What is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist?

We go by many names…pelvic health physio, women’s Health Physio, pelvic floor physio, physical therapist, physiotherapist, etc.

All physiotherapists have undertaken a degree to qualify and be titled as a physiotherapist. However, some of us have, in fact, undergone further postgraduate studies in our area of interest to specialise in the area much like doctors, i.e. gynaecologist, endocrinologist, etc.

So it stands to reason that if you are having issues with your pelvic health, you reach out to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist to help make sense of your symptoms. Let’s demystify some preconceptions on what a Women’s Health Physiotherapist does:

MYTH 1: IT’S ALL ABOUT KEGELS

Repeat after me…my pelvic health is more than Kegels. Pelvic floor support not only comes from muscles but also from ligaments, tissue and fascia. So, doing 300 Kegels per day may not necessarily improve your pelvic health outcomes. Your pelvic health can also greatly benefit from advice and education on breathing and movement strategies, optimising your bladder and bowel habits, mindfulness, sleep, routine optimisation…It’s more than Kegel exercises and sometimes, the answer lies outside the pelvis.

MYTH 2: YOU CAN ASSESS THE STATUS OF MY PELVIC HEALTH THROUGH A SCAN OR EXTERNAL EXAMINATION

Would you expect to see a dentist for a check-up and not have them take a look inside?

Seriously…the gold standard of assessment of your pelvic health is, in fact, an internal vaginal exam. This allows us to understand and ascertain:

  • How weak or strong the muscles, ligaments and fascia are (support)
  • Tone or tension of the pelvic floor muscles
  • If there are sore points
  • How you wee or poo (yes, we can tell you if you are doing this correctly!)
  • The position of your pelvic organs

If it’s ok with you (you can say no and we can offer other options), we really would love to get our hands on your pelvis to marry your symptoms with the story your pelvic floor is telling us.

MYTH 3: IT’S GENETICS…NOTHING CAN BE DONE

We know that if your mother or grandmother suffered from prolapse or urinary incontinence, you are more likely to suffer the same. However, that does not mean that you just sit around waiting for that. We can help address modifiable risk factors that may be contributing to your symptoms. See myth 1 for how we can help!

MYTH 4: ALL PHYSIOTHERAPISTS CAN PERFORM PELVIC FLOOR EXAMS

This is not true. Women’s Health Physiotherapists, at the very least, have completed a 5-day introductory course or have returned to university for postgraduate studies to qualify to perform pelvic floor exams. This may be performed vaginally or rectally. So be sure to ask about the qualifications of your therapist first. You can check out ours here.

MYTH 5: MY DOCTOR SAID PHYSIOTHERAPY WON’T HELP

Let’s be honest here. We have some great and not-so-great research on where Women’s Health Physiotherapy can help. This is the case with modern medicine too. Did you know that women have a 11% risk of undergoing at least one pelvic organ prolapse (POP) surgery by the age of 79 (Miedel et al. 2008)? However, the long-term outcome following surgical correction of POP is poor. In fact, a prospective study showed that 41% of women had a recurrence of POP within five years and 10% of women underwent a repeat POP operation within five years of their index operation (Olsen et al. 1997).

So, if your doctor says physiotherapy won’t help, I encourage you to do your own research for evidence-based options AND do reach out. I would love the opportunity to help doctors reconsider their stance with the research available and what our patients have to say about their outcomes.

MYTH 6: WOMEN’S HEALTH PHYSIOTHERAPY IS ONLY FOR PREGNANT OR POSTNATAL WOMEN

False. We are all born with a pelvic floor- men included. And this pelvic floor is subjected to day-to-day use. Did you know that Ingrid Nygaard and her team (1994) studied female athletes at an average age of 20 years and found that 1/3 of girls complained of urinary incontinence during sports? These girls have never been pregnant or have had babies. The highest incidence was in trampolinists, gymnasts and ballerinas.

Well, I hope we’ve been able to debunk some myths on what we do as Women’s Health Physiotherapists.

If you have any questions or comments, please do reach out over email or WhatsApp on 9780 7274 – we love hearing from you guys! If any of this resonates with you or you would like to learn more about the state of your pelvic health, make that appointment today!

You can also visit our website to learn about other women’s conditions we treat through physiotherapy and how we can help you.

 

Reference:

Miedel A, Tegerstedt G, Mörlin B, Hammarström M. A 5-year prospective follow-up study of vaginal surgery for pelvic organ prolapse. Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. 2008;19(12):1593-1601.

Olsen AL, Smith VJ, Bergstrom JO, Colling JC, Clark AL. Epidemiology of surgically managed pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Obstet Gynecol. 1997;89(4):501-506.

Nygaard IE, Thompson FL, Svengalis SL, Albright JP. Urinary incontinence in elite nulliparous athletes. Obstet Gynecol. 1994 Aug;84(2):183-7. Erratum in: Obstet Gynecol 1994 Sep;84(3):342. PMID: 8041527.

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