Finding a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT) that’s right for you may seem like a daunting task. But fear not, you’re not alone and we’re here to help. Your pelvis can be extremely personal and deserves to be treated in a safe environment by a specialized pelvic health provider. Let’s equip you on your journey to find one that’s the right fit for you!
Find a physical therapist that specializes in Pelvic Health
When searching for a provider who can help, it’s important to recognize that not every physical therapist can (or should) treat pelvic floor dysfunction. You may be surprised to learn that seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist has more in common with visiting your primary care physician or OBGYN than seeing an orthopedic physical therapist (what most people think of as “regular” PTs).
That’s because pelvic floor physical therapy is a specialty that requires a significant amount of additional education and training, not to mention a private treatment space and specialized equipment. An orthopedic physical therapist that is qualified to treat a torn shoulder muscle or injured knee may not be qualified or equipped to treat your pelvic floor. Physical therapy doctorate programs only give a cursory introduction to the topic of Pelvic Health, leaving many physical therapists poorly equipped to address pelvic dysfunction.
As a patient, you want to find a provider that specializes in Pelvic Health. This means identifying a physical therapist that has gone on to pursue significant additional training and/or certifications in pelvic floor physical therapy from credentialed institutions such as the Herman & Wallace Institute Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute or the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Letters to look for might include “PRPC”, which stands for Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification.
Where to look: finding a PT near you
Unfortunately, Pelvic Health can still be considered a “taboo” topic due to the personal nature of pelvic floor dysfunction, which greatly limits how often people share their struggles and successes in treatment despite how common it is. One of the best ways to identify great providers is through word-of-mouth, so if comfortable, we’d encourage you start by asking close friends, family, etc. if they’ve ever experienced pelvic floor dysfunction and where they sought information and solutions. Some of the best providers for you in your area can come from first-hand experiences of someone you trust. And by talking about it, you’ll also be helping to break down harmful social barriers that prevent many people from seeking the help they need.
If you’re uncomfortable with that approach or don’t receive any actionable recommendations, don’t worry, there are still plenty of ways to identify great pelvic health providers. There are a handful of local directories hosted by the pelvic health credentialing institutions, such as:
Once you’ve found a list of PTs near you, look to see who is certified in pelvic floor dysfunction/conditions (again, PRPC is one helpful credential or it may simply call out “pelvic health/ floor”). This denotes that the provider has additional training and/ or certifications and is most likely passionate in treating these conditions.
Additional considerations to look for
If you’re fortunate to have multiple providers nearby, there are a handful of considerations you should take into account to identify the best fit for you.
First, we recommend finding a clinic that specializes in pelvic floor conditions. Your PT should always specialize in Pelvic Health, but often it can be helpful if the clinic they treat at is also specialized. It signals that everyone in the clinic has training and is passionate about pelvic floor conditions and also means that the clinical layout is tailored to the needs of pelvic health patients. Rather than walking into an open gym that may have a room set aside for private treatment, you should find a welcoming clinical environment that is designed to be quiet, calming, and safe. You should have a dedicated treatment room that feels private – NOT a shared room or curtain divider.
Further, the providers in a specialized clinic are more likely to be trained to trauma-informed and to provide trauma-informed care. It’s common with pelvic floor conditions to have some aspect of trauma and your clinic should be sensitive to that.
Second, look for clinics that do not rely on technicians or aides for treatment. While they are helpful staff members, they may not have the formal education or experience needed to treat your condition (as they may be in training and still wrapping up high school or college). We recommend clinics that utilize DPTs (Doctor of Physical Therapy) and PTAs (Physical Therapist Assistants) that have gone through additional training with a credible organization and/or been certified in pelvic health rehabilitation. You should ask the clinic in advance if an aid or technician will be providing your treatment.
Finally, treatment time matters. Look for clinics where they do not rush you and offer an hour-long session with the treating therapist. Usually, 25-30 mins of a treatment is not enough time to really dig into the heart of the issue and address what needs to be addressed. You do not want to feel rushed by your therapist and should avoid any clinic that feels like a “mill”. Find a clinic that will prioritize you by asking in advance how long your treatment sessions will last.
Demand better care
It’s up to each of us to take control of our health care. While finding a pelvic floor physical therapist can seem intimidating, we hope the above advice can give you the confidence and resources you need to feel prepared to take your health into your own hands.
You’re always welcome to give us a shout if you could use some assistance. We’re here to help and are happy to provide recommendations. You got this!