“Pelvic health therapy is another way to approach patient care with a focus on the pelvis and the roles it plays in our lives, including stability, mobility, continence and sexual functions.”
– Dr. Ellen Barlow, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health is Key for Core Health
Aspen Valley Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services department added pelvic floor therapy to its services in 2020 — and the growing uptake and positive results for patients, especially new mothers, is testament to the need it is fulfilling.
The pelvic floor at the base of the torso is an integral part of everyone’s core. It must accommodate all kinds of daily activities ranging from simply standing up to running ultra-marathons. For people with pelvic floor problems, there are a variety of symptoms that can be all consuming. They range from hip and back pain, pelvic pain, urinary and bowel dysfunction and pain with sexual intercourse.
“Pelvic problems can develop as a result of any variety of treatments or conditions both in the pelvic region and with other parts of the body. And they can occur at any age for both women and men, as well as children,” says Dr. Ellen Barlow, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Aspen Valley Hospital who specializes in pelvic floor therapy.
The Hospital’s pelvic floor therapy program came about because Dr. Barlow noticed over the years that some patients, including many new moms as well as others who went through different procedures, weren’t responding to treatment as well as she and other physical therapists hoped.
“I started asking myself, ‘Is there another way to access this region and assess an entire body area and system that we are not effectively treating?’” Dr. Barlow recalls.
The answer was pelvic floor therapy. At the time, she was working primarily with orthopedic patients, and she embarked on furthering her education to gain expertise in pelvic floor treatments with both orthopedic patients and new mothers in mind.
Leveling Up Women’s Pelvic Health
Many of the patients Dr. Barlow sees now are women during or after pregnancy who are experiencing symptoms that can be treated with pelvic floor therapy. According to the Mayo Clinic website, approximately 50 percent of pregnant women experience symptoms of pelvic floor disorders both before and after childbirth.
“There really wasn’t much attention to the physical therapy needs of women during and after pregnancy until we added pelvic floor therapy,” Dr. Barlow says. “By contrast, we work for months with other patients who undergo (major) orthopedic procedures, such as ACL surgery.”
Pregnant mothers go through 40 weeks of significant body changes during pregnancy, followed by childbirth — one of life’s most challenging endurance events. In the weeks following childbirth, new mothers are breast feeding and continuing to go through hormonal changes.
“That is a huge amount of impact on the mom and her body, and she needs to recover from that,” Dr. Barlow says.
The addition of pelvic floor therapy fits in perfectly with the Hospital’s whole-woman healthcare model: New moms can be seen by their primary care or OB/GYN team, and by a physical therapist who can help them recover more quickly, and their babies can be cared for by their pediatrician—all through the Aspen Valley Hospital network. Families can also tap into behavioral health support and nutritional counseling.
Symptoms and Treatment
Women and men experience pelvic floor disorders as a result of many contributing factors arising from inside and outside the pelvis. If you are coping with any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a medical professional as soon as possible and see if pelvic health therapy makes sense for you.
- Pregnancy or postpartum issues
- Urinary incontinence
- Bowel complaints (constipation)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Pelvic pain
- Hip and back pain
- Penile, scrotal or testicular pain
Dr. Barlow provides each patient an individualized examination and develops individualized treatments that include a variety of therapist skills such as:
- Manual therapy
- Targeted exercise
- Neuro-modulation and re-education
- Dry needling
Expanded Services for Women and Men
Demand for pelvic floor therapy has been growing since Dr. Barlow started offering it in 2020. The program has experienced significant growth since that time, serving an increased number of patients every year.
“Many of the symptoms people with pelvic health challenges experience are common, but not normal. Please ask your provider if you are experiencing any of them,” Dr. Barlow says. “And when you are talking to your friends and hear people commenting that they always pee when they run or laugh, let them know that is not normal and treatment is available.”
Rehabilitation Services at Aspen Valley Hospital provides treatment for patients of all ages, from pediatrics to geriatrics — and of course new moms. To set up an appointment, ask your doctor to send the referral or call AVH Rehabilitation Services at 970.544.1177.