Newswise — In the fall of 2012, Barbara was enjoying the fruits of a successful career in the arts, an active social life, and good health, which included spinning classes, yoga, and swimming. Then a routine bladder infection set off a series of painful and discomforting symptoms. She felt a searing pain in her pelvic area and it hurt during intercourse.
Barbara, who is in her mid-sixties, sought the help of her gynecologist and underwent a full exam, a sonogram, and an MRI. “My sister had ovarian cancer so I was worried,” recalls Barbara. To her relief, there was no sign of cancer but the pain and the upsetting symptoms persisted.
“Basically, my gynecologist had no idea what it was,” says Barbara. “She sort of threw up her hands.” Barbara consulted with a different gynecologist, who performed an internal exam. “She found an area on one side that had tightness, like a knot,” she said. Barbara’s physician suggested that she consult with a group of physical therapists specializing in pelvic floor pain. But, after two visits with them, Barbara felt like things weren’t going in the right direction and didn’t return.
Several months with continued discomfort passed until Barbara was finally pointed in the direction of someone who could help. During a physical therapy session for unrelated low back pain at KIMA Physiotherapy and Wellness in New York City, Barbara mentioned the pelvic symptoms to the back therapist. “She told me that KIMA has a Pelvic Floor Program and referred me to one of the specialists, Lisa Sottung, P.T., C.F.M.T., OCS, who specialized in women’s health and pelvic floor and girdle conditions,” says Barbara. “I had gone to KIMA for low back pain treatment and had been very satisfied with the care I received. So I felt encouraged when I learned that there was someone on staff with this kind of expertise.”
Explains Lisa Sottung, “Because not all health professionals recognize pelvic floor dysfunction as a condition, it is sometimes underdiagnosed and so people suffering with it don’t always get the treatment they need.” Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition of the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues (fascia) that support the rectal and genital areas, where instability and tightness causes irritation, sensitivity, and pain. It can stem from a variety of situations: a urinary tract infection, surgery, a fall involving the back, sacrum or coccyx, trauma during childbirth, or weakness or tightness in the lower back and/or hip.
Although most people are not aware of pelvic floor dysfunction in the way that they are of other musculoskeletal conditions, such as lower back or knee problems, it impacts large numbers of the population. One out of five people will be affected by this condition over the course of their lifetime. Explains Tracey Vincel, P.T., MPhty and co-founder of KIMA, “A recent National Institutes of Health study reports that Pelvic Floor Disorders affect more than 40 percent of women from the ages of 60 to 79 and about 50 percent of women 80 and older. For those suffering with PFD, the problems impact them both physically as well as emotionally since they limit their day-to-day functioning and therefore their overall quality of life.”
Barbara met with Lisa, who is trained as a functional manual therapist and an orthopedic clinical specialist, and underwent a full orthopedic exam and a pelvic floor evaluation. Barbara’s range of motion, the mobility of her joints and the alignment of her pelvis were assessed. Lisa also conducted several tests to gauge ligament and pelvic floor functioning. She looked at how well Barbara could contract and relax her pelvic floor muscles and checked both internally and externally for muscle spasms and knots, as well as any muscle weakness or bone misalignments.
“I identified a strength difference in Barbara,” recalls Lisa, which confirmed the presence of pelvic floor dysfunction. Through a series of soft tissue mobilizations, including deep tissue massage, myofascial (connective tissue) releases, and trigger point releases, Lisa was able to provide some relief to Barbara almost immediately. The treatments continued weekly, along with an at-home program of strengthening exercises provided by Lisa, to correct any musculoskeletal imbalances. This approach has greatly improved Barbara’s condition.
After suffering for almost a year before arriving at Kima, where she was able to receive the right treatment, Barbara is delighted to be symptom free. “I was amazed at how quickly I was able to improve once I began working with Lisa,” she says. “I don’t have that intense pain that I once had. I am completely back to normal.”
Being free of pain has provided Barbara with a huge sense of relief. “I was amazed that Lisa got to the heart of the problem right away. I think about other people in the kind of pain that I was in and who go undiagnosed and suffer needlessly because they don’t know that something can be done. It’s so important for people with pelvic pain or dysfunction to seek out specialists who can really help them.”
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