What is Women’s Health Physiotherapy?
Well, physiotherapy “addresses the illnesses or injuries that limit a person’s abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.” (Wikipedia). It, therefore, follows that Women’s Health Physiotherapy addresses illnesses or injuries explicitly affecting women of all ages, from young girls engaged in vigorous activities like athletics, women of childbearing age, and those already in their perimenopause and menopausal stage.
Women’s Health Physiotherapy can help manage and even, in some instances, cure:
Pelvic girdle pain
Diastase Rectus Abdominis (where the connective tissues in the stomach wall widen, increasing the space between the right and left belly muscles)
Pelvic pain syndromes
Bladder pain symptoms
Postnatal check and posture screening
One of the most common conditions for women needing Women’s Health Physiotherapy would be pelvic organ prolapse. According to the NHS website, pelvic organ prolapse is when one or more organs found in the pelvis slip down from their normal position and bulge into the vagina. Some of these organs could be the uterus, bowel, bladder, or even the top of the vagina. The website highlights that it is not life-threatening but can cause pain and discomfort.
Pelvic organ prolapse has various symptoms, amongst them being a feeling of heaviness in the vagina, pain during intercourse, or even constipation, according to the National Association for Continence, a United States-based organisation. The NAFC further says that there are four stages of Pelvic organ prolapse. Stage one is very mild, and the organs are still reasonably well supported by the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor organs begin to fall in stage two, but the organs are still contained inside the vagina. In stage three, the pelvic floor organs have fallen to or beyond the opening of the vagina. Finally, the pelvic floor organs have fallen entirely through the vaginal opening in stage four. Based on these findings, it is evident that pelvic organ prolapse can cause quite some discomfort in women.
In most cases, Women’s health physiotherapy can improve the pelvic organ prolapse symptoms, though sometimes the state may require medical treatment. Some of the therapy used is stabilisation exercises and pelvic floor muscle training. We will briefly examine what these two forms of treatment entail.
The muscles in the body are broadly classified into two categories: movers and stabilisers. While the mover’s muscles help in movement, the stabiliser muscles help maintain posture and support movement. Most of these stabilising muscles are found in the core region, including your back muscles connected directly to the spine. They support the spinal column, and if they fail to function correctly, the result is usually back pain. One of the vital muscles in this regard is the multifidus muscle. This wonder muscle keeps the spine in place and relieves pressure on the discs. Stabilising exercises are designed to strengthen this group of stabilising muscles, which will help reduce and prevent lower back pain. The physiotherapist will assist one to find and maintaining a neutral spine position.
On the other hand, the pelvic floor muscles are found at the bottom of the pelvis and support the pelvic organs. These organs include the bladder, bowel, and uterus. These muscles allow one to control the release of urine, faeces, and flatus and delay emptying until it is convenient. According to the Continence Foundation of Australia, when these muscles get weak, they create bladder and bowel control problems. Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles around the bladder, bottom, and vagina. According to the NHS website, this can help treat urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
The National Institutes of Health compared the two forms of exercise, a part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services tasked with medical research. The study aimed to compare the effectiveness of stabilisation exercises and pelvic floor muscle training in women who had stage 1 and 2 pelvic organ prolapse. Thirty-eight women were evaluated and divided into two groups, some for stabilisation exercise and the other group for pelvic floor muscle training. The training was conducted over eight weeks, with the stabilisation exercise group doing it three times a week. The group that did the pelvic floor muscle training did the training at their homes. The researchers assessed the two groups before and after the training.
The researchers analysed all the findings and found that both training programs effectively increased pelvic muscle strength. They were also influential in providing a decline in prolapse stages. This study highlights those women with prolapse can be effectively treated using the two forms of exercise.
Therefore, the importance of Women’s Health Physiotherapy cannot be overemphasised. It would prevent a lot of stigma in society. When we think of a condition such as incontinence, primarily associated with the loss of bladder control but can also include loss of bowel control, the social implications are plain to see. Due to leakage of urine or even faeces, the person suffering from incontinence would smell urine or faeces all the time. This condition could cause social isolation for such a person, lowering self-esteem of such an individual. If they could strengthen and control their muscles, this would greatly help increase their self-worth. Especially when it involves older people, this can cause quite some emotional pain. That is why Women’s Health Physiotherapy is so important. Pelvic floor muscle training is beneficial as it can be done from the comfort of one’s home and does not require too much time. Such exercises done regularly will significantly increase wellbeing and help boost self-esteem.
Evans, Rima.” No more Shame”. Community practitioner