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Department of Urology

FAQ for Pelvic Health PT

Your medical provider may feel that a physical therapist would be a valuable part of your care team.

At the UW Medicine Pelvic Health Center, our physical therapists are specialized in the anatomy and physiology of the pelvis and are particularly educated in the complex way that these structures contribute to urinary, bowel, and sexual function. Your physical therapist will observe how you move, examine your hips, pelvis, abdomen, spine and muscles impacting your pelvic girdle and will use a combination of various treatments such as manual techniques (including soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization), therapeutic exercise, education on modifying behaviors, and/or biofeedback to address your limits and work towards your goals of improved function and return to activity. Our physical therapists treat people of all genders and of all ages.

Common diagnoses seen by our team include:
• Pelvic floor dysfunction
• Urinary frequency and urgency
• Incontinence
• Pelvic pain
• Pudendal neuralgia
• Sexual pain
• Colorectal dysfunction
• General joint and muscle pain
• Hip pain
• Back pain
• SIJ pain and dysfunction
• Prenatal and postpartum conditions

Post-surgical conditions:
• Orthopedic
• Abdominal
• Gynecological
• Prostate
• Colorectal
• Oncology

FAQs

How long will my appointment be?
Each appointment is scheduled for 45 minutes.

What can I expect at my first appointment?
At your initial appointment, your physical therapist will take time to ask you questions about the specific concerns bringing you to physical therapy and discuss your goals for treatment. Your physical therapist will then observe how you move and examine your hips, pelvis, abdomen, spine and muscles impacting your pelvic girdle. Depending on the particular condition, an internal assessment of the pelvic floor musculature (usually vaginal for people with female anatomy and rectal for people with male anatomy or colorectal dysfunction) may be an important part of this first visit. While this assessment may give the therapist the most information about your pelvic floor and pelvic wall, it is never a requirement for therapy and can also be performed at later appointments. Please feel free to communicate any concerns or preferences with your therapist.

Can I come to pelvic physical therapy if I am on my period?
Yes, menstruation does not get in the way of physical therapy initial visits or follow-ups. Sometimes seeing what your muscles are doing during your period can be helpful, and you always have the right to defer any treatments you don’t feel comfortable with while you are menstruating.

I am pregnant; how will this affect my pelvic health physical therapy?
We see many people who are pregnant for therapy for a variety of reasons related to the pelvis; however, we will usually not perform internal assessments or treatments of the pelvic floor musculature for people who are pregnant without special permission from your ob/gyn or midwife. Please let us know if you think you might be pregnant.

I have had medical, sexual, or physical trauma that I am concerned will affect my physical therapy treatment and ability to tolerate therapy; what should I do?
Our therapists regularly work with people who have experienced a wide variety of trauma. Our primary goal is always to help you feel comfortable and safe. It is also common for people to be working concurrently with therapy mental health therapists while in pelvic health physical therapy. If there is something in particular you know that will help you to feel more comfortable during your therapy sessions, it is ok and encouraged to communicate this with your provider.

I have other conditions I think are causing my pelvic pain (interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, IBS); what will therapy do for me?
Often there are associated musculoskeletal findings (overactive or short muscles, poor posture, and/or trigger points) in the abdomen or pelvic girdle associated with these conditions. It can be very helpful to learn to manage the musculoskeletal findings often associated with these conditions to help you learn to live more comfortably in your body.

I have been scheduled both with a physical therapist but also a physical therapist assistant for some of my appointments for pelvic physical therapy. How will this work?
We are lucky to have a skilled and compassionate physical therapy assistant who has special training in both pelvic floor and pregnancy conditions. If you are scheduled with both a physical therapist and physical therapist assistant, they will work as a team to ensure you get the best and most specialized care for your particular condition. All visits will be one-on-one, and the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant stay in close communication to discuss your care in progress.

How long will it take to get better?
We see most of our patients for an average of 6-12 visits. Some people require less and others more. We always want to see you enough that you are making appropriate progress but with the ultimate goal that you are becoming independent with management of your condition! We don’t want you to need us forever! When you call to make an appointment at UW for pelvic health physical therapy, the front desk schedulers will set you up to start you with 4 consecutive, weekly appointments. If you and your therapist decide you need more or less after your first appointment you can adjust the appointments as needed and as schedules allow. We have found that getting the first 4 visits scheduled provides a great opportunity to make sure your therapist can help you to get started on a solid program and really understanding your condition and how therapy can help you. Often, after these initial visits, we will decrease frequency depending on your condition and work on helping you to get more independent with your home program to manage your condition.