Pelvic floor rehabilitation is most often thought of in relation to women, especially those who have given birth. But men who experience pelvic floor problems sometimes don’t realize there’s help available to them if they’ve had trouble finding relief, or, in David’s case, have endured failed procedures and mystified doctors.
Severe pelvic pain had created roadblocks in all aspects of David’s life. He suffered through each day and had no energy for activities outside of work. Even sitting on the couch was painful.
Constant pain began to affect his family. His wife said his condition meant she had to do a lot of things by herself.
“Everything that we did in our life was sort of centered around the pain that you were feeling,” she told her husband.
After David opened up about his struggle with pelvic pain, he shared the treatment that’s given him relief: pelvic rehabilitation. It can help treat pain, athletic injuries, trouble going to the bathroom and other issues caused by weakness in the muscles of the pelvis.
Pain between your hips is most common among women after childbirth. (If that applies to you, take this quiz to see if pelvic rehab can help you.) But David’s struggle to find effective treatment shows not enough people know it’s an option for men, too.
In his case, his pain seemed untreatable, and many of his doctors weren’t able to help.
‘It’s in Your Head’
Because many disorders may be at the root of pelvic pain, finding its cause can be a challenge.
When doctors failed to identify the source of David’s pain, some suggested that it was all in his head, as if not thinking about his pain would make it go away.
“It was very frustrating because I went to them for help and [they said] ‘It’s in your head’ or ‘There’s nothing wrong, we can’t find anything,’” he said. But there was something wrong. And as the months, years and unsuccessful surgeries passed, he felt as if he had to just accept the pain.
Pain is one problem that pelvic rehab can help with, but some others include:
● Abdominal (stomach area) pain
● Athletic injury
● Constipation (trouble going to the bathroom)
● Pelvic or uterine prolapse (when an organ slips out of place)
● Urinary or fecal leakage
● Overactive bladder or frequent urge to use the bathroom
David’s wife could never be sure what would set off his pain, and eventually started doing more on her own.
“And I had to walk on eggshells a little bit because I wasn’t sure exactly how you were feeling at that moment,” she said. “That was kind of isolating.”
Listening to her, David called that a “tough four years.”
Pain-Free After Rehab
David says even his original doctor wasn’t aware that pelvic therapy was an option for men. He had seen other therapists before Heather at AdventHealth, but she was different. She was “someone who would listen.”
Pelvic rehab focuses on strengthening the muscles at the base of your hips. Though we can’t see them like we can see our abs or biceps, they’re critical for our everyday health. They support our colon and bladder, so we can’t use the bathroom without them.
A pelvic floor physical therapist heals largely through movement, including exercises to help your pelvic muscles grow stronger and more flexible.
“Breaking that cycle of pain through therapy was the key,” David said. “For the most part I am pain-free now with the course that I’m on.”
The physical therapists care about your whole health. That could mean helping you change the food you eat, cut down on stress or use high-tech tools like biofeedback to monitor how your muscles react as you try to flex or relax them.
Bringing Them Closer
Though it challenged their relationship, David’s struggles with pelvic pain eventually helped him grow closer to his wife. Even though doctors didn’t always hear him, she was one person who did.
“You didn’t get frustrated when suddenly our lifestyle changed 180 degrees,” he told her. She agrees that the experience made them closer.
“The whole ordeal, it really bonded us more,” his wife said. They are, nonetheless, glad it’s in the rear-view mirror.
“I just can’t imagine where I’d be if it wasn’t for my health team,” he said. “I’d probably still be on the couch.”
“I’m thankful for them,” his wife said of his AdventHealth team, “because I have my husband back.”
If your story sounds a bit like David’s — if you or a loved one have hip pain or any other pelvic problems — we want to be your partner in feeling whole again. If you’d like to learn more about pelvic rehab or want to schedule an appointment, please visit the Sports Med and Rehab website.