Recently, I attended a continuing education class at Marquette University titled Sexual Health and Pelvic Pain: Rehabilitation Strategies for Pelvic Floor Clinicians. I’m always excited to come back and share these experiences with our colleagues. As physical therapists who also specialize in pelvic floor PT, our work puts us in a unique position to encounter a variety of questions and concerns about sexual function and wellness. This class provided valuable information and resources for Lynn and I to be able to communicate and make recommendations for patients having pain or difficulty with arousal or sexual intercourse.
As pelvic floor therapists, knowledge of what is happening hormonally to affect the health of the vaginal tissues can really benefit our overall treatment goals. Postmenopausal women often have difficulty navigating what kind of lubrication or vaginal moisturizer to use, or knowing whether or not they should begin hormone replacement therapy. Understanding the physiology of arousal and sexual intercourse allows us to be able to explain to our patients whether what they are feeling is normal or not normal and how it can be helped. We discussed as examples many conditions that can contribute to sexual dysfunction; e.g., cancer patients who have had radiation to the pelvis and are often left with scarred tissue and resulting sexual dysfunction and pain.
This class also addressed issues faced by men. Men who have had a prostatectomy often suffer from erectile dysfunction. From the perspective of a physical therapist, we see that while surgeons will provide medicine as a treatment option, patients are often left with many questions and little education about their condition. Men, in particular, may be hesitant to ask questions and seek more clinical help. We learned a good deal about the physiology of erectile dysfunction and how treatment can address this condition effectively. Even in cases where physical therapy may not be the most effective treatment, we’ll be able to direct them to helpful resources.
We learned about a sexuality resource and education center in Madison, WI called A Woman’s Touch. Founded by a medical director, Dr. Myrtle Willhite and Ellen Barnard, a social worker specializing in sex therapy, the goal of this facility is to provide free education to patients as well as to therapists working with patients.