In physical therapy, women’s health is a very new specialty. It addresses issues that are more common to women. This list is not inclusive, but describes some of the most common diagnoses.
A diagnosis more common to women. It includes a variety of symptoms such as transient muscle pain throughout the body, sleep disorders, digestive problems, and fatigue. Physical Therapy is beneficial in helping these patients learn lifestyle changes, exercise programs, relaxation and stress management techniques.
Pelvic floor dysfunction
This includes many diagnoses such as pain with urination, pain with intercourse, and painful bladder syndrome. It can be associated with injury or scar tissue to the muscles of the pelvic floor from child birth, abuse, or surgery. Physical Therapy can assess the integrity of those muscles and determine if it is caused by weakness or tension. Exercises for strengthening, relaxation and postural correction can bring relief.
These diagnoses have a major effect on quality of life. Urine leakage can be classified as Stress Incontinence most commonly happens with sneezing, coughing and laughing or Urge incontinence which is a strong and immediate need to urinate. Patients benefit from using a urinary diary, bladder re-training schedule, dietary changes and pelvic floor exercises. The use of biofeedback or electric muscle stimulation can also be used. Fecal Incontinence is more often associated with surgery and radiation damage from cancer but can improve with the same interventions listed above.
Breast Cancer Rehabilitation
Includes post-mastectomy with or without breast reconstruction as well as lymphedema. Physical Therapy can assess loss of range of motion, decreased muscle strength, and swelling. Utilizing exercise, scar management, lymphatic drainage and the use of pressure garments, patients can regain normal function.
Women with osteoporosis are often not seen in physical therapy till they fall and break a bone. But early intervention in PT can delay and prevent osteoporosis. Education in risk factors, postural abnormalities, dietary changes, proper vitamin and mineral supplements, and the role of hormones can help women manage their bone loss. A customized exercise program of weight bearing and resistive exercises can also be very beneficial.
Pregnant patients have a variety of musculo-skeletal pain due to changes in posture, body weight, and a change in the center of gravity. Hormonal changes in pregnancy also cause ligaments to soften, leading to instability especially in the pelvic girdle. Heat or cold with manual therapy and joint mobilization bring most patients good relief. New mothers can also be educated in proper body positions when nursing and carrying their baby Carpal tunnel syndrome is also common in pregnancy due to the increase fluid volume. Manual therapy, cold packs and exercise along with education in proper resting position of the neck, arms, and hands bring these patients relief.