1. How did you get interested in PT? And why pelvic floor PT?
At the very beginning of my career, as I was job searching, I found a physical therapy clinic that I really wanted to work at. The owner Saul, was an avid athlete, it was a small clinic that focused on returning athletes to sport and the vibe was laid back. Luckily they were looking for another physical therapist to join the team. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job! The opportunity came with one caveat, I would need to start doing pelvic floor PT to alleviate some of the case load off the other female employee. I thought about it for all of 5 seconds and accepted the job. I was initially nervous about doing pelvic floor PT because I had never thought I would go that direction with my career but, after taking my first pelvic floor continuing education course, I was filled with excitement and energy to have the opportunity to be a part of this emerging niche of PT. I would be helping to empower women and help them find more independence and confidence through my knowledge of the body!
I haven’t looked back since. I am so grateful to have had that initial job and to have been exposed to this field of PT. I have the opportunity to work with wonderful women every day, reassuring them that what they’re experiencing is normal and that they’re not alone. I get to teach them that their current ailments don’t necessarily have to be their day-to-day normal anymore; many symptoms can be alleviated through conservative physical therapy management, exercise, and stretching.
2. What is pelvic floor PT anyway?
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a subspecialty of PT that requires education beyond the traditional physical therapy degree.
Just like any other area of the body, the muscles and other structures of the pelvis and abdomen can become injured for various reasons, potentially causing dysfunctions such as urinary or fecal incontinence, pain with intercourse, constipation, chronic pelvic pain, to name a few. Pelvic floor physical therapists evaluate and treat the pelvic floor to help alleviate these pains and dysfunctions. The pelvic floor muscles have five main functions: (1) support the organs and contents of our abdomen, (2) stabilize the trunk and pelvis as we move through life, (3) provide sphincteric muscle contractions so we can control our bowel and bladder emptying,(4) provide muscular tone and support to enhance sexual functions, and (5) create a mechanical pump for the lymphatic vessels and veins. Pelvic floor physical therapists work to improve all five functions of the muscles to improve the quality of life of their patients.
3. In what ways can pelvic floor PT help me?
There are many ways pelvic floor PT can help you. From a preventative medicine approach, pelvic floor PT aims to prevent injury and improve overall function of the pelvic floor and abdominals through education (of lesser known stability muscles), strengthening and stretching.
For example, a woman who is considering becoming pregnant or is early in her pregnancy might want to see a pelvic floor PT to learn how she can proactively strengthen and stretch appropriately to help prevent common pregnancy pains and dysfunctions such as diastasis recti, pubic symphysis pain, or sacroiliac pain. Alternately, a woman who is training for a running event or trying to improve her power and endurance would find it helpful to learn about her pelvic floor musculature and how to appropriately stretch and strengthen to improve her athletic performance capabilities.
From a rehabilitation point-of-view, pelvic floor PT will help women who are experiencing various pains and dysfunctions such as incontinence after childbirth, low back pain, constipation, pain with sexual intercourse, to name a few. The muscles of the pelvic floor play a huge role in the functioning of our organs and joints and if they are not contracting and relaxing correctly, pain and dysfunction can arise.
4. What can I expect from a pelvic floor PT appointment?
This completely depends on each individual and what he or she is being seen for. However, in general, an initial pelvic floor appointment with me would include an open conversation to get a better idea of your symptoms. I will take the time to listen to you, understand what you’re going through, and discuss what pains and dysfunctions you’re experiencing. Then we’ll take the time to educate you on the pelvic floor muscles, how they function, and how they might be causing your pain. Depending on what you’re coming in for, an internal exam and internal manual work may be warranted. This will be thoroughly explained and your consent will be requested. After the internal exam and treatment, I will then explain what I found and prescribe exercises and stretches that I think will be beneficial for you. These might be as simple as gentle breathing exercises that focus on the relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles with the breath, or a tailored exercise program that focuses on strengthening your core and hip muscles for improved stability and function. Follow-up treatment sessions may include any of the following: internal work to release tight muscles of the pelvic floor, exercises to strengthen and/or stretch the pelvic floor, core and hip muscles, breathing exercises for relaxation, education and instruction to empower you to improve your specific pain and dysfunction on your own, and continued treatment plan progression according to your reports.
5. Do you have any favorite books that talk about pelvic floor PT?
Yes! I really like A Headache in the Pelvis for those who have been experiencing chronic pelvic pain. This book helps to educate and empower patients to be an active participant in their healing process. This is also a great book for other healthcare providers to read if they’re unsure of what pelvic floor pain and treatment looks like!
Another book I really like is The Bathroom Key: Put an End to Incontinence. This book includes anecdotes from other women which helps readers to not feel alone in their struggles with incontinence and also gives readers a treatment plan for them to implement on their own.
6. How can working with a PT support my mental health?
Pain and dysfunction that occur in the pelvic area can be very isolating. The functions of the pelvic floor and the subsequent dysfunctions and pains that arise are very personal and are not discussed as openly as, let’s say, knee, shoulder or neck pains. Therefore, many people who are experiencing pain and dysfunction of the pelvic floor will think that they are alone in their journey. This feeling of isolation can be mentally taxing, difficult to deal with and very scary.
Working with a trained pelvic floor PT can help reassure the patient that they are not alone in this journey. Their pain is valid, real, and conservative treatment and education are options that will help them recover and regain their confidence and ability to go about their everyday life without worry.
6. Any favorite websites?
I really like Pelvic Rehab. This site is sponsored by Herman & Wallace and gives patients the ability to search for a pelvic floor therapist in their area as well as a well written blog that covers various pelvic floor PT topics and more!
7. Anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I am the owner of Verity Physical Therapy & Wellness. I received my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN where I also ran D-1 cross-country and track and was the captain of both teams my junior and senior years. I went on to receive my Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Belmont University, also in Nashville. I am still an avid runner and have completed three marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2014. I lived in NYC for five and a half years where I built my business and improved my skills as a pelvic floor PT. I enjoyed my time in NYC but my strong love for the outdoors and tranquility brought me to Boulder where I am confident that I can fulfill my need for outdoor activities and re-build my business.
I am passionate about helping others rehabilitate in order to achieve their goals; whether those be to run a marathon, strengthen their core after having a child, or sleep through the night without pain. I believe that every personal goal is important no matter what it is and I will work with you every step of the way to help you achieve it!