A common issue not commonly discussed

By Barbara Pierce

Have you noticed that you’re often racing to the bathroom, sometimes leak when you laugh, cough or sneeze, or avoid intercourse because it hurts?

Do you accept that symptoms such as leaking, pain in the pelvic area, urinary or fecal incontinence, constipation, or pelvic organ prolapse are just things to put up with as you age?

These are embarrassing problems we’re not comfortable talking about. It can be difficult to even bring it up with your doctor.

But don’t ignore these common signs of a pelvic floor disorder (PFD) that affect both men and women. It’s more common in older women; one in four women are dealing with it.

“These are very common issues and many patients see quick results,” said Dr. Nicole Hebert of Little Falls Hospital. “You don’t have to live with incontinence or pelvic pain.” It’s not a natural part of aging. Many pelvic floor disorders can be treated through physical therapy and lifestyle changes.

You aren’t destined to a life of pads or pills, suffering in silence.

Pelvic Floor Treatment could change your life. Hebert, who has been specially trained in pelvic floor therapy, offers this therapy for men and women in the Rehabilitation Department at Little Falls Hospital in Little Falls, a subsidiary of the Bassett Healthcare Network.

Pelvic floor therapy is an individualized program that focuses on strengthening or relaxing the pelvic floor of men and women. It is a minimally invasive therapy.

“This is such an individual issue, she added. “There’s not a cookie cutter approach to treatment of these issues. The exercises appropriate for one patient maybe completely wrong for another patient. We perform an examination and determine which treatments are appropriate for your specific issue.”

“The pelvic floor refers to the numerous muscles that form a hammock in the base of your pelvis,” she explained. “These muscles provide support for our pelvic organs, maintain control of our bladder and bowel function and are responsible for healthy sexual activity.”

The pelvis works like a sling to support all the pelvic organs, holding them in place and providing support. As our muscle tone ages, or if it’s damaged or becomes weak, it can lead to pelvic floor disorders that impact bladder and bowel functioning.

“These muscles may have become weakened, tightened, or spastic due to many circumstances. We focus on strengthening or relaxing the pelvic region of men and women.”

“My evaluation and treatments are always guided by the comfort level of the patient,” she added. “I provide a thorough explanation of what the evaluation and treatment may entail and why. I find this goes a long way in easing a patient’s apprehension. Knowledge is power and patient education is a major part of what I do.”

The treatments include exercises to increase strength in the muscles near the bladder, bladder retraining to assist with holding and releasing urine voluntarily, electrical stimulation to increase muscle strength and decrease symptoms of bladder irritability, manual therapy, home exercise program, education to identify food and beverages that aggravate the bladder, and biofeedback to train the pelvic muscles.

“Men who are experiencing pelvic pain and urinary issues may also benefit from an individualized therapy program,” Hebert added. “Urinary incontinence, including stress and urgency, aren’t issues exclusive to women. Some men may experience incontinence issues and/or pain following prostate surgery. Also, the inability to completely empty the bladder is an issue for many patients and can also be addressed through a pelvic floor program.”

In addition to pelvic floor therapy, there are medications and surgeries available. Also, sometimes changes in diet or fitness, or bladder training will help. A specially trained therapist can help you decide the best option for you.

“I wish more people, men and women alike, knew that there are other, conservative, treatment options out there and you don’t have to live with incontinence or pelvic pain,” she concluded. “Some of my patients had struggled with pelvic floor issues for years, but there was no one in this area that specialized in pelvic floor therapy.”

“I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly some of my patients saw results. A significant amount of them got better.”

For more information on pelvic floor disorders, contact Little Fall Hospital’s Rehabilitation Department at 315-823-5360, or see their website     

“If you’d like to make an appointment, and you do not have a referral from your primary physician, just call us and we’ll assist you by contacting your primary physician to obtain a referral,” said Hebert.