Women’s Health Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy is a highly effective treatment used for a range of disorders and health conditions in both men, women, and children of all ages. For many disorders, physiotherapy is typically recommended as a conservative line of treatment before exploring other more invasive options.
What Is Women’s Health?
Due to our anatomical differences, men and women experience different health issues. Perhaps the most notable differences between males and females are the reproductive and the endocrine systems and their associated physiological and behavioural effects. These differences all contribute to the varying health issues experienced by men and women. Pelvic pain, for example, is primarily experienced by females and is a common complaint in the lives of many girls and women. It is often a result of the menstrual cycle; but can also be a sign of infection, an issue with the reproductive system, or the pelvic floor muscles in pregnant, post-natal and non-pregnant women. Although girls and women have experienced pain across the ages, it has only been in more recent times that conditions unique to women, such as endometriosis, have been recognised and more thoroughly investigated.
For decades the notion of hysteria and the hysterical female was a term used to describe a broad range of disorders and symptoms exhibited by women, ranging from pain to sexual desire. In 1866 British Obstetrical surgeon, Dr Issac Baker Brown published a book titled; ‘On the Curability of Certain Forms of Insanity, Epilepsy, Catalepsy and Hysteria in Females’. This literature claimed that a cure for a wide range of disorders in females could be achieved by excision of the clitoris. Although this type of belief is clearly outdated, it remains arguable that stereotypes regarding women’s health do still exist making it important to raise awareness of the unique health needs and disorders experienced by girls and women and to find effective and accessible treatments.
What Is Women’s Health Physiotherapy?
Women’s Health physiotherapy is a specialist area that involves the assessment and treatment of a range of disorders and conditions. It can help to relieve various painful conditions which cause pelvic pain or are related to the pelvic floor; one of the primary health complaints experienced by women.
The Pelvic Floor
Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles which stretch across the bottom of the pelvis. In women, this network of muscles supports the pelvic organs, the uterus, bladder and bowel, and the openings of these organs, the vagina, the urethra and the rectum, all pass through the pelvic floor. Strong and healthy pelvic floor muscles help to prevent leakages from the urethra and the rectum, promote sexual function and sensation, and help to prevent prolapse of the pelvic organs.
Pelvic floor muscles may be underactive or overactive. Underactive muscles are ones that have lengthened and are weak and these can result in urinary incontinence or vaginal prolapse. An overactive muscle has shortened and provides little elasticity, which can make sexual intercourse more painful. Pregnancy and post-natal issues are often a focus during women’s health physiotherapy as well as other issues such as vulvodynia and vaginismus which can lead to pain during sexual intercourse. Physiotherapy can help to retrain the pelvic floor muscles to rectify any issues. During an appointment with a physiotherapist, they will determine exactly what is causing the pain and devise an effective treatment plan based on the individual.
What Can It Treat?
Physiotherapy can be effective in the treatment of the following conditions and disorders:
- Urinary incontinence and bladder dysfunction – having to rush to the toilet to avoid leaking, or leaking on the way to the toilet, leaking when coughing or sneezing and passing urine more frequently
- Bowel dysfunction and incontinence
- Pregnancy-related musculoskeletal disorders and nerve pain
- Pelvic organ dysfunction or prolapse – in many women this is described as a sensation of heaviness or of something dragging down below
- Chronic pelvic pain – this type of pain may be pregnancy-related or post-natal including perineal tears, the result of an infection or another disorder
- Sexual pain related disorders including vulvodynia and vaginismus
- Issues related to the menopause
- Menstrual pain
Many female related pains involving the pelvic floor can benefit from physiotherapy as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to care. It can help to improve and cure the symptoms of various disorders in women, including weak pelvic floor muscles via the use of strengthening exercises such as Kegel, cones, EMG biofeedback. Manual therapy and other types of targeted exercises may also be useful. A well-trained physiotherapist can, in addition, provide information on healthy living, general exercise and diet.
How We Can Help
Our team of professional physiotherapists offer women’s health physiotherapy. We provide treatment for a range of disorders including pregnancy physiotherapy, pelvic pain-related complaints, nerve problems including sciatica, and postnatal treatment such as abdominal, postural, and pelvic floor issues, retraining for weak distended abdominal muscles and separation of the abdominal muscles (rectus divarication) and more. For additional information on our services, get in touch today.