Pelvic floor physical therapy is an area of specialization within the field of physical therapy. Since 1977 there has been a section of the American Physical Therapy Association that is dedicated to education and knowledge for physical therapists providing healthcare to women before, during and after pregnancy.
Urinary incontinence is one of those conditions that has been "normalized" by society. We've all seen the medication and incontinence pad commercials.
"I often hear from patients 'well, I've had kids and leaking urine while coughing or laughing is just part of having given birth'," professor Christine A. Cabelka, PhD, said. "Just because it's common does not mean it's normal." That's where pelvic health physical therapy can help.
"I cannot tell you how many times I've heard from patients 'I wish I knew that physical therapy could help with this,'" said Cabelka.
Over the years this specialization has evolved to the Academy of Pelvic Health and expanded their practice to include:
This type of therapist is a specialist in treating the areas of the pelvis, including vulvar, vaginal, penile, scrotum, and colorectal regions, and uses pelvic floor therapy. It is common for therapists to pursue education beyond their initial Doctor of Physical Therapy degree to gain expertise in various specialties.
To understand the complexity of how this all impacts an individual's function and movement they may specialize in gastrointestinal, reproductive/sexual, orthopedic, neurologic, dermatologic systems and other areas. There are also residency programs that provide mentored education in these areas, as well as the option to gain a board specialty certification in women's health physical therapy.
Once an entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is earned graduates then go on to take the National Physical Therapy Exam and then can pursue a women's health specialist certification. This career path takes approximately seven years to complete.
Jobs in physical therapy continue to increase and salaries for a physical therapist - women's health specialist average $88,437 according to PayScale.com. This is significantly higher than the $71,454 it reports for physical therapy generalists.
Now that you have a better idea of the opportunities that await you as a pelvic health therapist specializing in women's health, check out The College of St. Scholastica's Doctor of Physical Therapy program to learn more about how we can help prepare you for success. The program has twelve full-time faculty members and nine have specialist certifications. Christine A. Cabelka, PT, MPT, PhD is a board certified specialist in women's health physical therapy.