Published on July 07, 2019

Pelvic Physical Therapy – A Surprising Road to Relief

by Kim Wood

Roberta had looked forward to retirement and long motorcycle rides with friends. However, her frequent restroom breaks were making these outings more and more stressful.  Her friends gifted her with a sticker for her motorcycle helmet that read, “Get out of my way; I need to pee.”  Of course, she’d joke along with them, but deep down she was embarrassed.

Roberta was suffering from overactive bladder and urinary stress incontinence.  One quarter to one-third of men and women in the US suffer from urinary incontinence.  Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control and, while common, is often embarrassing.  Many never seek help as they think there is nothing that can be done, making it an emotional burden interfering with everyday life. It is more common in women than in men. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are major contributors along with frequent heavy lifting and constipation.  

Roberta went to her doctor for her annual checkup.  She told him that she often experienced sudden urges to urinate – the ones you can’t control. She couldn’t walk from her house to her dog kennel without being overcome with them.

She also shared that she had experienced pain in her abdomen for two years.  The pain began progressing from her hips and down through her legs until she could no longer sleep through the night. Her doctor observed that her pelvic muscles were very tight and tender.  That’s when he recommended Pelvic Physical Therapy.

The pelvic floor muscles are a layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. When your pelvic floor muscles are tight or weak, the tissues around the affected area may experience irritation as well, leading to the persistent abdominal, low back and hip pain as Roberta was experiencing. 

Roberta had never heard of pelvic physical therapy and frankly had her doubts, but was willing to try almost anything.  She was already taking anti-inflammatories in excess and had previously been misdiagnosed with bursitis, undergoing steroid shots that proved ineffective.  She even once thought that she had ovarian cancer because the pain and spasms were so severe.

Specially trained physical therapists perform pelvic physical therapy.  It can help with many forms of pelvic pain and reduce symptoms associated with multiple pelvic problems including urinary incontinence, constipation, and sexual dysfunction.  Roberta began therapy with Nancy Meesey, Physical Therapist at Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) Rehabilitation Services.  Meesey has over 20 years of experience and is specially trained in Pelvic Physical Therapy.

Nancy taught Roberta urinary urge control techniques using muscle contractions and deep breathing.  She learned breath and muscle control, managing her incontinence rather than it controlling her.  Nancy found areas of tension in Roberta’s abdomen and pelvis and used manual therapy techniques to release these.  In a matter of weeks, Roberta was able to sleep through the night and didn’t have any hip pain.  “The first night that I slept through the night, I thought, Wow, I could’ve been doing this two years ago,” exclaimed Roberta.

Roberta saw Nancy for five visits over two and a half weeks.  By her second visit, she was no longer waking at night to urinate.  By visit number three, she needed only one pantiliner in 24 hours, and it was staying dry nearly all day.  By visit number five, just two weeks into therapy, she was free of bowel or bladder issues and was nearly pain-free in her lower back.

Nancy says that when she sees a client with urinary incontinence, most of the time there is also a history of constipation.  Once that is improved, clients usually begin to see an improvement in their ability to hold urine within about two weeks.  “Roberta improved much more quickly as she was excellent at putting the techniques into practice, had a pretty healthy diet already, and was very consistent with her exercises,” said Meesey.

Roberta says that it was such a relief working with Nancy and that she would recommend  Nancy and Pelvic Therapy to anyone.  “There was just a multitude of things she taught me to do, changes that made a huge difference,” said Roberta.  “Skills that anyone can learn and practice.”  She says that Nancy puts you immediately at ease when discussing such personal issues.  Nancy’s facility dog, Hakuna, also provides welcome stress relief with his friendly wag and calm demeanor. (Nancy trained with Canine Companions for Independence to become a service dog facilitator. Facility dogs are expertly trained and are trustworthy in professional environments. They can perform over 40 commands designed to motivate, inspire and comfort clients.)

Both men and women should be aware that any type of pelvic pain is not normal, and they should seek medical attention sooner rather than later.  You don’t have to live with pain or the shame and inconvenience of incontinence. Pelvic Physical Therapy may sound unusual, but it can be a powerful road to relief.

Nancy Meesey is a Physical Therapist with over 20 years of experience. She treats all conditions and specializes in pelvic health, which treats conditions including pelvic and abdominal pain, sexual dysfunction, and bowel or bladder dysfunction. She treats pelvic conditions for men, women, and children of any age.  Meesey practices at OMC Mountain Grove.  For more information, please call OMC Rehabilitation Services at 417-257-5959.

OMC Rehabilitation Services takes a team approach to meeting each patient's therapy needs. In cases when a patient requires more than one rehabilitation service, all therapists work together with the patient and his or her family to develop and carry out the best possible plan for achieving therapy goals.  Physical Therapists Nancy Meesey and Emily Streit specialize in pelvic health. With Streit practicing in West Plains and Meesey practicing in Mountain Grove, OMC is able to provide more convenience for clients to find a practitioner closer to home.

Ozarks Medical Center is a system of care encompassing eight primary care and 16 specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home care services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire medical system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually, in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

Physical Therapist Nancy Meesey w/therapy dog Hakuna

Nancy Meesey, Physical Therapist; with Hakuna, Certified Facility Animal; OMC Rehabilitation Services.

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