Physical therapists are able to help with all sorts of pain and offer treatment options to alieve some of pain or discomfort from a chronic condition or an injury. But, technically, can’t we hurt ourselves in places that typically are only reserved for bringing up during gynecologist visits or behind closed bedroom doors? That’s right, vaginal pain. Are PTs able to handle such an—intimate subject? The APTA has even said that, “[female pelvic pain] is poorly understood rarely discussed.”
As in any part of your body, such as your knee or your back, physical therapists are licensed to treat even more…private parts. Many people don’t realize that PTs are trained to handle these kinds of issues. Also, a lot of people who suffer from pain or issues below the belt are too afraid to seek treatment. But, in fact, PTs are extremely sensitive to the needs of their patients, especially on their first visits, and will do as much as they can to keep their client at ease.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine released a series of reports investigating the sex lives of Americans and found that shockingly one-third in women have pain during sex. This fact would probably stun anyone except for the huge amount of women that struggle with the difficultly regularly. But, what is more difficult to believe is how taboo of a subject matter this is. It’s rare that our society is openly vocal about their “downstairs dilemmas.”
What exactly is “pelvic floor dysfunction?’
There’s a lot of ways that a person can have issues that get classified under pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD.) As many as 1/5 Americans suffer from it in at least one of its forms sometime in their life. Things like hip joints, lower back, or muscle issues on the pelvic floor are all categorized in this condition. This umbrella term can cover lots of different things and is especially broad for women.
Treatments that physical therapists specializing in rehab for pelvic pain can help sufferers of the following issues: bladder disorders (cysts, prostatitis, etc.), bowel disorders (irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal discomfort), sexual dysfunctions (painful urination, muscle tension, intercourse/sitting/defecating pain), erectile dysfunction, pelvic inflammatory disease, and post-surgery physical therapy (for hernias, hysterectomy, c-section, etc.)
Does health insurance cover “pain during intercourse” treatments?
According to an article by Rachel Zimmerman, a mother of two, her painful vaginal spasms openly shared her issues with her highly trusted ob/gyn whom offered her some pretty wild prescription. Her doctor said her best bet was to visit a pelvic floor physical therapist. However, after she finally was able to find a pelvic floor PT specialist, she was told to slightly tweak the diagnosis to something more specific like “muscle spasm” as opposed to “pain during sex” and got health insurance to cover it.
What kinds of treatments can you expect?
There’s no denying that there’s a real need for pelvic PTs. However, you have to wonder what exactly happens during treatments so close to the loins? There’s got to be more than just teaching kegal exercises.
- Manual therapy (myofascial release, trigger point release, connective tissue, visceral and neural mobilization)
- Muscle relaxation or education
- Function exercises
- Educating on techniques like better posture
- Electrical stimulation
Physical therapy on the pelvic floor is a rarely discussed concept. However, as we become more honest and open about of health (and less bashful of completely normal bodily functions), we are seeing a huge leap into more progressive therapies.