When exploring options for healing pelvic pain or other pelvic health condition, many patients find their pathway after many medical visits, sometimes surgeries and medicine, and often after doing much of their own research. Creating your pathway in healing pelvic dysfunction is a job that takes a team of providers, and definitely requires motivation and a fair bit of effort. There are important steps to consider as you embark on your pelvic health journey, be sure that you have the tools that you need. Below are some basic guidelines for co-creating your pelvic health.
Don’t Wait to See a Medical Provider
If you have experienced new issues such as abdominal or pelvic pain, bleeding, loss of urine or feces, you must visit a medical provider. There are so many potential causes of pelvic pain including an infection or other condition that may require intervention, that it's best to contact your care provider's office. (If you can’t get in to your primary care provider, a walk-in clinic may be the best option.) Certain conditions such as bleeding during pregnancy or sudden onset testiclular pain need immediate examination before heading to pelvic rehabilitation.
Don’t Take “Normal” for an Answer
Just because it seems that many of your friends have urinary leakage or urinary hesitancy (difficulty starting the flow of urine), this does not make the problem “normal.” Pelvic health clinicians help patients every day recover from conditions that someone was told were due to aging or to childbirth, or that there was no help available beyond medications or surgery. Unfortunately, patients still express that “I wish I knew about this option sooner!” Even if you have already had pelvic surgeries, a therapist can help with a wide variety of concerns. If you are unsure, you can always contact the clinic and ask if pelvic rehabilitation is for you.
Be Informed About Options
Many people combine several approaches with rehabilitation. These might include medications, acupuncture, chiropractic, or injections. Your providers should have the capacity to work together towards the achievement of your goals. While some clinicians have excellent skills for working near the pelvis, you should choose a provider who has specific training in pelvic dysfunction. If your referring provider does not know a pelvic health clinician, make a few phone calls and ask for recommendations.
Choose the Right Provider
Although it may be difficult in some regions to find multiple options for pelvic rehabilitation, the number of therapists in the world of pelvic health is growing as more people are trained. When choosing a provider, you will take into account cost and location, but also quality of the services and the plan of care. You might find a therapist nearby who takes your insurance, but doesn’t have a lot of experience with your condition. You may have more efficient care by completing a few visits with a more experienced provider, and coordinate care between the two clinics. Find out if your therapist is willing to chat about your findings with a nearby clinician, and remember that your records can travel with you for continuity of care.
Be Realistic About Expectations
Some patients resolve their symptoms and return to 100% function within a few visits over several weeks. On the other end of the spectrum are patients who attend rehabilitation for a year or more. As long as you feel that there is a meaningful plan for your care, and you are able to gradually improve, allowing time for your body to heal may be just the path you need. (At the same time, if you are not noticing any positive changes from care, discuss this with your therapist as your plan may need to be adjusted.)
Set Yourself Up for Success
If you know that your body's healing is limited by other lifestyle choices such as eating or drinking a lot of things that irritate your symptoms, aim to tackle more healthy choices at the same time as you participate in pelvic rehab. Find ways to make time for your “homework” even if this means taking a walk or stretching on your lunch hour, or doing home exercises with your family (kids and pets can make getting on the floor to stretch a lot more fun!) Be sure to keep up with your self-care so that your plan can be progressed at the clinic, and if you are having difficulty, share your struggles with your therapist so you can discuss strategies to succeed.
Share Your Success with Others
So many patients are surprised to learn about all the ways that pelvic health can be optimized by a pelvic rehabilitation provider. You will know family, friends, and other health care providers who may benefit from knowing about all the ways that pelvic health can improve quality of life across ages and genders. Bowel, bladder, sexual health and any type of pelvic pain may be addressed in pelvic rehabilitation in coordination with your primary and specialist medical care. Navigating your pathway of healing can be eased when you are joined by a trusted pelvic health clinician.