In the four years since I published my story of recovery from painful sex, I’ve had some surprises. Top of the list? Being recognized by a stranger at a party. Oh yes. Thank goodness I’ve gotten comfy with people knowing a thing or two about my pelvic floor and sex life!
Let me tell you, that took some getting used to. But was it ever worth it.
I’ve been shocked by the number of people my story has reached and encouraged. Wow. I’m so grateful, and proud of myself too for hitting “publish” despite my terror and mortification.
I’ve also been shocked by all the emails I’ve received. At times it’s been too many to respond to, what with kids and moving and, you know, life. So today I want to start publicly answering the most common questions I receive by email. A couple of these are really quick.
Q: What about the rest of the pelvic floor blog post series?
A: I got pregnant again and everything went out the window!
Q: Did you have the same problems after your second baby?
A: I experienced a low-grade recurrence of symptoms that I was able to resolve at home within a couple of weeks. Whew!
But the one question I receive most often isn’t quite so simple:
Q: How can I find help?
A: Well, that’s a long answer. I could say, “Just follow the steps outlined below!” and leave it at that. Ta-dah! But I know too well that healing journeys get complicated, both by internal and external factors. Enduring the process is tough. And it may not be enough, either, to find the “right” physical therapist. You may, for example, have emotional healing or trauma work to do, or nutrition and lifestyle changes to make. And what if there isn’t ideal help available in your area? (I live in a small remote city. I get it.) What then?
The good news is that I can speak to all of this, and not based on theory but on real long-term experience. I have learned ways of thinking about and engaging with health challenges, and gathered tools and resources for the journey, that make all the difference.
But I can’t share everything at once. So, today is for those basic how-to steps: how I would look for help with pelvic pain if I were you. Next time I’ll talk about the more complicated stuff.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
I have learned to start with God. Ask Him for true healing and to help you find people and resources to support you.
Now start asking people. Do you see a chiropractor or osteopath? Ask him or her. Know a yoga instructor? Ask. Those women you know who’ve never made a peep about pelvic pain? Ask them anyway. You really might be surprised.
Ask doctors, psychotherapists, nurses, physical therapists, personal trainers, doulas, midwives, massage therapists–anybody in a health-related field. You can even ask the ones you don’t personally see. Call your friend’s doula, or one you find online. I’ve found women’s health professionals are often deeply passionate about what they do and glad to offer a recommendation or resource if they can. Every time you meet with a new practitioner, ask them too.
Be sure to ask, “Do you know anyone else who might be able to recommend a practitioner or resource?” Use other people’s networks.
I ask real live people, despite the many discomforts, for at least 3 reasons:
- I prefer a recommendation from someone who personally benefited from the practitioner’s care. Let’s skip the hype and talk results.
- Sometimes the best care providers don’t have an online presence, especially in less populous areas.
- If you are overwhelmed by options (e.g., in a major metropolitan area), it’s hard to know where to start without personal referrals.
Consult Mr. Google.
Now while I do prefer personal recommendations, my health struggles often take me off the beaten track, and I have to find my way through other means. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to widen the net. Enter Google. Here are the search terms I would start with:
Your location or a nearby major city + ________
“pelvic pain” OR
“women’s health physical therapy” OR
“women’s health physiotherapist” OR
“pelvic physical therapy”
So, an example would be “Albuquerque NM pelvic pain” or “Atlanta GA women’s health physical therapy.” Try all the different combinations and throw in your own search terms too. You never know what you might stumble upon.
*See the section below on what to look for as you explore practitioners’ websites or call their offices.*
Use Online Networks.
MuTu System has the best collection of online databases and recommended practitioners I know of. Click HERE and scroll down to “How to Find a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.”
Also consider reaching out to any Facebook groups you’re a part of. If you don’t participate in any special interest FB groups, join some. If you have children, you could look for postpartum or mom groups in your area. Holistic health groups could be another helpful community.
What to Look for in a Practitioner or Practice
When I first asked my OB-GYN about physical therapy for my pain, he immediately dismissed it. He only knew about the kind of pelvic PTs who do biofeedback and kegels for incontinence or prolapse. MOST people only know about these kind of pelvic PTs because they’re the most common ones. But there are other options!
I particularly benefited from manual (hands-on) internal therapy. Perhaps not everyone needs it, but if you find a practitioner who can offer that level of care, you’ll have more treatment options with them.
Biofeedback was also helpful to me, and that is relatively easy to find.
I was also evaluated on posture, given whole-body corrective stretches and exercises, offered resources for meditation and relaxation, and instructed in lifestyle modifications. In other words, it was a whole-person treatment approach.
Of course, this will be described in different ways. While trying out the Google search terms from the section above, I found a PT in my new town (we just moved to Colorado!) whom I would definitely check out if I was in need. Here is an excerpt from her website:
The techniques employed . . . include taking a detailed history, evaluating posture, stretching the muscles, external and internal myofascial and trigger point release of the muscles, biofeedback, electrical stimulation and exercises to increase control and strength of the pelvic floor, pelvic stability training, having patients keep diaries of pain or incontinence, and instructing the patient in behavior or voiding modifications. (source)
As you can see, her approach is multi-faceted, and she appears to have a wide variety of tools for helping patients.
A cherry on top would be nutrition counseling. One women’s health expert, Jessica Drummond, speaks and writes extensively about the power of nutrition in healing pelvic pain. Her free ebook is available HERE. I highly recommend joining her mailing list. While she usually writes to a practitioner audience rather than to patients, I learn so much from her newsletters!
Start Knocking on Doors
You simply cannot know if someone will be able to help you without trying their treatment. You cannot figure out the “right” thing from your armchair. And oh, how I’ve tried! You have to start somewhere, and you do have to START — with an appointment, or maybe a few. And all the time, energy, logistics, and money to go along with it.
And then if that practitioner isn’t what your body needs, on to the next one. And maybe the next one.
For my own recovery, I consulted with my midwife, talked to my doula, had an office appointment with my OB-GYN, was treated by a specialized massage therapist, and followed through with two appointments at a pelvic health practice before I was sure I’d found the help I needed. And based on my overall healing experiences, I would consider that an astonishingly quick and streamlined journey!
I know. I know. If you’re feeling panicky right now, hang in there. Remember, I have another post coming about this process (which I have 14 years’ experience with).
A Note about Insurance
Often when people write to me about finding local help, they want to know how to find a practitioner on their insurance plan. I understand this because medical care of any kind is expensive, and for something like pelvic pain a whole series of appointments is usually required. Often, however, the best and most efficient help is not covered by insurance. For example, at the pelvic health practice I went to, the nurse practitioner (who managed my case) and the biofeedback specialist were covered by my insurance, while the physical therapist who did the near-miraculous internal work was not.
I have learned to think of insurance as something I use primarily for acute illness or injury recovery. I rarely find it covers the people who can help me heal from chronic struggles. While I certainly hope you can find great help with full insurance coverage, please be aware that may not be realistic.
To recap, the steps I follow when I’m looking for help:
- Ask EVERYONE (and be sure to use their networks too)
- Use online networks like Facebook groups
- Schedule and show up for experimental appointments
I’ll be back soon with what I’ve learned about mindset and expectations, managing the whole healing process, and what to do when I can’t find the help I’m looking for.
Do you have any suggestion for how or where to find help for pelvic pain? If so, please share it in the comments below or drop me a note at alison (at) alisonslist.com.