This is a question I get asked regularly. It's usually said in some version of "I don't want to offend you, and I'm happy that you do, but why in the world would you want to do this type of therapy?" It's a valid question. I do rectal and vaginal exams or treatments on a daily basis. If I'm not doing some sort of internal treatment, then I am placing electrodes around your anus. Given that, I can't say that its the most glamorous job around. But I love my job. I get to help people who have been suffering for years and I am able to give them not only hope, but results. You get used to treating that "area" of the body pretty quickly, although I do think it takes a special person to be able to talk about urine, sex and bowel movements all day.
So, how did I get into myself into this?
I got interested in this type of physical therapy for a couple of reasons. First, because of my grandmother. My grandmother is 90 and has had issues with fecal and urinary incontinence for years. (She probably wouldn't be super happy about me telling this to the world wide web, but she doesn't know how to use a computer, so what she doesn't know won't hurt her.) She has at times felt chained to her toilet, with no confidence that she can go out and do the activities that she wants without having an embarrassing accident. She actually missed my graduation from PT school because she didn't feel she could be that far from a bathroom for so long. I wanted to be able to help people suffering like this. To have to miss out on huge life events of those you love is unacceptable when there is treatment available! By becoming a pelvic PT, I am one more person who is available to help those suffering with urinary and bowel issues. Despite the growing demand, there are not that many of us out there.
The second reason is more personal. I have endometriosis and had suffered with the debilitating pain associated with this condition for several years. When I was diagnosed, I was told that my options were surgery or hormonal treatment, neither of which was a good solution for me. So in the process of trying to figure out what I could do for myself, I found pelvic physical therapy. This has truly made a difference in my life and I wanted to be able to help others who were going through the frustrating situation that I had been through. So many people suffer with pelvic pain for years before they are directed to a physical therapist who can help treat many of the issues contributing to their pain.
When I first started treating pelvic floor dysfunction, I wondered if it would be as rewarding as my previous job treating neurological conditions, such as stroke and spinal cord injury. The answer is that I think it is more rewarding. I am able to help people overcome private issues that negatively impact their lives on a daily basis and I am treating an underserved population. Just looking at the Austin area, a search on the American Physical Therapy Association website for those specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction brings up 10 therapists. The number of general physical therapists was 75. Granted this is not entirely representative of the PT population, as Austin tends to be a hub for pelvic PT. Sullivan Physical Therapy, where I work, has 7 pelvic therapists and we are one of the largest pelvic specialty clinics in the United States. So if 10 to 75 is the ratio in Austin you can imagine how low those numbers are in other areas. Unfortunately, this causes many people throughout the US to be unaware that there is help out there for their issues. This is why I do this blog. I want to reach as many people as possible and educate everyone I can so that people know all their options and don't have to suffer needlessly.