When patients first present with discomfort due to ‘women’s problems’, a physiotherapy referral is often not the first line of treatment.
This is unfortunate, because this specialised branch of physiotherapy can bring relief from many painful, uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing conditions that afflict hundreds of women across the UK – and evidence shows it can often be more effective than drugs.
‘Women’s problems’ are very real and a source of misery for many. Women’s physiotherapist, Kirsten Barratt, who is based at Neuro Physio Wales says she is often seen in clinic as a last resort by women who have struggled with pain and embarrassment for many years. Kirsten says:
“Women’s problems” can be soul destroying, yet society expects women to ‘just get on with it’. That message means ignore your pain, suffer lack of sleep, struggle through your job – if you are able to work, that is. Wear a pad and hope it doesn’t leak – and the embarrassment if it fails, this all has a huge impact on a woman’s confidence and can all relate to a painful delivery years earlier – yet these issues are often highly treatable.”
Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy is a specialist branch of physiotherapy and physios like Kirsten have undertaken specialised training in this area. Kirsten says women can expect understanding from the specialist physiotherapist they see, whether on the NHS or in a private clinic like Neurophysio Wales:
“Like most specialist women’s physiotherapists, I feel a great degree of empathy for my clients. Many of them have experienced long periods of suffering. While NHS physiotherapy treatment is very good, it is not always offered unless asked for, and there can be long waiting lists.
For many women, we understand that the journey itself has been a huge hurdle for them, as they struggle with incontinence or pain – public transport can be hell for them. The good news is that we CAN usually help bring long-awaited relief.
Kirsten says physiotherapy has proven benefits for clients with bladder and bowel incontinence, severe period pain, pelvic girdle pain (both pre-delivery and post-delivery), birth complications such as diastasis recti and pelvic floor pain – even if the condition has persisted for a long time.
“With all the reported complications of more invasive treatments for urinary incontinence, such as mesh implants and drugs, it’s surprising that women’s physiotherapy is not more widely promoted.
“Women often suffer in silence, hidden and in pain, yet research has shown that pelvic floor muscle training is cheaper and more effective than one of the main incontinence drugs – and will resolve the issue completely for two out of three patients.
“Another study found that intensive pelvic floor muscle training, plus lifestyle changes, was the most effective method for treating urinary and bowel incontinence.”
As well as a thorough examination and assessment of your condition, a specialist women’s physiotherapist can:
- teach you how to use your pelvic floor muscles correctly
- show you exercises to support and strengthen muscles and help you recover from any birth injuries
- make suggestions on how diet and fluids can help
- show you how to cough whilst protecting your muscles
- talk through possible lifestyle changes
“I see a familiar picture on my first appointments, a client distressed from pain, disrupted sleep, discomfort, embarrassment and the real disruption to their lives that ‘women’s problems’ can cause.
“It’s really rewarding when they leave feeling ‘heard’, validated, and with some real recommendations they can comfortably put into practice to relieve their condition – always, however, my biggest regret is that they have not seen a specialist physiotherapist more quickly – because we can really make a difference.”
Kirsten offers private consultations at Neuro Physio Wales and can be contacted on 01656 858865
To read more about women’s physiotherapy services visit https://neurophysio-wales.co.uk/womens-health/