation techniques can be helpful for those who are still working to build strength after childbirth or surgery. One such relaxation method is known as diaphragmatic breathing and can be performed by lying on your back in a comfortable position with both knees bent. Place one hand on your stomach and take a deep breathe in. When your belly rises, exhale and relax.
Women’s health physical therapy is offered at Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald, Tennessee, and at Maury Regional Physical Therapy locations in Columbia, Tennessee, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Heather Norris, DPT, is director of physical therapy at Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald, Tennessee, and specializes in therapy for pelvic floor, bladder and bowel dysfunction.