Physical therapists are well known for working with muscles - things like the hamstrings, biceps, or muscles of the back. Most people are surprised to learn that PTs also work on muscles inside the pelvis. These are muscles most people don't think of, or even know about, but they can still cause problems - typically incontinence, or pain.
Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. It's probably more common than you think.More than 13 million people in the United States have this issue.
Pelvic pain is any pain that occurs either internally or externally in the pelvic or genital area. Both men and women can be affected, but it's more common in women.
Most incontinence is caused by issues with the pelvic muscles - either the muscles are too weak, or they're too tight. Other contributing factors may be spasms that cause bladder contractions, or conditions like anxiety that also increase the urge to empty the bladder.
Pelvic pain is also usually attributed to either tightness or weakness of the muscles of the pelvic floor. The pelvis is made up of three bones, forming three joints where they meet. These joints need force from the pelvic muscles to stabilize them. If the muscles are too tight, the joints will have an excessive amount of compression on them. Too loose, and the joints of the pelvis can experience shear forces. Both conditions result in pelvic pain.
By now, it should be becoming obvious how PT can help people with these issues. Because incontinence and pelvic pain are usually musculoskeletal conditions, physical therapy can offer a lot of effective treatments. PTs might use exercise to strengthen or stretch the pelvic muscles to help correct imbalances, improve pelvic stability and reduce pain.
There are other interesting treatments physical therapists can use to treat the pelvic muscles as well. Biofeedback uses sensors placed on the body while doing exercise to help the patient identify which muscle groups are working and bring awareness to areas of tightness or weakness. Education can help people learn to self-manage their symptoms and hands on techniques like joint mobilizations, trigger point release, soft tissue massage, or myofascial release can help improve mobility of the pelvic joints, decrease tone in spastic muscles, and reduce pain.
So when you think of a PT working to help correct problems in muscles or tendons, remember that they can treat every muscle in the body, not just the obvious ones.