When it comes to pelvic floor physical therapy, the most common association is that it is a therapy for only women. While it might seem to be the case, it is only a myth.
Women are often prescribed the therapy for post-pregnancy recovery, but it is not only used for that. In fact, it can be incredibly useful to men as well, especially those recovering from prostate cancer or other types of pelvic pain. We asked physiotherapist Kelly Barrie what we needed to know about pelvic floor physical therapy for men and this is what we found out.
The Pelvic Floor
To know what physical therapy can do for your pelvic floor, you must first know what the pelvic floor is. It is made up of the muscles and tissues that hold up your abdominal organs. These muscles are responsible for controlling your bladder as well as your bowels, and are integral in sexual functionality.
Common Problems Men Face
There are a few different symptoms that men can experience due to issues with their pelvic floor. The most common are bladder control issues and pain in the pelvis, but there can also be other symptoms as well.
Bladder control problems, also known as incontinence, usually have to do with the prostate gland. As men age, many will suffer from an enlarged prostate, which gets in the way of the flow of urine down the urethra. As the bladder continues to produce urine and try to force it out, leaks can happen. The bladder will build muscle this way as well, making the force even stronger and making leaks even more of a problem.
When a man has been treated for prostate cancer or has otherwise had his prostate removed, the bladder will still have those overly strong muscles to force urine out without his control or knowledge.
Likewise, pelvic floor pain can also warrant physical therapy. This pain can come from the prostate, the bladder, or the rectum. There could be any number of initial causes to the problem, but they all result in the same cycle of discomfort.
How Physical Therapy Can Help
Physical therapy for the pelvic floor is made up of a process.
- Initial Consultation: Before treatment can really begin, there must be a consultation between the patient and the therapist. At this appointment, the therapist will go over all medical history related to the problem and confirm that the patient has already been checked out by a physician. It is crucial that the patient be completely honest at this appointment, even when it comes to any sexual discomfort that he might be experiencing. A physiotherapist cannot help if he or she does not know the whole story.
- Examination: The therapist will do a physical examination to confirm a patient’s range of motion, flexibility, and strength, especially throughout the pelvis and hips, as well as the back.
- Exercise: Once the range of motion has been confirmed, the physiotherapist can begin treatment. The goal of pelvic floor physical therapy is to increase the strength of the muscles that hold up the pelvic floor and bladder while relaxing any muscles that have been working too hard. These exercises can include:
- Kegels: Kegel contractions help to retrain muscles that have not been behaving properly, especially after prostate surgery. Kegels strengthen the muscle fibres gradually.
- Bridge: This is done on the floor, where the patient will raise his buttocks and pelvis up, hold it for 5 seconds, and slowly lower it back down.
- Squats: While a great gym exercise, squats can also help with the pelvic floor, helping to build and strength a patient’s pelvic floor and buttocks.
How Long to see a Physiotherapist
The amount of sessions that you will need with a physiotherapist to complete your treatment is completely individual. No two people will have the exact same issue and respond to treatment the exact same way. In some cases, changes have to be made in other areas of patient lives, including routines or stress management.
The frequency of visits and duration of the visits will be determined by the physiotherapist to ensure that the right amount of progress can be made quickly. It is also important that the patient keep up with the prescribed homework in between sessions to get the best results.
How to Get Started
If you or someone you know has been having pelvic floor issues, it is important to have a medical examination to determine that there are not underlying medical issues before proceeding with therapy.