If you suffer from a pelvic floor disorder, you’re no doubt familiar with the pain and discomfort that can accompany it, along with the feelings of embarrassment or isolation that many patients report.


You’re not alone. These disorders are more common than you think, and the good news is that pelvic health physical therapy, offered at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, can help manage and, in some cases, alleviate the symptoms of these debilitating conditions.


Studies show that as many as one in four women suffer from a pelvic floor disorder. The most common problem is urinary incontinence, along with fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual dysfunction and pelvic muscular issues. A well-designed pelvic health physical therapy program can reduce pain and give patients improved bladder control by identifying the problem muscles and increasing their strength and coordination through individualized exercise treatment.


“A lot of patients are afraid to admit – even to their doctor – that they’re suffering from pain or incontinence, or they’re afraid they’ll need surgery,” said pelvic health specialist Kristyn Richard, PT, DPT, board-certified physical therapist at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “So they just live with their symptoms and find ways to manage them by using adult diapers or medication. Fortunately, we have a proven alternative for patients struggling with these problems. Our pelvic health physical therapy program is extremely effective in treating both pain and incontinence, and some patients even see improvements after one session.”


Richard says that pelvic floor disorders have increased in both women and men in recent years. The number of American women with at least one pelvic floor disorder is expected to increase to 43.8 million in 2050, up from 28.1 million in 2010, and the number of women with urinary incontinence is expected to increase by 55 percent.


Physical therapy treatments for pelvic floor disorders begin with an examination and review of the patient’s medical history, symptoms and how long they’ve been experiencing the problem.


From there, Richard uses a variety of methods to train the patient to enhance their pelvic floor muscle function and coordinate these muscles with their abdominal muscles. Pelvic health physical therapy typically involves one to two sessions a week for four to 12 weeks.


“We want our patients to get the most out of their physical therapy, so we encourage them to take the lessons home and integrate these exercises in their day-to-day activities,” said Richard. “Pelvic floor exercises are great because you can do them while sitting at your desk, cooking in the kitchen or even lying in bed at night. I also encourage patients to make lifestyle changes that can ease stress on the bladder, such as avoiding irritants like caffeine and spicy or acidic foods. We work with the patient to develop an easy and effective treatment plan so they can begin seeing improvement and feel like they’re taking control of their lives again."


To schedule an appointment with Kristyn Richard, call 281.275.0450. Physician referral is required. Visit houstonmethodist.org/therapy-sl to learn more about therapy services offered at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.