Submitted by Dele Ogunleye, MD
Pelvic floor disorders (PFD) are a common problem for many women. Typical complaints and issues caused by pelvic floor disorders include incontinence, pelvic pain, and vaginal fullness or bulging, all of which are often blamed on age. While many women just “learn to live with it,” perhaps because they are too embarrassed to talk to their health care provider, there are many treatment options available that can help eliminate or reduce bothersome symptoms that restrict a woman’s activities.
Nonsurgical treatments commonly used for PFDs include:
- Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT): Also called Kegel exercises, this involves squeezing and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. If performed correctly and routinely, PFMT may improve the symptoms of prolapse. However, PFMT cannot correct prolapse. Biofeedback is sometimes used to help teach women which muscle group to squeeze.
- Injections for problems with bladder control: “Bulking agents” can be injected near the bladder neck and urethra to make the tissues thicker and close the bladder opening. Repeat injections may be needed over time.
- Medicine: Medicine is sometimes prescribed to treat certain bladder control problems or to prevent loose stools or frequent bowel movements.
- Vaginal pessary: This plastic device is used to treat some types of prolapse and improve bladder control. A woman inserts the pessary into the vagina to help support the pelvic organs. A woman’s doctor will fit her for a pessary that is a comfortable shape and size and instruct her on how to use and care for it.
Physical Therapy for PFD
Physical therapy can be a very effective treatment option for PFD that many women are not aware of. This is a very specialized type of physical therapy that requires extra training in the proper techniques. The physical therapist manually manipulates the muscles and soft tissue, which can often reduce pain and alleviate other symptoms of pelvic problems. Utilizing physical therapy in combination with other non-surgical strategies has proven to be very beneficial, even for women who have suffered for a long time.
When non-surgical treatments are not helpful, then surgery may be the best treatment option. There are many different types of surgical options, most of which are performed on an outpatient basis. It’s important that women understand the different procedures and, together with their physician, determine which one is best for their situation.
It may not be possible to prevent pelvic floor disorders, but there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk and ease symptoms. These include maintaining a healthy weight, eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of fluids, not smoking, and avoiding certain foods that may stimulate the bladder or bowel such as caffeine, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, and alcoholic beverages.
Do not wait until symptoms are “really bad” to get help. Without treatment, symptoms will likely worsen and may affect your self-esteem, your ability to do your job, your relationships, and many other aspects of daily living. When women are educated about the nature of changes in the pelvic floor, this helps them understand what is happening in their body. Conservative treatments that include lifestyle changes, specific exercises, and physical therapy can reverse the trend and make things better. You don’t have to live with pelvic floor disorders — they can be fixed.
If you missed last month’s article on Pelvic Floor Disorders, you may read it online at HealthyCellsBN.com.
Dele Ogunleye, MD, provides a full range of obstetric and gynecologic services. He is subspecialized in urogynecology so he has particular expertise in treating pelvic floor disorders. In addition, his office includes the services of Gretchen Dean, a physical therapist specially trained to treat women who suffer from PFD. You may contact Advanced Women’s Healthcare at 309-808-3068 or www.awhcare.com. Their office is located at 2111 East Oakland Avenue (Next to the Jewel-Osco Plaza).