Have you heard of Pelvic Floor Therapy? This form of physical therapy address pelvic floor disorders, including those that occur from pregnancy and child birth. Kidding Around’s Kristina went to pelvic floor therapy at Zoan Physical Therapy and learned all about how this kind of therapy is helping women. Read on to find out what to expect at a pelvic floor therapy session.
Thank you to Zoan Physical Therapy for sponsoring Kidding Around Greenville!
There are a lot of books and websites out there about what to expect during pregnancy and birth. Like a lot. Google “pregnancy symptoms” and you’ll get 396 million hits, “giving birth” yields 825 million results, “breastfeeding help” gets 186 million hits. But Google “why do I pee when I sneeze” and you’re left with a paltry 726,000 (“why do I pee when I jump” gets 31 million if you’re wondering about that also).
For the love, no one told me that part of motherhood would be unexpectedly feeling a trickle of something that should not be there when I jumped on a trampoline. I was at a birthday party at a trampoline park with my then 18-month old and needless to say, I had to sit out the rest of the party after jumping for five seconds.
And the thing is, I never even looked it up online why this happened. I was busy taking care of my child, working full-time, and generally concerned about other things happening than the state of my lack of bladder control.
Sneezing was the same thing. A close friend, then a new mom herself, sneezed and had to change her underwear (she deserves kudos though because she kept an extra pair with her). Hmm, so maybe I wasn’t alone in this journey to keep dry underwear at all times and failing miserably.
Pelvic Floor Disorder
There’s a word for this messy part of motherhood and it’s called pelvic floor disorder.
“This is not talked about and women need to know that they aren’t alone and that they don’t need to live like this,” said Lori Barrios, PT, DPT, a mother herself who specializes in pelvic floor therapy at Zoan Physical Therapy in Greenville, right near Lake Conestee Nature Park.
Ah, pelvic floor therapy. That sounds like a J-Lo song that didn’t quite make the album.
Ladies, you don’t have to suffer through being afraid of sneezing or coughing and suddenly remembering you have no clean underwear in your bag and you’re wearing your favorite cotton candy colored jeans.
According to UCLA Health, one in three women will experience some kind of pelvic floor disorder during her lifetime. You know what doubles those chances? Vaginal births.
Paying attention yet? The pelvic floor is basically the muscles that support the organs in the pelvis like the bladder, uterus, and bowel. In women (men have a pelvic floor as well), some of the muscles wrap around the vagina and rectum and when those pelvic floor muscles are weakened or we lose control of them, you can say goodbye to jumping rope.
“Seeing a pelvic floor therapist should be a part of every healthcare plan for women after they have a baby, even better if they learn ways to strengthen their pelvic floor during pregnancy,” Lori said.
Local OBs, this would be a great option to offer women!
Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
There are lots of ways to gain control of those pelvic floor muscles and one of the biggest is through pelvic floor therapy. This involves a series of concentrated exercises that target the pelvic floor muscles in conjunction with breathing. Think of it as a holistic yoga class but specifically focused on your bikini bottom region.
Therapy goals are to both help relax the pelvic floor muscles and strengthen them. Everything in your body is connected in some way and the pelvic floor is no different. Therapy isn’t just about learning how to control the pelvic floor but also how to contract and release it based upon breathing. Range of motion and posture also play a huge role in this kind of therapy as well since breathing correctly relies on good posture. It’s actually quite fascinating.
I Went to a Pelvic Floor Therapy Session: Here’s What to Expect
Not many doctors offer this kind of specialized therapy in the Upstate. Lori at Zoan PT does and she’s darn passionate about it, too.
“I basically want to help women stop suffering,” Lori said. “And this kind of therapy fits nicely into a holistic view of medicine as we are here helping women just by using their own bodies without medications.”
When I met Lori, she made me instantly at ease, especially understanding her own background as a mom and her extensive experience as a physical therapist and graduate at Duke in North Carolina. I went to her to see just how a pelvic floor therapy would go if I were to take a hot minute and start addressing the pee/sneeze/jump problem.
She started by asking me about my birth experiences and what recovery was like. I cannot even remember being asked that question by a medical professional.
After that she had me do a series of easy movements like raising my arms and legs and twisting my hips to gauge my range of motion. She had me do several breathing exercises to figure how my body was used to doing those basic motions. Then we got down to business.
I learned how the pelvic floor and muscles surrounding it were intricately connected to my diaphragm, which contracted and relaxed when I was breathing normally. It’s those inner abdominal muscles that are really important when it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor (and not peeing when jumping or sneezing).
Lori guided my legs and lower body into positions where I was instructed to raise my hips and breathe into a balloon to blow it up, then hold for a couple seconds and breathe in while keeping the balloon inflated. At the same time, I was supposed to focus on figuring out what my pelvic floor was doing.
Muscles in my lower body were doing things but I wasn’t sure I was catching on to this whole concept. I’m kind of terrible at breathing and contracting muscles. It took a few tries to get it right.
After that, we did a couple more exercises with a cute little ball I was supposed to keep between my knees (I nailed that one!). And then Lori tested my range of motion again in my lower body and just like that, I was able to move a little bit further than I did previously, like 20 minutes prior. I was sure I accomplished something and silently applauded my stronger pelvic floor.
So What’s Next? After Pelvic Floor Therapy
I was sent home with several exercises to keep doing if I wanted to learn to control my pelvic floor instead of it controlling my life on a trampoline. I do try to do them once a day but it’s definitely hard to fit in and remember.
I asked Lori when her clients start seeing results from pelvic floor therapy and as you can imagine, it ranges wildly. Some women start seeing results pretty soon while others take longer. I can understand why making those set appointments with Lori would truly help a mom to make time for this important therapy rather than trying to do it at home by yourself.
I also had to ask an important question – do kegels work?
“Not really,” Lori said. “You can have those muscles be toned but if you don’t know how to get them to relax, it’s not going to work.”
Well, now I can stop doing those.
All the pelvic floor therapy Lori did with me was external, however, there are internal pelvic floor therapy options available, which Lori will be offering soon. That kind of therapy involves trigger points that control the bladder and other organs in the pelvic floor region. As that wasn’t something we did, I can’t give a review about it (I’m sure Google can help you if you’re interested in that).
Us moms have so much going on with our families, work, and other obligations that often we shove aside our own needs. And really, we don’t need to live with fear of doing normal things with our kids because of what our bodies went through during childbirth or other occasions that affected our pelvic floor. I really liked how Lori listened to me and answered my questions and provided a personalized therapy plan for my needs.
Don’t be afraid to seek help for this because we all deserve to be able to sneeze without fear of embarrassment, right?
Zoan Physical Therapy
1007 Mauldin Road, Greenville