What to expect from a pelvic health assessment with Jennie Hughes
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming because there's so much information out there in terms of health and wellness. At Nixi we love working with experts, so we ensure our advice is grounded in fact and evidence. We spoke to Jennie Hughes who is the founder of FourTherapy which she created to combine the four specialities of her profession - women's health physiotherapy, men’s health physiotherapy, acupuncture and Pilates.
Thanks Jennie for your time today. First up can you tell us a bit about what incontinence is and why so many women experience it?
‘Incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine or faeces. There are many different causes. One of the main causes being pregnancies, and after vaginal deliveries because of pelvic floor muscle weakness or damage. Other causes can include chronic constipation, obesity, hormonal changes during the menopause, infections and pelvic floor dysfunctions (weakness or overactivity of the muscles).’
Many of us might have considered seeing a pelvic floor health physio but are unclear on the benefits it might offer. Can you tell us a bit more about why it’s something that could be useful?
‘The main benefit of seeing a specialised pelvic health physiotherapist is because they can accurately assess and treat your pelvic floor muscles. They can ensure you are completing your pelvic floor exercises correctly. They can also treat other muscular imbalances and ensure that the whole core cylinder is working properly. A pelvic health physiotherapist also treats all things bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction related too.’
Sometimes the barrier to booking an appointment with a pelvic floor physio might be that we’re worried about what’s going to happen. Can you give us some pointers on what to expect from our first consultation with a pelvic floor health physio?
‘So an initial appointment will always start with a conversation in a private setting. You will be listened to without judgment. A thorough history is taken on the current problem covering all aggravating and easing factors. I’ll ask you a range of questions about your problem to ensure we have a good understanding of what's happening.’
And what would you say to women who might feel embarrassed about talking about their symptoms?
‘It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit embarrassed! For some people, talking about these symptoms can be upsetting or embarrassing, but talking is a great first step in finding help and support. The physical assessment would generally include a full musculoskeletal examination of the lower back, pelvis and hips. Your muscles will be assessed in these areas and your core cylinder will be assessed too which includes your diaphragm and abdominal muscles. An internal examination is also offered to assess the pelvic floor muscles. Consent will be discussed and gained prior to any physical assessment.’
So it’s clear that everything is discussed ahead of time- that’s good news!
Finally what can women do today to improve their pelvic floor health and prevent bladder leaks from occurring?
‘I’d say there are a few areas that women can work on to improve their pelvic floor health and these would be: drinking enough water (1.5-2 litres daily), staying active (so aiming to do some physical exercise each day), ensuring bowel movements are regular and easy (to avoid constipation and straining), taking deep breaths regularly throughout the day and starting with some pelvic floor squeezes and releases. This is a holistic approach that should help women in the long run.’
Thanks Jennie. To find out more about what Four Therapy offers click through to their website.