More than 25 million people in the U.S. experience bladder leakage, also known as urinary incontinence, every day, and twice as many women as men live with the condition. The National Institutes of Health estimate that the worldwide rate of chronic pelvic pain for women of childbearing age ranges from 14-32 percent.
A source of embarrassment and anxiety for women (and men) of any age, incontinence and pelvic pain often are the result of issues in the pelvic floor, the group of muscles at the bottom of the pelvic area that support the pelvic organs including the bladder, female uterus, and male prostate.
Pelvic therapy can help
One possible solution that Kettering Health Network offers for both incontinence and pelvic pain is pelvic physical therapy. The overall goal of pelvic physical therapy is to retrain pelvic floor muscles to function properly and help patients maintain a day-to-day routine without pain or difficulty with leaks.
When a patient is diagnosed with pelvic floor problems, the doctor may refer them to a physical therapist. Mindy Hoying, MPT, is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor therapy at Englewood Health Center.
She explained that patients with pelvic pain or incontinence feel alone and are often embarrassed to discuss it with the doctor. But once they do, treatment options are available.
“A lot of patients are unaware that pelvic therapy even exists and that there is help for their problem. Knowing that treatment is available is extremely beneficial in itself,” she said. “Many patients come in not knowing what to expect from the therapy. Patient education improves their understanding about why these issues occur and we are able to make significant improvements in their quality of life with pelvic floor therapy.”
Individualized treatment plan
Of course, every problem is different, and each patient must be evaluated accordingly. “Typically, with incontinence for example, the patient may have a lack of muscle control or underactive muscles,” Hoying said. “With pelvic pain issues, on the other hand, patients can have overactive or underactive muscles that need addressed.”
When a patient is referred to the Kettering Health Network pelvic physical therapy program, the medical team assesses what the patient’s goals are and develops a personalized treatment plan. Among the treatments applied for pelvic conditions are biofeedback, which is used for pelvic muscle retraining; pelvic floor and core muscle exercises; dilator therapy; relaxation techniques; manual therapy; modalities; and bladder and bowel retraining.
A wide range of conditions can be treated with pelvic physical therapy, including urinary and fecal incontinence, urgency and frequent urination, chronic constipation, pelvic organ prolapse, painful intercourse, and pelvic pain syndromes. Therapy is also available for pre-natal and post-partum women with other conditions like pelvic and back pain; abdominal weakness; and pain from C-section, episiotomy, or perineal tear.
The number of visits depends on the situation and progress, but most patients with bladder leakage usually meet their goals within five or six visits. Treatment sessions last about an hour, and most patients are seen one time per week in a relaxed, private setting. “Patients work privately, one-on-one with the therapists,” Hoying said. “Most had never heard of pelvic therapy before they were referred to us.”
A physician referral is required for treatment in the Kettering Health Network pelvic physical therapy program. People experiencing any of these issues should speak to their doctor about whether pelvic physical therapy might be right for them. Pelvic treatment is available at four Kettering Health Network locations: Beavercreek Health Center, Cornerstone Health Center (Centerville), Englewood Health Center, and Sugarcreek Health Center.