Apparently I am not the only one looking for a good physical therapist. I have gotten several e-mails from people in different parts of the country looking for PT’s that treat pelvic floor dysfunction. The bad news is that there aren’t a lot of us out there. The good news is, there is a growing trend in physical therapy to make these conditions part of the entry level curriculum (inspiring young therapists); and, the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) has just authorized a clinical specialty in Women’s Health, which will include pelvic floor dysfunctions. The test won’t be available until 2008, but how exciting that this area is progressing so fast. How do you find someone now? Start with your support groups. The Interstitial Cystitis Network; Interstitial Cystitis Association; and National Vulvodynia Association; all have referral resources, some you have to e-mail, others post the information on their sites. The Section on Women’s Health(SoWH) of the APTA has a member directory. You will need to go to the consumer section, hit the pull down and click on “locate a therapist.” This will give you a regional map, in some cases broken down by state. Click on a name in your area. This will give you an e-mail address to the regional or state coordinator. E-mail this person with a specific question, and they should get back to you with some answers. A few cautions – not all SoWH members work with pelvic floor dysfunctions. Some are interested students, some work primarily with incontinence, or obstetrics, or osteoporosis, etc. The regional/state director should be able to match you up with someone that will fit your needs, but they do not necessarily know the specifics on each of their members. Of course, there are really good therapists that are not on any of these lists. To be on these lists you have to provide information, or in some cases be a paying member, and not all great therapists are good marketers. Now what? You either have a list of therapists, or you have a phone book, but you still are not sure where to go. So – go shopping. This is probably going to be a pretty long-term relationship, and you need as much information as possible before you get started. 1st - If you are cold-calling out of a phone book, the front office person should know if they do “pelvic floor therapy.” If they do, ask to speak to the therapist that specializes in pfd. You may have to wait a few days for a call back. 2nd – When talking to the therapist, go over these points:
If you are male, or calling about a child, make sure that the therapist is comfortable (i.e. experienced) with that demographic
If you have constraints such as traveling a great distance, having to pay out of pocket beyond your means, or limited time availability, ask if the therapist is willing to teach you to self-treat, and work within your availability/budget.
Ask if they do biofeedback. If the answer is yes, ask if they do “down-training.” Not all therapists do a lot of biofeedback, it’s a professional preference. If they do not, it does not necessarily mean you will get sub-standard care. If they do biofeedback and you have a tight, spasming, painful, or uncoordinated pelvic floor, you want them to do “down-training”.
How many of their patients have chronic pelvic pain? How many have pelvic floor dysfunction? These questions are redundant, but some times they trigger different thought processes in the PT.
Do you do internal pelvic floor work? How do you determine if it is appropriate or necessary?
Do you treat trigger points? Will you teach me to self-treat? (only ask this question if you want to be responsible for that part of your care)
Will I have exercises and activities that I do at home? (This should be yes)
If treatment is making my symptoms worse – how will you determine that it is time to try something new?
Once you have found the right therapist, set up the appointment, but if at all possible do a "drive by" before your appointment. Ask if there is paperwork to fill out, and if it would be OK to pick it up in advance. For one, this will help eliminate any anxiety about getting there on time, knowing where to park, etc. Mostly, it will give you a feel for the office. Are the people friendly, is it clean and pleasant? Will you be able to relax and concentrate on getting better? In short - is it a good fit for you? If any of you find really good therapists out there, let me know, I am trying to build a database. Right now I am looking for therapists in Madison, WI; Kennewick, WA; and Charlottesville, VA.