How do physical therapists improve women’s health?
with advice from Kim Gladfelter, PT, MSPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
and Karen Munger, PT, MSPT
It can be easy to shrug off feminine pain or problems because it would be embarrassing to discuss them with, well, anyone. In honor of women’s health week, consider consulting one of the many physical therapists that has specialized in treating issues that are specific to women’s health, making them an excellent resource when your health problems can no longer be ignored.
Karen Munger, a physical therapist, chose to work at The Center for Physical Rehabilitation, a Physiquality clinic in western Michigan, because the owners supported her efforts to develop a women’s health program there. They provided her with the education and equipment necessary to evaluate and treat such issues as pelvic floor dysfunction, including pelvic pain and urinary incontinence; constipation-related issues and bowel incontinence; postpartum problems; and core retraining.
Karen is quick to remind readers that these programs are not just for women that have gone through pregnancy. “Our urinary incontinence program caters to young athletes, post-partum mothers and older women alike,” she says. And the clinic’s pelvic pain program covers a variety of issues, including vulvodynia, dyspareunia (or painful intercourse), vaginismus, painful bladder syndrome, coccyx (or tailbone) pain, groin pain, sacroiliac pain and abdominal pain.
At PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness, a Physiquality clinic in Los Altos, California, a team of specialized therapists offers a variety of unique and effective treatment options for women’s health issues like these, says owner and physical therapist Kim Gladfelter. Each treatment plan is tailored to meet the patient’s individual needs and may include pelvic girdle stabilization, internal manual therapy, biofeedback, and/or exercise.
This doesn’t discount the issues that can arise once a woman has become pregnant. As the pregnancy progresses and the baby grows, a woman’s body is supporting more weight than normal. A PT can offer posture and body mechanics education, as well as supportive devices (such as corsets); these can all help to reduce back pain during pregnancy.
Once the baby comes, new issues can surface (with little time to focus on them). Karen notes that many women have diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal wall. (Concerned that you have diastasis recti? Learn how to determine if you do from our previous post on postpartum exercise.) Her clinic also offers treatment for those women who have had Caesarian deliveries, to minimize scars and rebalance the abdominal muscles post-surgery.
At Kim’s clinic, therapists treat another problem that nursing mothers might face: blocked milk ducts. Not only does the hardened milk cause pain and discomfort, but it also may force mothers to quit breastfeeding before they are ready to. “Nursing mothers with blocked milk ducts can benefit from our safe and effective ultrasound and massage treatment,” she says. PhysioFit’s physical therapists are specially trained to administer ultrasound and massage treatment for blocked milk ducts, as well as educate patients regarding continuous milk circulation and flow. When ultrasound and massage are promptly followed by nursing or pumping, Kim adds, most mothers experience relief after one treatment session.
Kim also points out that as parenthood progresses, moms can have neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other postural pain brought on by the physical demands of carrying and caring for their children. While some simple corrections can reduce such pain, if your pain is getting in the way of doing your job or caring for your child, it’s time to get a sitter and consult with a physical therapist or doctor.
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Kim Gladfelter, PT, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, is a physical therapist and owner of PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness in Los Altos, California, a Physiquality member. Kim has expanded her clinic’s facility to be a complete wellness location, offering classes in Pilates, gyrotonics and suspension training, as well as special clinical programs for women’s health.
Karen Munger, PT, MSPT, is a physical therapist at The Center for Physical Rehabilitation, a Physiquality network member with four locations in western Michigan. Karen chose to work at CPR because the owners supported her efforts to develop a women’s health program there.
For further reading, look through our selection of articles on women’s health, in addition to the below links:
Painful intercourse (dyspareunia). Mayo Clinic, January 24, 2015.
Eck, Jason. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SI joint pain). MedicineNet.com, March 31, 2014.
Women’s health services. Layfield Physical Therapy.
Blocked milk duct treatment. PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness.