Three years ago, I visited my primary care physician to have a basic pelvic exam. I was anxious because I had never had a check up like this before but knew I needed one. I was especially anxious because I was not sexually active at the time and didn’t have any idea what to expect during this routine exam. It was incredibly painful. I didn’t have an exam that day. Having this type of pain made it very difficult to be intimate with anyone. In fact, I shied away from dating because I was embarrassed by this pain and felt like I would be burdening my partner with my medical condition.
Roughly a year later, I had my first gynecological exam and was immediately diagnosed with Vulvodynia and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD). My current gynecologist’s areas of interest focus on difficult gynecological exams due to vulvovaginal diseases and vulvodynia. She and I discussed my options for treatment. We agreed to start with relaxation techniques and visualization exercises.
Psychologically, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction took a toll on me. I felt as though there was something wrong with me. I found a therapist who specialized in PFD. Together, my new therapist and I continued working on visualization and relaxation techniques and talked about my frustrations
The relaxation and visualization exercises did not reduce my symptoms as much as I desired. Another option my gynecologist suggested was physical therapy. I had never heard of receiving physical therapy for this condition but was open to using this approach. I began researching local physical therapy offices and chose Marathon Physical Therapy which specializes in women’s health. I was instantly won over by their professionalism, knowledge, and approach to treating Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. I was comforted knowing that the physical therapists embraced every aspect of my diagnosis including the mental health piece. The staff at Marathon was so warm and friendly that all my reservations immediately went away when I arrived. During my first appointment, my physical therapist (PT) was so professional and kind I immediately began to feel confident in treating my condition. She was incredibly supportive and we quickly began discussing treatment options. Shortly after my appointment I attended a class run by my therapist and was surprised to see other women with the same condition; a couple of them were even my age! I was shocked to learn that this disorder is actually very common. During the class I was amazed to learn that various muscle groups were interconnected and could contribute to my symptoms. For instance, I did not realize that doing any form of abdominal crunch was actually tightening up the pelvic floor. My PT was wonderful in providing a functional plan of care to support my active lifestyle.
At each visit, she was calming and optimistic about the treatment, which in turn made me more hopeful and optimistic. Additionally, she’s been wonderful with communication and following up on appointments and checking in with at each appointment. With her ongoing guidance and support, I knew that this condition would only be a speed bump health wise, nothing more. Additionally, I began to feel more confident in telling people about what was going on with my body, especially my friends and family, who have been incredibly supportive. I began to look forward to my appointments because I knew I was making progress. The pain intensity grew to be more and more tolerable. If one exercise didn’t work, she always had another one ready to try. As time progressed, I began to feel confident about having a normal sex life. My PT even coached me on how to discuss Pelvic Floor Dysfunction with others. With my newfound confidence, I had very few reservations about telling my girlfriend, Katie, about Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and she has been wonderful, patient, and supportive about continuing my exercises. I’ve even developed an interest in learning about other types of Pelvic Floor issues. If it weren’t for my PT, the team at Marathon Physical Therapy, and the support of my loved ones, I am certain I would still be in the dark about my condition and a stranger to my own body. Thanks for everything!
"Pelvic floor physical therapy quite literally changed my life. I went because of my lifelong inability to have sex without pain, but when I say that I mean more specifically that I felt deeply broken, that I wasn't a whole woman, that I couldn't have a fulfilling relationship with someone I loved when I cringed every time he tried to touch me. It was even more than that - I associated sex with pain and horrible fear. My virginity was stolen by sexual assault, and as a survivor I felt like that fateful night had broken me forever.
My first day of therapy I met a physical therapist who I will forever remember as someone who changed my life in a fundamental way. She was warm, receptive, knowledgeable and completely sensitive to whatever boundaries I might have. I told her that my goals were to have sex without pain and to enjoy sex; these felt impossible on my first day. And for the next eight months, I worked really, really hard. I got a better understanding of my anatomy than most women ever have the courage to ask, and more importantly: when I felt pain, I could identify what it was, instead of just knowing it hurt and trying not to cry. That was astoundingly empowering.
I felt gradual improvement, and constant support from my therapist along the way. We did a lot of internal work, which is a little strange at first but if you've ever had a pelvic exam it's not too big a step from that, and eventually you just get used to it. I was surprised to see how many exercises I did on muscles that weren't in my pelvic floor; the interconnectedness of those nerves to the rest of your body is simply mind-blowing.
I cannot describe to you the joy I felt the first time I didn't feel some tiny cringe when the man I loved touched me, when for the first time in my life I wanted to have sex. Can you imagine? I'd been dating a man for a year and for the first time I experienced something that didn't feel like another rape."