Pelvic Floor Therapy: 3 Month Update
It's been a little over three months since my first pelvic floor visit. During the process, a lot of people have asked me about my experience. Here are some answers to the most asked questions.
How many appointments did it take until you felt better?
One. The pelvic floor therapist pointed out my muscle tightness on the first visit. She showed me how to release my pelvic floor and sent me home with exercises and stretches I could do on my own.
How many times did you visit the therapist?
Four times. But the first visit was the most helpful. In subsequent visits, she just asked me how I was doing, checked my hip alignment and used a vaginal sensor to check if I was still contracted (I was, at first. But I could relax quickly.) She also made sure I was doing my exercises correctly and answered any new questions. But, for me, an initial visit and one follow-up would have been enough to see improvement.
Can you do the exercises at home?
Yes! I thought a pelvic floor specialist would need to do a lot of internal manipulation. I figured fancy machines would be involved. But she just told me what exercises to do and for how long and sent me on my way. The only thing I couldn't do myself was the initial assessment and exam.
Did you have to buy any special equipment?
No. I mostly did stretches while sitting in a chair or on the floor in my bedroom or office. However, my therapist did give me a couple of bands to use with some exercises. She also told me I might want to give myself an internal pelvic floor massage with a a trigger-point tool. This might help with the pain I get from an internal spot on my right side.* I saw these for sale for about $30-50, sometimes under "The Original Crystal Wand." You can also buy them online from sites like CMTmedical.com. (I haven't tried it yet, but I might in the future.)
If you have trouble with vaginismus — when the vagina contracts involuntarily — she told me vaginal dilators can be helpful. They cost an average of $20-60 and may be covered by insurance. Ask your doctor before you try these.
What symptom(s) did it help the most?
I experienced a lot of relief from pain with sex. When my cramps get worse — in the luteal phase, which is the second half of the menstrual cycle — I was contracting almost all the time, especially during penetrative sex. My therapist also told me to practice relaxing my pelvic floor during sex. When I did this, I felt a lot less post-orgasm pain. Sometimes, there's no pain. (Note: Since it's impossible to have an orgasm without contracting, you don't have to relax the whole time.)
It did help with overall pelvic pain soreness outside of my period. However, it did not help my period pain feel any better. I'm guessing that's because menstrual cramps aren't from muscle tension.
Do you have to keep doing the exercises?
Yes. At least for awhile. My pain started coming back after a couple months — when I stopped doing my exercises every day because I felt so much better. Much like meditation, I realized this is something I probably need to do daily, for the rest of my life. Or, at least for longer than a few months. The good news is that even practicing once a day is still helpful.
*I have asked many doctors about my right-side pain. To this day, no one has been able to tell me, concretely, why it hurts so bad. During one surgery, I had a lot of scar tissue removed from around my appendix. So, it's possible there's deep-tissue endometriosis at play. Pelvic floor therapy does help lessen the random shooting, radiating pains from this spot. However, it doesn't get rid of the centralized soreness that comes from direct pressure.
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