Physical Therapy For Women Treats More Than Injuries

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Physical or occupational therapy is usually associated with recovery from an accident or illness. But it can also be used to combat conditions that pose special problems for women such as post-mastectomy complications, osteoporosis, incontinence and pelvic pain.

Physiotherapy Associates of Rim Country has a new program to help with these conditions, called Women's Health Physical Therapy.

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Therapists Deborah Tiffany, left, and Karie Waters, along with Stacey Foote Wilson (not pictured) have incorporated a new specialty at Physiotherapy Associates of Rim Country: Women's Health Physical Therapy.

Therapists Deborah Tiffany, Karie Waters and Stacey Foote Wilson all have taken special training to help women with these particular conditions. Each client will be given a personalized program, geared to her special needs.

"It is a much-needed service that has not been available before," Wilson said.

The post-mastectomy conditions most often helped by physical therapy treatment are restoring range of motion and addressing lymphodema. Following a mastectomy, a woman is often required to keep her arms close to her body during recovery. This can result in a loss of the range of motion in the joints of the arm. Physical therapy can restore it.

Another common complication is swelling of the arm after the removal of lymph nodes during a mastectomy and clogging due to the static position of the arm during recovery. This can also be addressed through therapy, Tiffany said.

With osteoporosis clients, therapists will work closely with the patient's doctor. An evaluation will be conducted by the therapists to assess the condition and develop a treatment program.

Wilson wants to do a variety of outreach programs on osteoporosis.

"When you start losing estrogen (in menopause) you start losing bone mass," she said. However, there are preventative measures that can be taken before the onset of osteoporosis to limit the risk and decrease its debilitating effects.

Among these:

  • Get a bone scan during your 30s to get a baseline reading on your skeletal condition.
  • Incorporate weight-bearing exercises and calcium-rich foods into your life -- both can help reduce bone loss and help gain bone mass.

Stress and urge incontinence are two very common forms of incontinence that can be treated with physical therapy.

Stress incontinence occurs when a person coughs, sneezes, laughs or exercises. Urge incontinence occurs when the person has a strong need to urinate, even though the bladder is not full.

Treatments through physical therapy include guidelines to reduce bladder irritability, techniques in bladder training and exercise to strengthen the muscles involved.

Biofeedback equipment is sometimes used to assist in assessing the function of the pelvic floor muscles and to help train the muscles to contract or relax as needed to improve function.

Pelvic pain is a general term used to describe pain that is anywhere in the pelvic region, such as pain during intercourse, deep pelvic pain that occurs during the menstrual cycle, coccyx pain and pain surrounding the genitalia or vulva.

All of these pain symptoms can be evaluated by the therapist and if physical therapy is warranted, a treatment plan will be developed.

Pelvic pain may be referred from the low back. A quick screen of the spine is done to rule out pelvic pain caused by problems of the low back. If the screen reveals dysfunction in the lumbar spine, a different treatment plan can be developed.

Tiffany, Waters and Wilson have more than 50 years of experience among them in physical therapy. They will have a public outreach program on osteoporosis with demonstrations and time for questions and answers, as well as an overview presentation on the condition from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan 16. Those interested in attending are asked to call Physiotherapy Associates of Rim Country at (928) 474-8006. The clinic will be held at 127 E. Main Street, Suite D, in Payson.

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