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  • Writer's pictureCarly Oliff

What is pelvic floor therapy?

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Pelvic floor therapy is a musculoskeletal treatment provided by physical and occupational therapists. Patients experiencing pelvic pain, difficulty with bowel and bladder control, pain with intercourse, pain using tampons, pelvic organ prolapse, or other pelvic related diagnosis can greatly benefit from pelvic floor therapy. The pelvic floor is a group of 14 muscles that sit in the pelvis. The pelvic floor is essentially a bowl-shaped group of muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and rectum.

Pelvic floor therapy is a specialty that licensed practitioners are certified to provide after many post graduate courses, seminars, and hands-on trainings. Currently, Herman & Wallace and the American Physical Therapy Association provide certification programs that require course work, research, and 2000+ hours of documented pelvic care treatment prior to completing the certification exam. It is a rigorous process that ensures excellence in the field.

Both physical and occupational therapists hold licensures that allow for musculoskeletal examination, diagnostic measures, and treatment planning. The scope of practice detailed under physical and occupational therapy covers examination of muscles, tendons, and nerves as well as range of motion, strength, sensation, and function.

The practice framework for a physical therapist is built upon physical function, movement, performance, health, quality of life, and well-being across the lifespan. The practice framework of an occupational therapist is built upon body functions including neuromuscular movement, muscle control, psychosocial interaction, sensory function, and mental health; activities of daily living including sexual health, toileting, and hygiene; as well as spirituality encompassing values and beliefs. Both healthcare practitioners experience cadaver labs and extensive graduate level courses in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and neurology qualifying these therapists for advanced patient care in the pelvic floor specialty.

Occupational and Physical Therapists must complete extensive post graduate course work and testing to become a certified pelvic floor therapist. Much like a certified hand therapist or certified lymphedema therapist both professions can take post graduate course work and specialize in these fields with excellence. Occupational and Physical therapists work cohesively, as a brilliant team to bring quality patient care to their pelvic floor patients. Having both backgrounds in a clinic providing pelvic floor therapy ensures a high level of quality patient care. The holistic environment of sharing perspectives found from each practice framework allows practitioners to view patient care and potential treatment plans at a wider angle, assessing psychosocial needs alongside functional wellbeing.

Physical and Occupational therapy both have a University foundation of education in human anatomy, cadaver lab participation, kinesiology, pathology, and neurology. Physical Therapy generally has a biomechanical approach to patient care with focus on strength, endurance, skeletal alignment, and functional motion; while Occupational Therapy generally has a holistic occupation-based approach to patient care with focus on sexual health, bowel, bladder, routine, and personal daily habits. Both professions excel in manual muscle skills, soft tissue manipulation, therapeutic exercise, therapeutic activities, as well as adaptive techniques which enables a positive overlap in treatment techniques when caring for urogenital and pelvic floor patients. The ability to bring both approaches into a clinic cultivates an atmosphere of knowledge sharing and optimizes a full spectrum approach to quality patient care!

Pelvic floor care is an intimate profession that requires extensive education on the muscles, connective tissues, and joints surrounding the pelvis as well as the emotional and psychosocial aspects to work through the diagnosis. Practitioners take on the full spectrum of physical, mental, and emotional well-being when providing care to pelvic health patients. Both occupational and physical therapy have a holistic viewpoint in their practice framework and are able to take the whole person into perspective when evaluating their patients and creating treatment plans. Doctor of Women’s Health embodies this depth and breadth of experience, backgrounds, and skills to collaborate for optimal patient care. We strive to enhance the profession of pelvic health therapy by sharing knowledge and working together to improve outcomes!

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