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Beyond the Kegel: How Specialized Physical Therapy Can Prevent ‘Leaking’ During Menopause

If you’re struggling with incontinence and pelvic pain during menopause, you’re not alone. Many women grapple with these issues as they age. But if it’s happening to you, don’t think that you have to suffer in silence. If you’ve already tried doing kegels to prevent leaking and they’re not helping, you may simply need a more customized treatment: Try pelvic floor physical therapy.

What is pelvic floor physical therapy?

Pelvic floor physical therapy involves a series of pelvic floor exercises to encourage relaxation and strengthening of the muscles in the lower pelvis, according to The North American Menopause Society. Pelvic floor exercises typically include contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles in relation to other muscles. You may also be taught breathing and timing techniques to make such exercises more effective. The whole point of this is to stretch tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, and improve your overall flexibility “down there,” according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine.

While this may sound an awful lot like kegel exercises, it’s worth keeping in mind that you typically need a trained female practitioner to undertake pelvic floor physical therapy, according to Dr. Hye-Chun Hur, MD, associate faculty editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. That’s because the physical therapist puts biofeedback sensors on the vaginal wall to measure muscle tone and muscle contractions. Then, those measurements are printed out on a machine for you to see. In some cases, a therapist might use a massage-like technique to help stretch and release any tissue causing you trouble in your pelvic area.

“Although pelvic physical therapy may not work for everyone, it can be quite effective for certain individuals,” Dr. Hur said in an article for Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

Pelvic floor physical therapy might be part of a larger treatment plan including primary care physicians, mental health professionals, and sex therapists. After all, the pelvic floor muscles support all the pelvic organs while assisting in bladder and bowel control, so it makes sense that treatment would need to be customized to fit your specific needs.

“Stretching in general helps muscles relax and prevents excessive cramping and tightening,” Hur added.

After you go in for your appointment, you can practice these exercises at home. Hopefully, you’ll see improvements in your muscles by your next visit. The ultimate goal of pelvic floor physical therapy is to help improve incontinence and chronic pelvic and vaginal pain. But if a woman is also experiencing any sex-related issues because of these problems, the hope is that the therapy will eventually lead to improvement with those as well.

So, if you’re having problems with pelvic pain and incontinence, remember that you don’t need to keep it to yourself. Talk to your doctor to see if pelvic floor physical therapy might be the right option for you. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides directories of certified providers on its website for anyone interested in learning more.

After all, you deserve to feel happy and healthy everywhere on your body!

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