After experiencing pelvic pain for several months, I went to see a pelvic physical therapist and it totally changed my life. Here’s what went down and everything you should know if you’re considering going down the same road.
I couldn’t isolate the cause of my pain.
When I started having sex, I had discomfort issues that I thought would go away once my body got used to the feeling of a new partner. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I’d gone through all the standard tests to rule out anything sinister but there was no real reason for my pain. Many years later, a doctor finally enlightened me by telling me about pelvic floor physical therapy. It blew my mind because I’d never heard of it before. I wish I discovered it sooner and that more people knew what it is.
The pelvic floor is like your torso’s foundation.
These muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues span the bottom of the pelvis like a hammock, and it’s called the pelvic “floor” because it supports everything on top of it including the urethra, vagina, anus, bladder, uterus, bowels, abdomen, and spine. When it isn’t working properly, it can cause dysfunction in any structure that it supports. Fortunately, because the pelvic floor muscles can be controlled, they can be trained, and pelvic PTs help you do this.
Pelvic PTs treat a wide variety of conditions in women and men.
That’s right, they care for men too! They actually treat many different problems including pelvic pain, vaginal pain, pain during sex, urinary and bowel incontinence, constipation, abdominal pain, sexual dysfunction including erectile dysfunction, low back pain, rectal pain, tailbone pain, penile and testicular pain, and they rehabilitate people who’ve had pelvic injuries or surgeries. A really weak pelvic floor can even cause organ prolapse, which is when organs like the uterus or bladder drop from their normal spot into the vagina or anus. Ouch.
Pelvic area dysfunction is caused by a number of different factors.
Pelvic surgery, genetic predisposition, age, obesity, stress, high impact exercise, heavy lifting, chronic coughing, straining when going to the bathroom, injury to the pelvic region, pregnancy, and childbirth can all cause complications. In my case, it was a genetic component combined with stress, not surprising since I get stressed out easily.
Kegels are not a fix all for your pelvic floor.
Many people think doing a million Kegels a day will fix everything, but this isn’t the case at all. A large group of muscles has to be fully operational for good pelvic health. This includes pelvic, abdominal, hip, and even back muscles. Kegels can’t train all of these. For example, you’d think that people with urinary incontinence have loose muscles, but tight muscles can cause it as well, so too many Kegels could make it worse. It’s all about proper all-around functioning. Only a therapist can determine the correct treatment method.
Pelvic PT is often used along with surgery.
For instance, it’s common for men who’ve had their prostates removed to see pelvic PTs to retrain their muscle groups to function properly after surgery. They improve your pelvic foundation, nutrition (yes, nutrition matters!) and lifestyle, which helps recovery. Surgery can correct an anatomical problem, but just like with many other surgeries, physical therapy is needed to help your body restore proper function and movement.
Their techniques include massage down there.
In my case, my pelvic floor was overly tight, so my therapist used “manual therapy,” as they call it, to relieve my tense pelvic floor muscles. It didn’t hurt at all, although I was a tiny bit sore afterward, which is totally normal. She also taught me some contracting and relaxing exercises to train my muscles to work properly again. Besides manual massage and muscle training, PTs may use other methods like electrical stimulation and biofeedback therapy. Their approach is tailored to what your individual problems are.
It’s nothing like going to a doctor’s office.
My therapist’s room was set up like a spa room. It was quite relaxing and it kind of needs to be because they do have to get up in your business. There are no stirrups, they don’t use a speculum, and there’s no big spotlight on you, thankfully. They’re very gentle and cautious and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.
It’s not as awkward as you think.
It’s normal to be nervous, and I was definitely freaked out at first. I’m pretty modest—I don’t even like my doctor examining me. I especially hate pelvic exams (not that any woman loves it) but my therapist made me feel really at ease.
Pelvic PTs help your mental state as well.
It was shockingly easy to have a normal conversation during my sessions. My therapist helped me understand that my troubles weren’t that uncommon and definitely fixable. She became a friend because she understood what I was going through, and no one in my life had before that. When I got pregnant, she helped me physically to prevent issues during delivery, but she also lessened my anxiety about what giving birth would do to my vagina (spoiler alert: it’s not as bad as you think).
It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
They’re professionals and have seen it all, so there’s no need to be self-conscious. Plus, I think that a little embarrassment is worth having comfortable sex again or being able to hold your pee in.
You might wonder how you lived without it.
I’m so glad I found pelvic floor physical therapy. It totally changed my life for the better. I can have sex with no pain now, and it has made my life more normal. If you’re having any issues, trust me, it’s worth a try!
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