The Dao Does X Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week 2023 Journal Series ~
How Women’s Health Physio can support your Pelvic Floor and Associated Pain with Women’s Health Physiotherapists Charlotte Conlon and Heidi Barlow ~
Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment including Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine provides an evidence-based treatment for chronic pelvic pain management. The Traditional Chinese Medicine framework searches for the root cause in the presenting patient utilising individualised diagnosis and a treatment plan. Chronic pelvic pain can be driven by numerous factors including digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine support pelvic floor dysfunction including associated pelvic pain by increasing blood flow through the reproductive organs, regulating the HPO Axis to support hormone levels, decreasing inflammation and supporting overall quality of life. At The Dao Health, we support our patients with additional lifestyle and dietary advice, and supplementation support and utilise our integrative healthcare model by referring to other allied health practitioners, such as the team at Flow Physio Co.
When treating patients for their pelvic pain, pregnancies, and any other pelvic floor dysfunctions at The Dao Health we often support women in an integrative healthcare model. An integral member of this healthcare model is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist who supports women and their pelvic floor to prepare for pregnancy, support pain, and manage pelvic floor dysfunction. We often work with Charlotte Conlon, Heidi Barlow and the team at Flow Physio Co. to support our patients in this model. Clinically, the benefits of Women’s Health Physiotherapy alongside Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine & Dietary Therapy improve overall outcomes and quality of life for our patients.
Heidi Barlow has previously been a special guest on our Integrating Chinese Medicine podcast, episode on Exploring the Internal Pelvic Floor.
It is important to note that Acupuncture for Pelvic Pain and Women’s Health including Pregnancy should be practiced by an AHPRA-registered Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who is trained in Women’s Health and Pregnancy.
Women’s Health Physiotherapists, Charlotte Conlon & Heidi Barlow ~
Charlotte and Heidi both studied physiotherapy at the University of Sydney. Since then they have worked in private practice and developed a love for Women’s Health Physiotherapy. They are passionate about educating women about pelvic health and empowering them to seek treatment for symptoms that might be common but not normal.
Charlotte and Heidi have completed advanced courses in Women’s Health Physiotherapy, allowing them to help women of all ages achieve better pelvic health. They love treating women during pregnancy, helping them reduce their risk of birth trauma and guiding their safe return to exercise postpartum. They also treat women with chronic pelvic pain conditions and incontinence issues.
Both Charlotte and Heidi are big believers that movement is medicine and are both certified pilates instructors.
1. What does Women’s Health mean to you?
We are both extremely passionate about women’s health. As pelvic floor dysfunction can affect women across the lifespan we love being able to educate, inform and guide our patients of all ages through their rehabilitation.
2. What does Women’s Health Physiotherapy involve?
Women’s health physiotherapy involves the assessment and treatment of conditions that affect the structures in and around the pelvis. This can be anything from helping women with chronic pelvic pain conditions like endometriosis and adenomyosis to treating overactive bladder or chronic constipation. We also see women during their pregnancy to assess their pelvic floor and identify risk factors that may increase their likelihood of developing pelvic floor dysfunction following their birth. This allows us to address these during pregnancy to improve their birth outcomes.
In the postpartum period, we assess pelvic floor, bladder, bowel and sexual function and address any dysfunction as well as providing guidance for safe return to exercise.
For women with pelvic organ prolapse, we are addressing any pelvic floor dysfunction and may fit someone with a pessary to allow them to function normally without symptoms, and delay having surgery.
3. What are common symptoms that indicate that a woman should have a pelvic floor assessment?
We believe all women should have a pelvic floor assessment in their pregnancy to optimise their pelvic floor health and birthing outcomes. We assess not only their ability to perform a pelvic floor contraction but also for risk factors for postpartum pelvic floor dysfunction and to help make an informed decision regarding their choice of birth. We also believe that all women should have a postpartum assessment of the pelvic floor and abdominal wall to formulate a rehab and return to exercise plan and prevent/manage any pelvic floor dysfunctions.
Some common symptoms that indicate you should see a women’s health physio:
- Vaginal heaviness or bulging
- Urinary urgency, frequency or nocturia
- Urinary leakage
- Bowel urgency or faecal incontinence
- Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowel
- Recurrent UTI symptoms
- Pain with intercourse
- Pain with tampon or menstrual cup usage or inability to wear them
- Abdominal muscle separation
- Hip or back pain
- Chronic pelvic pain
4. How does Women’s Health physio support pelvic pain?
Often with Chronic pelvic pain, there is an element of pelvic floor muscle tightness, which can significantly worsen the pain. Our role as a women’s health physio is to assess for this tightness and treat it appropriately with a combination of manual and exercise therapy. Learning correct breathing techniques and hip and thoracic mobility can play a big role in decreasing pelvic floor tightness and pelvic pain. Pilates is a form of exercise we encourage a lot of our pelvic pain patients to do as it combines resistance training with mobility exercises that are focused around breathing.
5. What are your top three tips to maintain pelvic floor integrity?
- Learn how to correctly contract AND relax your pelvic floor muscles and maintain their strength and mobility by completing regular progressive exercises
- Look after your bladder and bowel health
- See a women’s health physio DURING pregnancy to reduce your risk of having birth trauma
Interviewed by Molly Burton
(BHlthSc (TCM), MWomHMed (current)