so what exactly is a 'women's health physiotherapist'???
Aside from teaching Pilates and being a Mum to two small boys, my 'proper' job is a specialist women's health Physiotherapist. You'd be forgiven for thinking that that means I'm a Physio that just treats women, which is partly true......although you'd probably be surprised what I actually do within this role, if your past experience of a Physio has been to assist you with a sprained ankle or bad back. Many people don't even know our profession exists!
'Musculoskeletal' Physios treat ankles and backs, which was my clinical background. Women's Health Physios have undertaken further postgraduate training in the field of pelvic health and treat people experiencing bowel and bladder problems. If it's attached to the pelvis, or inside the pelvis, we deal with it!
I've always enjoyed working with pregnant women and new Mums, but after I had my own children I had a deeper understanding of what some women experience after childbirth. I was no stranger to pelvic pain in pregnancy and the immobility that brought. I was unfortunately familiar with the joys of perineal tearing, the dragging of a prolapse and found myself with a suddenly rather unreliable bladder.
I was lucky though, and was able to reach out to my Physio colleagues specialising in women's health. My clinical background and their advice set me straight on the path to recovery. I was further motivated to learn more about Women's Health Physiotherapy, with a view to tackling my own problems but also to help others in a similar situation, who weren't able to help themselves as much as I was. Or just didn't know how/where to seek help. Or that help existed!
As a women's health Physiotherapist, I treat women with continence problems - perhaps they leak urine with a cough or can't get to the toilet quick enough. I help ladies with prolapse - this can cause problems with bladder/bowel function and can cause a very uncomfortable 'dragging' sensation in the vagina. If you find yourself visiting the loo every half hour, we can deal with that too.
Tailbone pain (coccydina) maybe from a traumatic birth or fracture? Yep, that's us. Bladder pain syndrome, pelvic pain during pregnancy, abdominal separation post birth, chronic pelvic pain, vaginismus, painful sex and many symptoms of the menopause....all treated by specialist women's health and pelvic health Physios. My clients range in age from early 20s to their 80s.
We are also really well placed to help any woman after having a baby - you don't have to be symptomatic of any of the above for us to have something to offer. At the six week check there's little focus on YOU, but as women's health Physios we can check on your postnatal recovery and guide you in how to recover effectively from pregnancy and birth.
We take a thorough history from every patient, covering bowel/bladder function, obstetric/gynaecological history, general health, any sexual problems and of course we want to know about any specific issues or concerns you have. Depending on the nature of the problem, our physical assessment may involve assessing the back/pelvis, using a bladder voiding diary, and an internal (vaginal) examination of the pelvic floor.
This enables us to evaluate what you do when you work your pelvic floor (technique is an issue for 50% of women) and to correct this as required. We can assess your pelvic floor strength, endurance and timing/co-ordination. We check the tone of the muscle and assess for any areas of pain or 'over-activity' within the muscle.
This thorough evaluation (with one gloved finger) guides your management and enables the effective treatment of whatever pelvic health problem you may be experiencing. Where we need to involve your GP in your care, for example to suggest they prescribe some medication we will happily liaise with them on your behalf.
We also have LOADS of advice to offer, ranging from toilet posture, best types of vaginal moisturisers (who knew) through to appropriate fluid intake and ways to tackle those pesky night time visits to the loo. Many of the simple strategies we can advise on can make a HUGE difference to someone's life - these problems can be distressing, embarrassing and isolating.....but know that we can help. And there's NOTHING too tricky to talk about that we haven't heard before.
If you've got a specific issue you'd like to discuss feel free to get in touch with me and we can work out if Women's Health Physiotherapy is suitable for you and likely to be helpful for you.
I'm available at St Judes Clinic in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. The St Judes website has info on antenatal physiotherapy, general women's health physiotherapy and our detailed postnatal Mum assessment, the 'One Stop Mum Check'.