Women’s issues are a complex, wide-ranging specialization in physical therapy. For example, the pain and pelvic dysfunction that stems from back pain and an ever-growing baby bump can lead to back problems that outlive pregnancy. Fortunately, with a proactive approach to care, pregnancy and other women’s issues don’t have to lead to chronic pain or dysfunction.
Pregnancy is just one aspect of the wide variety of women’s issues that creates a lot of body discomfort. The benefits for women who choose to work with a physical therapist to address these issues is there is a lot that can be done to not only reduce their body discomfort, but in most cases, eradicate it altogether.
Keeping with our pregnancy example, it is estimated that virtually all women experience some degree of musculoskeletal discomfort during pregnancy, and 25% have at least temporarily disabling symptoms. Add to that, more than 50% of mothers will return to work before the four-month mark, leaving many women who are experiencing pain or issues and are just working through it. Patient education is key in informing women of the complicating issues that may arise after their baby is born and most importantly, what can be done about it with the help of a physical therapist.
Common Postpartum Issues & Physical Therapy Treatments
Carpal Tunnel: What’s insidious about Carpal Tunnel, is it can show up to 3 years post-partum, making this a potentially debilitating problem for the 26% that work in an office setting. Not only that, but the pain associated with carpal tunnel can leave some women believing that surgical intervention is their best and only option. However, physical therapy can help with carpal tunnel symptoms by using a combination of Splints, Cold-compression therapy, Low-level laser therapy and Therapeutic Ultrasound. This combination will not only alleviate the pain, reduce pressure on the wrist, but also decrease the need for surgical intervention in most cases.
Low Back Pain: Low back pain is the most common complaint in post-partum women. Keeping in mind, the high percentage of the female workforce working in professions that keep them on their feet, this can be a disabling issue. Physical therapy can help low back pain with a regimen of soft tissue manipulation, Ultrasound therapy, TENS units for electrotherapy and Iontophoresis. This regimen helps to reduce pain and inflammation associated with low back pain while reducing the need for oral medication or injections.
Incontinence: Up to 38% of post-partum women report problems with continence. Further complicating this issue is many women are uninformed that there is help available to alleviate this problem, not merely mask it. Physical therapy can help women suffering from incontinence with a specific regimen.
Physical Therapy for Urinary Incontinence
1. Patient Education: Patient education is an invaluable part of prevention and will play a key element in physical therapy for UI. Lifestyle choices such as physical activity, diet, medications can impact the pelvic floor and by extension UI and must be included as part of successful treatment.
2. Biofeedback: A study published in the Journal of Cancer Education found that biofeedback can help reduce the frequency and urgency sensations associated with UI. Biofeedback combined with pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen the stability of the pelvic floor.
3. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Motor control exercises along with functional pelvic floor exercises are beneficial in strengthening and increasing correct control over the pelvic floor. These exercises are great to use in conjunction with biofeedback.
4. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): A TENS unit reduces pain associated with pelvic dysfunction by stimulating the body’s release of its own opiod (endorphin) pain-relieving chemicals. In addition to reducing pain, TENS can help UI patients because it can create muscle stimulation for fatigue and tonus reduction which are common in these patients.
This treatment plan helps alleviate issues with incontinence in a non-invasive way reducing the need for a potential surgery and further recovery period. Research has shown that physical therapy helps reduce UI symptoms. A study from the British Columbia Women's Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver, Canada found that women treated with physical therapy reported 75% reduction in urinary incontinence (UI).
While it’s important to pay attention to women’s health while there pregnant, special attention must be applied beyond the standard 8-12 week window. Unfortunately, for most women, symptoms may not occur until several months after giving birth and they are at a loss as to what to do or may not even connect it to their post-partum condition.
However, physical therapy can successfully address almost all post-partum issues. And more importantly, in cases of carpal tunnel and incontinence, physical therapy can help these patients avoid the potential need for surgery and the ensuing recovery.
Obviously, pregnant and post-partum women are just a small snapshot of the problems that effect women. For example, osteoarthritis amongst older women also remains a significant issue seen and treated in physical therapy. Osteoarthritis can lead to a whole host of issues and symptoms including:
- Chronic Pain (at rest or during movement)
- Tenderness at the joint, particularly with palpation
- Decreased flexibility and range of motion
- Grating sensation in the limbs and around joints
- Bone spurs
- Decreased ability to perform daily tasks (for example: opening jars)
Physical therapy is a viable option for this issue as well. In addition to pain relieving modalities like ultrasoundtherapy and cold compression therapy, physical therapy can help decrease muscle weakness as well as modify daily activities as needed to support osteoarthritis patient’s independence.
These are just two examples of women’s issues that can be positively treated with physical therapy. With the right modality and combination of techniques, most women’s issues can be positively treated with physical therapy.
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We can help your practice find the perfect rehabilitation devices and equipment to work with your female patient populations. Contact us today and we’ll answer any questions you may have about the therapeutic benefits of each modality we offer! Call us today at 1-801-770-3328 for more information.