| Lauren Peterson

What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy? by Dr. Peterson

I am Dr. Lauren Peterson, and I am a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist in Oklahoma City. Many pelvic floor
physical therapists think of themselves as “Women’s Health Physical Therapist” and while I treat mostly
women, I have plenty of men who come to me for pelvic floor dysfunction. I realize that while I want to
stand on the top of mountains and scream about the importance of pelvic floor physical therapy, it
might fall on some deaf ears. In fact, I often have to explain what I do to my close family and friends. So,
I wanted to share what pelvic floor physical therapy is and how it could help you.


Before I get into “What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?” Let me introduce myself. I have been using
women’s health physical therapy to treat a variety of pelvic health conditions over the last 4 years. It all
started because I was having issues with stress incontinence (more on SI later), and I wanted a cure. I
didn’t want to take medication, and wearing a pad for the next 60 years didn’t seem like a reasonable
solution. I was living in rural NW Iowa at the time and with no other pelvic floor physical therapists
around, I ended up being my own first patient. Since that time I have successfully treated hundreds of
women, and men, for their pelvic dysfunction and helped restore their quality of life.

To understand pelvic floor physical therapy, I want to highlight physical therapy generally. PTs consider
themselves the musculoskeletal experts. We are experts in optimizing movement and anatomical
functioning, which means that when you have an ache or pain, or when you are not moving at your best
a physical therapist is the first person you should be talking to. Pelvic floor physical therapy in this
regard is no different than traditional orthopedic physical therapy, we treat musculoskeletal
dysfunction. Just like an orthopedic physical therapist might specialize in working with injuries of the leg,
spine, or arm, a pelvic floor physical therapist specializes in keeping your pelvic floor healthy.


Your pelvic floor muscles are those at the base of your core. For a woman, they include the muscles that
stretch from the front (pubic bone) to the back (tail bone) of your pelvis, including the muscles
surrounding the urethra, vagina, and anus. While you may not have given a lot of thought to these
muscles, they are extremely important in several daily bodily functions including: keeping your
abdominal organs inside your body, bowel and bladder control, and sexual functioning. If your pelvic
floor is healthy, you should have no issues with any of these, but if your pelvic floor isn’t as healthy as it
should be, a variety of problems arise. These problems are the ones that as a pelvic floor physical
therapist, I treat in Oklahoma City.


The problems fall generally into three categories: incontinence, prolapse, and sexual dysfunction. When
is comes to pelvic floor physical therapy, the most common problem is with incontinence. With
approximately 1 in 3 women suffering from incontinence that is no surprise, but there are different
types of incontinence. The most common I see is stress incontinence, which is what got me into pelvic
floor physical therapy in the first place. Stress incontinence is sometimes called “exercise induced
incontinence” because it commonly occurs when the woman is active (such as during running, jumping,
or dancing), but it also commonly occurs when you sneeze, cough and laugh. Other types of
incontinence include urge incontinence (or “overactive bladder”) and bowel incontinence.


Prolapse occurs when the internal organs begin to leave the abdominal cavity through the vagina or
rectum. Prolapse can be a painful condition for some women, but it is an uncomfortable condition for all
women. A strong, healthy pelvic floor can prevent your internal organs from dropping out of your
vagina.

The most common sexual dysfunction I see is pelvic pain. More often than not this pelvic pain occurs
during intercourse in a condition called “dyspareunia,” which is pain with insertion into the vagina. Most
women think they are the only ones going through this; however, it affects more women than you think,
women are just afraid to talk about it. Pelvic pain can be isolating and a strain on your romantic
relationships, but treatment options exist. If your provider is unsure, seek a second opinion, don’t live in
pain.


The thing about pelvic floor dysfunction that many people get wrong, including some Ob/GYNs, is
believing that the pelvic floor is always unhealthy because it is too lax, or the muscles are not strong
enough. While that is true for some patients, for many others the pelvic floor is actually too tight, which
can present very similarly. In the case of pelvic floor tightness, you have to learn to relax first before any
strengthening can happen. If you balled your fist, you couldn’t tighten it any further. If your pelvic floor
is already tightened, trying to contract further will not be helpful.
Your pelvic floor physical therapist wants you to perform at your optimum. We want to know what you
are missing out on. Are you missing family time because you have to find a bathroom all the time? What
is your dysfunction preventing you from doing? Maybe you can’t take your favorite dance or aerobics
class, maybe when you bend over to pick up your little once you leak. Or maybe for you optimal
functioning of your pelvic floor means the ability to be intimate with your partner.

What is optimal functioning for you?
Pelvic floor physical therapy will teach you to properly coordinate your breathing and pelvic floor muscle
contractions, which will allow you to properly release tension in your pelvic floor while also allowing you
to get the most from a pelvic floor muscle contraction when the time comes. Your pelvic floor physical
therapist wants to make sure you can perform at your best, and for her that starts at your foundation.

If you are in the OKC area and would like a pelvic floor physical therapy evaluation appt with Lauren, visit her website here: https://www.fyzical.com/oklahoma-city