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Consider physical therapy for pelvic rehab

Katie Selinger, PT educates her patient using a model of the pelvis.

“Women need to know it’s not normal.” That was the reason Jadah Kerr agreed to talk about her experience with physical therapy for pelvic rehabilitation after having her fifth child. “You see commercials for adult diapers. Women joke about wetting themselves when they sneeze. You’d think it’s just normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said.

Jadah, age 30, had experienced some extreme pelvic issues leading up to and after the birth of her daughter. Thankfully her friend had done physical therapy after each of her children and suggested it could help Jadah to strengthen her core muscles and rehab the damage done.

“My doctor was suggesting surgery, including a hysterectomy,” she said. “I told him I just wanted orders for PT.” Jadah said he hadn’t thought about physical therapy for her issues but was willing to let her try.

After four months of working with Katie Selinger, PT and Katie Schlosser, PT at RehabVisions in Dickinson, the doctor was impressed with the results and took the idea of a hysterectomy off the table.

But a woman doesn’t have to have extreme issues to work with a physical therapist. Rachael Sisson, age 32, had her first baby this past January via C-section. Rachael, who was a collegiate athlete and had practiced yoga for 10-plus years, says she’s always been very conscious of her body. “I knew if I was going to get back to my old self, I needed to get my pelvic floor strengthened.”

So, six weeks after her baby’s birth, Rachael started therapy with Katie Selinger. She said a light bulb went off for her the first time she talked to Katie. “She reminded me I’d just had major abdominal surgery, and physical therapy is typically recommended after major surgeries. That isn’t always the case for C-sections,” she said. “Why not? More women should be taking advantage of this.”

Pelvic rehab starts with an initial consultation and exam where the therapist determines the specific pelvic issues and creates a plan of care. Sometimes the therapist will do an internal exam to check for prolapse, test the pelvic floor strength, or try to determine where specific pain is coming from. Patients then come to therapy one to three times per week for a series of weeks, depending on their individual situation.

Patients typically work with the PT to learn positioning and exercises they can then do at home. Jadah said that the traditional Kegal exercises were part of it, but it was a lot more. Katie had her doing resistance band work along with planks and other movements. Rachael said most of the exercises were very approachable and could easily be done while her baby was on the floor playing. Throughout therapy, the PT measures progress and encourages patients.

“Katie Selinger was like the ultimate coach and cheerleader,” Jadah said. “She was so encouraging and caring. I did my home exercises because I didn’t want to disappoint her!”

Both women commented that they know more about their pelvic floor and how it works than they ever thought possible. Katie said that education is a huge part of pelvic rehab. “We have babies but generally we don’t know what’s happening within us,” she said. “Part of our jobs as therapists is to make our patients understand what is happening within their bodies. When they understand, they follow through with their exercises and their success rates are much higher.”

Katie also pointed out that one in three women has incontinence complaints—it doesn’t matter what their age or if they’ve recently had a baby. “I see women of all ages,” she said. “If you’re having pain or incontinence concerns, we can help.”

Content provided by RehabVisions, which provides therapy services at CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson, St. Benedict’s Health Center and at RehabVisions Outpatient Clinic at 683 State Avenue in Dickinson, ND.  To learn more or schedule, call 701-483-9400 or visit dickinson.rehabvisions.com