“Why should I see a pelvic health physio? Wouldn’t my gynecologist or family doctor be able to tell me if something was wrong down there?”
I get this question a lot, which is completely fair. It’s a bit of a complicated question to answer though, because the answer is both yes and no…
Yes, your doctor is able to tell you if something is “wrong” down there. Outside of an obvious medical issue like a prolapse or infection though, they may not be able to tell you specifically what is causing your symptoms. That is where a pelvic health physio comes in. While the way we perform our exams is the same (internal pelvic exam), the things we are looking for are different. A doctor will do a pelvic exam to check for dilation during pregnancy, perform a pap smear, place or check the positioning of an IUD, inspect the tissues for infection or assess any reports of pelvic pain, among other things. A physio on the other hand uses a pelvic exam to check how well the muscles of the pelvic floor stretch, contract and relax in various positions and movements and locate any areas of pain. While doctors are looking for anything that requires immediate medical intervention, physios are looking at function and more long term maintenance.
This means that in some cases, no, your doctor won’t be able to tell you if something is wrong because their assessment rules out any serious medical conditions. It is possible to see your doctor about pain or leaks only to have them do an exam and rule out medical issues like infection and tell you everything is fine. Ideally, at this point they would then refer you to a pelvic health physio! It’s also possible that you could “pass” your pelvic exam at the doctor’s office and they will tell you everything is fine because maybe you didn’t mention having pain or leaks. That being said, there are some doctors that will test how well you can use your pelvic floor - they may ask you to contract or see if they can gently stretch the muscles. I love hearing about that kind of doctor because it means they are more likely to refer out to physio!
To recap, both exams give valuable information, but they don’t give the same information. Ideally you would have both your doctor and your pelvic health physio working together with you to improve your symptoms. If your doctor tells you everything is fine after a pelvic exam and you are experiencing symptoms, don’t let that fool you into thinking your symptoms are normal. Leaks and pain are common - at least 50% of women will have pelvic floor issues in their lifetime - but they are not normal and physio can help.
If you want to learn more about pelvic health, or are unsure if pelvic health physio is right for you, check out the FREE pelvic health workshop I’m having on Tuesday May 25th. You’ll learn more about what the pelvic floor is, why leaks and pain happen and at least 3 things you can do to improve your pelvic floor function! The workshop will be held virtually on Zoom. You can register here: https://tinyurl.com/js2me3xc
Need answers sooner? Book a free, one-on-one consultation to discuss your particular pelvic health concerns.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your workshop spot or consultation today!