One of the biggest challenges for pelvic pain patients is finding the right physical therapist.
A variety of issues are behind this difficulty. First, the supply of PTs qualified to treat pelvic pain does not meet the patient demand. A major reason for this is that pelvic floor PT is not part of the current PT school curriculum. So, PTs who want to become educated in pelvic floor PT have to fund their own post graduate training. And while post graduate educational opportunities in pelvic floor PT do exist, they’re limited.
Second, many PTs today who do treat the pelvic floor only treat incontinence, which as we’ve already discussed in previous blog posts, is a very different animal than pelvic pain. And lastly, the pipeline between doctors who treat pelvic pain and pelvic floor PTs is still very much a work in progress. So it’s not a given that a patient’s physician is going to be able to recommend a PT.
What makes this state of affairs so frustrating is that hands-on PT is a proven treatment approach for pelvic pain. I for one have seen first-hand how successful it can be–even in situations that previously seemed hopeless to the patient.
So considering these challenges, how does one find a knowledgeable and experienced pelvic floor PT?
Fortunately, there are extremely knowledgeable and experienced pelvic floor PTs out there, and in this blog I’m going to give you some advice on how to connect with them.
American Physical Therapy Association
The APTA is a professional association for physical therapists in the United States. On its website, the organization offers a searchable database of “women’s health” PTs. I qualify the phrase “women’s health” because as we’ve already discussed in previous posts, pelvic pain does not discriminate between the sexes. Thankfully, some of the PTs listed in APTAs “women’s health” locator treat both women and men with pelvic pain, so despite it’s name, this database can be used by both men and women to find a PT.
That said, this database is not the last word on pelvic floor PT. Unfortunately, a number of the PTs listed there only treat incontinence, so when you contact the PTs from the database, be sure and ask them if they also treat pelvic pain. For some PTs, “women’s health” PT still means simply the treatment of incontinence.
In addition, and this goes for all of the PT leads you get from the resources listed in this post, ask the PTs how they treat pelvic pain. What you’re looking for is a PT that treats the pelvic floor using both internal—via the vagina and/or the rectum—manual therapy and external myofascial techniques including myofascial trigger point therapy and connective tissue manipulation. It might be beneficial to read our previous post “What is a ‘Good’ Pelvic Floor PT Session Like?” prior to interviewing potential pelvic floor PTs. You can find the APTA’s women’s health locator here.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Classes
One great way to find a pelvic floor PT is to get in touch with the folks who are teaching post-graduate courses in pelvic floor PT.
Stephanie and I teach such a course. Each year we travel to an average of four different cities to teach a course in the treatment of pelvic pain. So feel free to contact us, and if we know of a PT in your area that we are comfortable recommending, we will be more than happy to do so.
The Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute is also an organization that teaches a variety of post-graduate pelvic floor PT courses. So a patient could contact the faculty members of Herman & Wallace, and ask for a PT recommendation.
Click here to go the the Herman & Wallace website.
The International Pelvic Pain Society
The International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS) is a non-profit organization whose membership includes gynecologists, urologists, physical therapists, psychologists and other health professionals. Since 1995, the IPPS has sponsored a variety of research and educational programs aimed at providing optimal diagnosis and treatment to pelvic pain sufferers.
The IPPS has a “find a provider” option on its website here.
Happy Pelvis or other Pelvic Pain Social Media
Happy Pelvis is a Yahoo message group that was started by a past patient of ours at PHRC. Specifically, the group was started to support pelvic pain sufferers who are seeking PT. Today, Happy Pelvis has hundreds of active members who are always willing to recommend PTs. In addition, there is a searchable list of pelvic pain PTs in the group’s archives.
You can find Happy Pelvis here.
Pelvic Floor Health Providers
There are many wonderful doctors, PTs, and other health providers who are leading the charge in the arena of pelvic pain diagnosis and treatment research. I have known of pelvic pain patients who have contacted them after reading their research and been successfully referred to pelvic floor PTs by them.
The above are all great resources that you can use to find a pelvic pain PT in your area. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a supply and demand issue when it comes to pelvic pain PT. And unfortunately, there are regions of the country where there are no practicing pelvic floor PTs.
What do you do if you are in need of a PT and you live in one of these areas?
If you are in this situation, my best advice to you is to make plans to travel for pelvic floor PT. In the current pelvic pain PT environment, this is an option that many pelvic pain patients are forced to explore. Indeed, 10 percent of our patients are out-of-town patients. Thankfully, there are a handful of major “pelvic pain hubs” spread throughout the country.
Some of the major hubs are in: San Francisco (PHRC), Chicago, New York City, Michigan, Orlando, Durham, North Carolina (Duke University), Philadelphia, Phoenix, Rochester, New York, and Minnesota (the Mayo Clinic).
However, what do you do if you have to travel out of town for treatment, but need it on a long-term basis?
Well, some of our out-of-town patients are able to arrange for either their local PTs to travel with them so that Stephanie or I can show the local PTs how to best treat them or they bring along their significant others to learn how to administer certain treatment techniques on them. Plus, anytime you travel for PT, you should ask the out-of-town PT if he or she knows of a PT close to you that might be able to carry out their treatment methods, just in case there is someone nearby you missed in your own search.
Also, not all PTs are created equal, so some pelvic pain patients chose to travel to one of the above-mentioned hubs to get the best treatment possible. From there, they often put their out-of-town PT and local PT in touch to pull off a team treatment approach.
I understand that traveling for pelvic pain PT is certainly not the ideal; however, until the supply and demand situation is remedied, it’s an option many folks turn to. The good news is that compared to even five years ago, the number of PTs treating pelvic pain has greatly increased, and continues to do so.
I hope I’ve been able to give you some helpful guidance for finding a pelvic floor PT in your area. Please leave any questions or comments you might have in the comment section below.
Plus, if you know of a pelvic floor PT that you would like to spread the word about, please feel free to leave his or her information in the comment section. And let us know why you would recommend them.
As always, we look forward to hearing from you.
All the best to you,