Did you know that a physical therapist can help some women improve or even eliminate LBL? I first heard about this from my girlfriend Nancy (she’s so smart!) Nancy went to a PT (physical therapist) to learn how to do pelvic floor exercises properly. Without realizing it, many women do them incorrectly and miss out on the benefits.
I get lots of questions each week from women who want alternatives to implants, pills, diet restrictions, and surgeries, so I contacted Kristen Maike Miles, a PT (Physical Therapist) at the Beaumont Women’s Urology Center in Royal Oak, Michigan to get some advice. I asked Kristen, “Why would a woman come to see a physical therapist for LBL?” She gave three compelling reasons:
• It helps - Women don’t always know they have muscles down there and they don’t know how to contract them.
• It’s less expensive than some of the other treatments, and
• There are no harmful side effects
“When a woman comes to see a physical therapist,” Kristen said, “she is seen as a whole person, not just a pelvic floor. PT’s are supportive, and understanding.” Kristen spends about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get a woman’s history. PT’s ask questions about pain, lifestyle, sexual activity, birth, and other things to put together a good picture of the woman’s situation. By the time a woman comes to see a PT, they have developed coping strategies, to sidestep embarrassment, like not wearing certain colors or not going certain places. “This is limiting,” Kristen said, “Women want to put a stop to the embarrassment. They want their confidence back.”
More than ever, women are taking control of their health and the quality of their lives. Since the new urology center opened earlier this year, they have been packed full of women, with more women waiting to be seen. What kind of improvements might you get from seeing a PT? One lady who came to Kristen, only saw her once. She had a weak pelvic floor. After three weeks of doing Kegel exercises correctly, she called to say, “I don’t leak anymore!” “Physical therapy is not a cure all for everything,” Kristen said, “When there are neurological problems, extreme muscle stretching, or bladder prolapse, sometimes surgery is necessary. PT is something to try before surgery because almost all the women I work with experience improvement.” She reminded me to think of the pelvic floor muscles as just that - a muscle. It can take time to build that muscle. For women who have experienced LBL for a long time (years and years) it may take a little longer to work out and strengthen that muscle.
What are the next steps you can take? Here’s the advice Kristen had to share:
• Speak to a physician, a gynecologist, or urologist. Sometimes doctors dismiss LBL, but more often now, women are letting their voices be heard, and it’s making a difference.
• Be in charge of your treatment. To see a physical therapist, a doctor has to refer you. If the doctor doesn’t mention PT and goes directly to pills, or surgery, be sure to ASK. It’s alright for women to take care of their bodies.
• Call a hospital to help locate a PT who specializes in Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in your area.
• Notice what food and drink triggers LBL.
• Observe your behavioral patterns.
The bladder is a muscle. It reacts to stretch. Drink a little water and you’ll feel a little stretch. PT’s help to train your bladder. “Bladder leakage is not uncommon,” Kristen added, “and there are things that can be done to change the situation.”
We welcome your thoughts. What have you or one of your girlfriends done to overcome embarrassment and seek help to improve LBL?