What is women’s health as it relates to physical therapy? This category encompasses a wide range of diagnoses, including but not limited to: incontinence, pregnancy related low back pain and pelvic pain, and post-mastectomy needs.
Incontinence, meaning difficulty controlling the urge to void urine, is an issue than ranges from pregnancy patients to world-class athletes. Many times this occurs because of an imbalance in the pelvic floor muscles, with one side not working as well as the other. Often times this issue can be related to or have the origin of a dysfunctional pelvis position, placing one side of the pelvic floor in a mechanically disadvantaged position to work properly. Retraining the proper pelvic floor muscles and getting the diaphragm to work in synchrony with the pelvic floor diaphragm will help improve incontinence.
Pregnancy related lower back or pelvic pain is extremely common, however can occur at varying stages of pregnancy for each individual. The increase in hormone release during pregnancy leads to laxity in the ligaments. With the increased weight of the baby carrying in the front, the low back tends to take on increased stress. With the addition of the laxity in the low back, it becomes more difficult to control this stress. Physical therapy can help restore normal alignment of the hips and pelvis while strengthening appropriate muscles to maintain a strong and stable base.
Post-mastectomy needs may include range of motion of the shoulder joint to limit scar tissue development following surgery and tightening of the shoulder. Another important area that an individual may need assistance is lymphedema management. If lymphedema is your primary concern, it is important to find a physical therapist with particular training in wrapping and appropriate massage techniques for lymphedema. While many of these diagnoses can be treated in an outpatient orthopedic clinic, special referrals may be required to a women’s health specialist if there is a more in-depth issue.