National Women’s Health Week – May 13-19, 2018

Posted on 5/16/2018 by Erin Longhurst, P.T., DPT

 

National Women’s Health Week is hosted each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. The week serves a reminder for all women to be vigilant of their health and wellness and to make healthy habits a priority for life.

During National Women’s Health Week, we are proud to recognize some of the more under-served issues that women deal with regarding their health. At NovaCare Rehabilitation and Select Physical Therapy, some of our physical therapists who treat women’s health issues have received specialty training specific to the pelvis and pregnancy and provide specialized treatment, education and training to help overcome challenges.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the below conditions, physical therapy may be able to help you maximize function, minimize pain and improve overall quality of life. Patients are evaluated by a licensed physical therapist and a personalized plan of care is designed to meet individual needs. Together, we will establish clear goals and begin treatment to help the healing begin in a positive and encouraging environment.

Incontinence refers to the accidental loss of urine, gas or stool. This most commonly happens during a cough, sneeze, laugh or force from exercise (stress incontinence) or with a strong urge to urinate or defecate (urge incontinence). Incontinence is generally caused by weakness of the pelvic floor muscles, whose primary functions include supporting the pelvic organs. Our conservative physical therapy approach includes bowel or bladder retraining, an exercise plan to strength the muscles that support the pelvic floor and non-invasive biofeedback or electrical stimulation, as needed.

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one or more pelvic organs (bladder, uterus or rectum) moves out of its normal position, usually in a downward direction, because of weakness of the pelvic floor muscles or pressure exerted downward on the pelvis, e.g. long pushing phase of labor. Usually, this causes a sensation of heaviness or pressure in the lower abdomen or vagina. Guided strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles by a pelvic-trained physical therapist can help reverse early stage prolapse and prevent worsening of symptoms.

Pelvic pain is experienced by many women, but it is not considered normal if the pain persists longer than three months or occurs during sexual intercourse. Women experiencing pelvic pain may also complain of pain (or referred pain) in their hips, back or abdomen. Treatment of pelvic pain by a specialized physical therapist may include exercise to stretch or strengthen muscles in the hips, core and pelvis; relaxation and breathing techniques; hands-on soft tissue work; and, biofeedback for muscle retraining.

Studies estimate that 40 to 50 percent of expectant mothers will experience some form of aches and pain during pregnancy. These pains are often caused by the dramatic changes in posture and increased demand that weight gain and weight distribution can place on the woman’s body. Following birth of the baby, mothers then spend a lot of time bent over, which can cause pain in the back, neck and arms. Physical therapy treatment during or after pregnancy includes education in proper posture and body mechanics, soft tissue manual therapy and muscle strengthening to help manage and treat pain.

Normal urinary frequency is between two and four hours, but some women experience urinary urgency that leads them to urinate more than every two hours or that wakes them up at night. Women’s health physical therapy can assist with bladder retraining and help you take back control of your bladder.

Diastasis rectus abdominis is separation of the abdominal muscles and happens frequently during the later stages of pregnancy. This often resolves on its own in the 13 weeks following birth; however, sometimes the abdominal muscles stay separated and can contribute to poor core strength and back pain. A women’s health physical therapist can help to create a targeted exercise program that resolves the diastasis recti and allows for a return to full activity.

Contact a center near you today for more information!

By: Erin Longhurst, P.T., DPT. Erin is an orthopaedic physical therapist with NovaCare Rehabilitation in Washington, D.C. She specializes in treating women's health conditions, with primary focus on pregnant and postpartum women and women struggling with pelvic pain or incontinence.