Women's Health Physical Therapy
Welcome to the Northwestern Medical Group Women’s Health Physical Therapy practice. Our team of highly skilled, compassionate, and experienced providers are eager to assist you with your therapy needs.
Northwestern Medicine offers an interdisciplinary approach to pelvic health that includes obstetrics and gynecology, urogynecology, urology, colorectal surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation and physical therapy.
What do we treat?
Our physical therapists are trained to evaluate and treat a wide variety of women’s health issues including those that affect bladder, bowel, and sexual function as well as many forms of pain. We also specialize in the treatment of pregnancy and postpartum-related issues including musculoskeletal pain, preparation for delivery, and postpartum healing. Many of these issues can be of a sensitive nature and may be difficult or embarrassing to discuss with a medical professional. We are here to help! We look forward to working with you and helping you reach your personal goals so that you can get back to doing the activities that you want to do.
What can you expect at your physical therapy appointments?
When you arrive for your first physical therapy appointment, you and your therapist will begin by discussing your concerns, your medical history, and your goals for treatment. You may be asked questions about your current symptoms, preferred activities and lifestyle, and bathroom habits. Each session will take place one-on-one in a closed treatment room to ensure privacy. Following the initial discussion, your therapist will perform a physical exam based on your diagnosis and current symptoms. This exam may include any of the following components: upright posture; breathing pattern; alignment or mobility of your spine and pelvis; flexibility of your hip, back, and leg muscles; strength of your abdominals, hips, and pelvic floor; mobility of the soft tissue of your abdominal wall, hips, and any surgical scars; and pelvic floor muscle tone and function.
Many of the issues that we treat can be due in part to dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles. You can learn more about these muscles below. Sometimes, these muscles may be too tight, too weak, painful, or uncoordinated. With your permission, we will perform an external and internal exam of the pelvic floor muscles to determine their strength, level of tension, coordination, and mobility. Depending on your symptoms, this exam may be performed either vaginally or rectally with your therapist inserting one finger internally. If you have a history of pain with gynecologic exams or vaginal penetration and an internal pelvic floor muscle assessment is not possible at your first visit, we will work with you to determine the appropriate time to attempt the internal assessment.
Following the physical exam, your therapist will summarize their findings and relay their recommendations for subsequent treatment. You will likely be prescribed some exercises to practice at home which will be an important part of the treatment plan. These exercises may include stretches, breathing exercises, strengthening, or pain relief positions that will complement the work you continue with your therapist during your follow up visits. Patients are typically scheduled for once weekly visits for approximately 12 sessions. The amount of sessions that a patient ultimately needs will differ immensely from person to person. Your therapist will regularly communicate with you in regards to your progress and may recommend adjusting or supplementing your scheduled visits as needed.
Subsequent therapy visits in the clinic may include a variety of treatment techniques that are individualized to your current condition and your goals. Our clinic strives to provide high-quality, cost-effective, and patient-focused care. Some of the interventions that may be included in your plan of care are manual therapy techniques to address joint mobility or soft tissue restrictions, strengthening, neuromuscular re-education, behavioral modifications, bladder retraining, postural education, core stabilization, biofeedback, dry needling, or electrical stimulation for weak or overactive muscles.
Please bring a completed copy of the Physical Therapy Screening Questionnaire to your first appointment.
Physical Therapy Screening Questionnaire (PDF): English | Spanish
Why choose us?
The therapists of the Northwestern Medical Group Women’s Heath Physical Therapy practice are one member of a team of healthcare providers that are working together to help you reach your goals and best outcomes. We communicate directly with your referring physician, and we also collaborate with an extensive network of other providers including specialty physicians and mental health therapists for sexual health, postpartum support, and digestive health concerns.
Why is pelvic floor physical therapy important?
Each year, pelvic floor disorders affect millions of women. More people are seeking help for issues that impact pelvic health, such as bowel and bladder changes or pain during sexual activities. These conditions may arise due to pregnancy or childbirth, following surgery or as part of the natural aging process. However, you do not have to live with the discomfort of embarrassment caused by these issues. You can find the assistance, guidance and compassionate care you need from Northwestern Medicine’s specialized physical therapists.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles located at the bottom of the pelvis which serves several important functions in our body. The muscles extend from front to back and form a sling-like structure that is comprised of three different layers.
First, these muscles help to support our internal pelvic organs which include the bladder, uterus, and rectum. While pregnant, these muscles also help to support the weight of your growing baby. Poor support of these organs can lead to pelvic organ prolapse or the sensation that something is falling out of your vagina or rectum. You may also experience pain or a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis or abdomen.
Second, these muscles surround the external openings of the urethra, vagina and anus. These muscles are very involved in controlling urination and defecation as well as releasing or holding back gas. If the pelvic floor muscles are too weak or too tight to function properly, a person may experience issues with leakage of urine, stool, or gas. Conversely, a person may also experience difficulty or pain with passing urine, stool, or gas.
Third, these muscles are involved in sexual function. The pelvic floor muscles contract and relax during arousal in order to promote adequate blood flow to the genital area. Muscles that are dysfunctional can lead to decreased sensation during sexual activity, difficulty achieving orgasm or a weakened orgasm, or pain with arousal.
Fourth, the pelvic floor muscles have attachments via connective tissue to the deep muscles of the abdominal wall (known as the transversus abdominis). The pelvic floor works with our deep abdominal muscles, our low back muscles (multifidus), and our diaphragm to provide stability to our spine and pelvis when we move. Muscles that are not working properly can lead to poor stability, low back pain, or pain of the joints of the pelvis which are the pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joints.
Conditions We Treat
Learn about common conditions and diagnoses that affect the pelvic floor muscles and pelvic health.
Physical Therapy Treatments
Learn about treatment techniques used by our physical therapists.
Meet Our Team
We are a highly skilled group of physicians, midwives, nurse practitioners, and women’s health physical therapists, offering compassionate, evidence-based health care to women of all ages.
Physical Therapy Cesarean Section Clinic
Learn about cesarean section recovery and how the Northwestern Medicine physical therapy team can help.