At some point during their course of treatment, most of my patients delicately ask a variation of the question, “How did you decide to become a pelvic floor physical therapist?” The questions they really want to ask are, “Why on earth would anyone want to be doing physical therapy in vaginas and rectums? Wouldn’t you rather just fix someone’s sprained ankle?” To be fair, I did not go into physical therapy with the goal of becoming a pelvic floor specialist. I started out wanting to treat patients who suffered a stroke or a traumatic brain injury and in general was very interested in patients with neurological diagnoses. I spent some years working as a physical therapist in Columbia University’s ALS Clinic and rotating through different specialties in New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia, gaining a wide variety of experiences.
Then life happened – the pregnancy and birth of my first son. Somewhere around 32 weeks into my pregnancy I began to have symptoms of a separated pubic symphysis. I spoke with my Ob-Gyn, my husband, my colleagues, my parents, my brother, my friends, my dog, my doorman, random strangers I accosted on the street – but no one had any advice for me and the only thing I was offered was Percocet (while pregnant), which I decided was probably not a good idea. I suffered along during the remainder of that pregnancy literally unable to put one foot in front of the other. Eventually and fortunately, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Unfortunately, I was unable to get out of bed without excruciating pain.
As the weeks went on, I became more despondent. At lactation support groups, on the streets of NYC, and on magazine covers, mothers with new babies appeared to be recovering much better than I was. I figured I must be doing something wrong and was terrified I would never get better. Somewhere in the postpartum haze someone mentioned a pelvic floor physical therapist that they thought might help. I mentioned this to my Ob-Gyn at my routine 6-week follow-up appointment and she skeptically provided me a prescription for physical therapy.
I remember sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapy clinic for my initial evaluation. It was the first time I had been a patient seeking rehabilitation since becoming a physical therapist. I was scared, in pain, weak, and hopeless. After talking to my physical therapist and telling her my story, I immediately felt like someone finally had understood what I was going through – and even more importantly, had a plan of how to help me. I remember deciding that I wanted to do for others what this wonderful woman was doing for me.
Since then I have taken numerous courses to advance my understanding of pelvic floor rehabilitation, had my second son (which required a longer rehabilitation for the same issue as the first – and then a little extra just to add a challenge), established the pelvic floor physical therapy rehabilitation program at New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University, treated well over a thousand different patients with pelvic floor dysfunction, earned my Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC) from the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute, and established a private pelvic floor rehabilitation clinic in Westchester, NY.
I treat both male and female patients with a variety of symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction. These include, but are not limited to, patients with urinary or fecal incontinence, difficulty urinating, urinary frequency, interstitial cystitis, chronic prostatitis, constipation, pelvic pain, painful sex, erectile dysfunction, coccyx (tailbone) pain, hip pain, lower back pain, diastasis recti (separation of abdominal wall muscles), pelvic organ prolapses, rehabilitation needs following colorectal or urogenital (including prostatectomy) cancer treatment, sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction, endometriosis, painful bladder syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, pudendal neuralgia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, and painful C-section or perineal scars.
My training and experience, pelvic floor related and otherwise, has allowed me to successfully treat many women and men who have had difficulty finding relief. In addition, although not a prerequisite for being a good physical therapist, the fact that I have suffered through significant pelvic floor dysfunction myself, has enhanced my expertise and treatment approaches, which seems to resonate with my patients.