I graduated as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in May 2006 and dove straight into the world of rehabilitation through my work in a skilled nursing facility.
I loved working with the elderly but had a hard time with a few things I saw over and over again. The first was a general distaste for exercise among my patients. The men and women I worked with were recovering from surgeries, falls, strokes, cardiac issues, etc… Of course they didn’t want to exercise. They were in pain --- movement hurt! I understood that.
However, I started noticing a trend: the patients who were accustomed to exercise and ACCEPTING of exercise as a part of their rehabilitation process got better and left the facility sooner. They recovered from their hip surgeries, their balance improved… In general, they were heartier! Those who weren’t accustomed to regular movement suffered. Their balance was poor. Their slow recovery process meant less functional movement and more time confined to bed.
I also noticed an interesting trend related to toilet habits: less walking equated with more incontinence. This seems like a no-brainer, but it was a “lightbulb” moment for me. I began looking twice at research related to pelvic health and incontinence and found that, indeed, incontinence was highly correlated to disuse of the muscles of the core, hips, and pelvic floor. My interest in the field of women’s health physical therapy was piqued.
After the birth of my baby and my own struggle with pelvic floor concerns, I switched gears and decided to focus my career completely on women’s health physical therapy. I landed in a clinic that was dedicated to the practice of women’s health/pelvic floor rehab and saw, over and over again, the need for education and open discussion about pelvic floor concerns. I can’t tell you how many times I heard any combination of the following statements:
“You mean I’m not the only one who deals with ____???” (fill in the blank- from pain with intercourse to incontinence to pelvic organ prolapse…)
“Well of course I pee a little when I sneeze… isn’t that normal?”
“Do you think I could have prevented this surgery?” (prolapse correction, surgery for back pain, etc.)
“If only I had known this type of physical therapy earlier!”
“I have to tell my friends about this — they have the same problem!”
Talking with women both inside and outside of my physical therapy practice made me realize how common it is for females to develop problems with pelvic floor health & fitness and how many women could benefit from basic information about their core muscles, INCLUDING the pelvic floor. I became inspired to create a fitness program that addressed strength and fitness from the inside out, targeting not only the outer muscles that everyone sees, but also the internal (pelvic floor) muscles that are the basis of continence, sexual health, and stability.
Most importantly, I wanted to make it FUN. I recalled the general distaste for exercise I’d noted in the skilled nursing facility where I began my physical therapy career as well as the long-term implications of poor physical fitness… a slower recovery time when strength and “heartiness” is critical to rehab success.
I decided to forge a new path through which I could reach a broader audience. I wanted to spread my passion for pelvic health and help make the terms “pelvic floor,” “female core,” and “kegels” mainstream and not blush or giggle-worthy… In essence, I wanted to educate females about their pelvic floors BEFORE they needed a referral to a women’s health physical therapist.
In addition to my clinical practice as a women’s health physical therapist, I began blogging about topics related to pelvic floor health and wellness, and I created a unique fitness program for women called "FemFusion Fitness." Through community education, fitness instruction, and individual/small group fitness and wellness coaching, I began sharing my knowledge and passion about the importance of accessing, protecting, and strengthening the pelvic floor during all stages of a woman’s life.
Through my work as a women's health physical therapist and a women's fitness expert, I have found that once women allow themselves to open up and discuss their pelvic floor concerns, the stories flow and the need for education and preventive wellness unfolds.
I feel blessed to be following my passion, which I never thought would be related to kegels and incontinence… but it is. And I’m loving every minute of it. Please visit me at www.femfusionfitness.com, and "like" FemFusion on Facebook at www.facebook.com/femfusionfitness!
Note: This is a revised version of an article originally published on the Women's Health Foundation Community Blog in March 2010. To see the original article, click here: http://womenshealthfoundation.org/blog/?p=443
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