Physical therapists are well known for working with muscles – such as the hamstrings, biceps, or muscles of the back. Most people are surprised to learn that physical therapists also work on muscles inside the pelvis. While the pelvic muscles don’t get as much attention as the biceps or hamstrings, they can still cause problems that need treatment. Here are a few examples:
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. More than 13 million people in the United States have this issue. Most incontinence is caused by issues with the pelvic muscles – either the muscles are too weak, or they’re too tight. Other contributing factors may be spasms that cause bladder contractions, or conditions such as anxiety that also increase the urge to empty the bladder. There are different types of incontinence, but the most common are stress and urge incontinence.
- Stress incontinence is when leakage happens during coughing, sneezing, or laughing.
- Urge incontinence is a result of the bladder being overactive or unstable. People with urge incontinence often have triggers that cause the involuntary loss of urine, such as hearing running water.
Pelvic pain is defined as any pain that occurs either internally or externally in the pelvic or genital area. Both men and women can be affected, but it’s more common in women.
What’s the Cause?
Most incontinence is caused by issues with the pelvic muscles – either weakness or tightness. There can be other contributing factors like spasms that cause bladder contractions, or conditions like anxiety may increase the urge to empty the bladder.
Pelvic pain is also usually attributed to either tightness or weakness of the muscles of the pelvic floor. The pelvis is made up of three bones, forming three joints where they meet. These joints need to be stabilized by an outside force. The job of the muscles and ligaments in and around the pelvis is to provide that stabilizing force. If the muscles are too tight, the joints will have an excessive amount of compression on them. When muscles are too loose, the joints of the pelvis can experience shear forces. Both conditions result in pelvic pain.
What can Physical Therapy do?
Because incontinence and pelvic pain are usually musculoskeletal conditions, physical therapy can offer a lot of effective treatments. Physical Therapists use several different techniques including strengthening, muscle tension release, and education. Some examples include:
- Exercise – Strengthening or stretching of the pelvic muscles or the core can help correct imbalances, improve pelvic stability and reduce pain.
- Manual Therapy – Hands on techniques including joint mobilizations, trigger point release, soft tissue massage, or myofascial release can help improve mobility of the pelvic joints, decrease tone in spastic muscles, and reduce pain.
- Education – Education can help people learn to self-manage their symptoms. For example, learning how the bladder normally functions can help you to understand changes that can be made to improve symptoms. Learning about posture and how to improve alignment of the pelvis and the trunk can help to reduce pain and improve tolerance for positions like sitting and standing.
If you’re experiencing pelvic problems, a specially trained physical therapist can complete a comprehensive evaluation, help determine the cause, and design a customized treatment plan to improve pain and function. Northern Rehab’s Physical Therapist Liza Piper specializes in pelvic floor physical therapy. She believes in treating patients as a whole to improve their pain and optimize their function as well as promote education and encourage patients to take ownership of their health journey. Liza is accepting patients at our Genoa location. To learn more about pelvic floor physical therapy click here >>> or call Liza at 815.784.6417 for more information or to schedule an appointment and start feeling better today.