Pelvic Floor Therapy for Endo: Can it Help me?
Pelvic floor therapy is a form of physical therapy that can help improve the strength and function of pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor therapy for endometriosis may help reduce your pain.
What are pelvic floor muscles?
Pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that support major organs in the pelvic cavity. These muscles include the larger levator ani (pubococcygeus, puborectalis, and iliococcygeus) and the smaller coccygeus. Pelvic floor muscles help in various vital functions. These include squeezing and relaxing to pass urine and stools, supporting vaginal delivery of the child, helping with blood flow during orgasm, and supporting the pelvic organs.
Where are they located?
Pelvic floor muscles attach to the pelvis and spine and provide stability to the body’s core. You can feel your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing the vaginal opening, urethra, and anus. Pelvic floor muscles can work automatically, but they are also under voluntary control.
What can happen with pelvic floor muscle disorders?
Pelvic floor muscle disorders can mean that the muscles are either too weak or too tight, as both of these can cause problems. Muscles that are weak can result in urinary and/or fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse after menopause, anal incontinence, and stress incontinence.
Muscles that become too tight can cause constipation, pelvic and back pain, painful intercourse, and difficulty in urinating or passing stools.
How are pelvic floor muscles involved in endometriosis?
Chronic pelvic pain is one of the cardinal symptoms of endometriosis. This pain can cause the pelvic floor to tighten leading to pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction can persist well after the originating pain has subsided. This can lead to pelvic floor spasms, painful intercourse, and painful peeing or passing of stools.
Researchers think that endometriosis may also remodel the way in which the brain perceives pain. In this case, continuous pain impulses due to endometriosis lesions cause increased muscle reflex in the pelvic area. This, in turn, results in muscle tightness and pelvic floor dysfunction.
Endometriosis is also characterized by adhesions (scar tissue) between adjacent endometriosis lesions and even those on other organs. This leads to inflammation and pain. In severe cases, adhesions can also result in a frozen pelvis. This is one of the most severe forms of the disease.
Does pelvic floor therapy help with endometriosis pain?
Pelvic floor therapy involves various strengthening exercises, stretching, and lifestyle changes to improve pelvic floor muscle function.
Women experiencing pelvic, abdominal, or back pain that interferes with their daily activities should consult a trained physical therapist to determine whether pelvic floor muscles play a role and take corrective measures.
Pelvic floor therapy can also help in reducing “referred pain” symptoms. Referred pain indicates pain felt in other parts of the body such as the back or abdomen while the root cause is in the pelvic floor muscles.
A study found that pelvic floor therapy has been helpful in improving pain symptoms after six sessions in 63% of patients with endometriosis.
What does a typical pelvic floor therapy session include?
A typical pelvic floor therapy session starts off with a candid conversation about your medical history and current symptoms and diagnosis. The therapist will also ask questions about your daily routine and personal and professional activities. They will then prescribe simple exercises for a first-time assessment.
Physical therapists can assess the pelvic floor muscles in various ways. This may include an external observation, movements, and an internal examination depending on your description of pain and comfort levels.
Subsequent sessions may include improving strength and mobility of the back, pelvis, abdomen, and posture. Pelvic floor therapy is much more than just kegel exercises. The therapist may focus on improving the mobility of your pelvic floor muscles rather than strengthening them. Other exercises include breathing techniques, stretching, and coordination. The therapist will also teach you basic exercises that you can do at home.
Is pelvic floor therapy a cure for endometriosis?
It is important to stress that pelvic floor therapy does not cure endometriosis. Laparoscopic deep excision surgery is the only gold standard treatment for the disease. However, pelvic floor therapy can help improve pain symptoms by improving muscle mobility and coordination.
Finding a qualified physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor therapy can be tough depending on where you live. However, it is essential to minimize accidents and ensure effective pain management.
Get a Second OpinionOur endometriosis specialists are dedicated to providing patients with expert care. Whether you have been diagnosed or are looking to find a doctor, they are ready to help.
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