Tell us about yourself as if your best friend is introducing you. What makes you YOU?
I love quiet nights at home with my husband and two girls just as much as I enjoy a night out with friends. I live in a Victorian home but have a wardrobe that is pretty much exclusively hand dyed bamboo and hand knit rustic sweaters. When I am not going to bluegrass music festivals, you might find me hanging out at the South Haven Yacht Club. Dang, do I sound like a Gemini or what?
When you were younger, did you think you'd be doing this work? Where did you expect your life to take you, and is that where you ended up?
After my first trip to Chicago around the age of 7 or 8 I told my parents that I wanted to be a taxi driver. Then from around the ages 10-15, I was going to be a chef and probably a Food Network star. I met my physical therapist as an injured high school runner and from that point knew that I wanted to be a PT and that I would most likely work with professional athletes. Turns out there are other exciting fields in PT in addition to sports medicine.
What ignited your passion for women's health? Was it a personal, educational, professional experience -- or something else?
To be honest, I don’t remember exactly why I signed up for my first pelvic floor course as a third-year PT student, but after that course, I was hooked. The physiology of everything is just so dang cool and the fact that so many pelvic conditions can be improved with movement, manual therapy, and education is even cooler! I have had some truly great mentors along the way and often find myself thinking "would Sandy approve of this explanation" or "how would Susan modify this."
Many women feel uncomfortable discussing sexual and pelvic health issues. What do you say to these women? How and why should they approach these topics with their healthcare providers?
Please do not keep a problem to yourself because you are embarrassed to bring it up. Most likely your health care provider has heard it before and will handle whatever you told them with respect to you and your situation. If your provider makes you feel uncomfortable or is not helpful with your problem, then that is on them. It may be time to think about switching providers.
Here is a helpful tip that I heard a while back. - So you have an appointment coming up with your doctor and you want to tell them that you have pain when you orgasm and it lasts for a couple of hours after. You really want to bring it up because you are concerned about it and it has been going on for 6 months now but you think that you may be too embarrassed to do so. Write it down on a piece of paper and hand it to the doctor. Often this can be easier than saying the words but it can still spark a conversation and hopefully lead to a solution for you.
Some women are a bit intimidated by the idea of seeing a pelvic physical therapist. Can you help demystify what these treatments entail for our readers?
I would love to give an example of what my first few sessions may look like. There are many PTs out there that practice similar to me and others who have a different approach. The main thing is that, as the patient, you feel comfortable and confident with the direction your care is going. If you have questions, concerns or requests please let them be known.
On this first visit, I often will spend at least 30 minutes talking with the patient about their history and their current problem. From there I often have a discussion with the patient about what it sounds like may be going on and about the things I would like to examine and assess. We will also have a brief or sometimes lengthy lesson on relevant anatomy and physiology.
I then explain the examination and give options. For example, if you are coming to me with a complaint of pain with sex then most likely at some time I will need to examine your pelvic floor muscles vaginally or rectally but that exam often takes place on the 3rd or 4th visit. It is also important to note that it doesn’t happen at all if the patient does not fully consent to it. There is so much that a PT can help you with without every doing an internal exam so please never let that stop you from seeking care.
In my clinic, an internal assessment involves inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into the vagina (sometimes anus) and assessing the patient’s response to light pressure at a shallow depth first. If there is pain, then I will guide some breathing exercises and sometimes introduce movement to reduce pain. If the pain eases, then we proceed with the exam. If the pain stays pretty intense or increases then we stop the internal exam and discuss attempting it again next session.
My treatments are not mysterious or complicated at all. I see education as the foundation, and from there we layer on good breathing strategies, movement, and hands-on care that allows your nervous system to make some cool changes. We will talk through specific issues and really try to get to the bottom of why you may have trouble going poop or why you may be feeling like you need to urinate every hour.
Tell us about your patients. Who are they, and what brings them to your office?
I work with an awesome variety of people mostly women between 20 and 80 years old. These women have complaints of pelvic pain, bowel leakage, constipation, and urine leaks. This is so exciting and new, but some women are even coming to see me in pregnancy without any issues but with the goal of optimizing their pregnancy and birth.
We often say at Inspire Santé that females are strong as hell. How have you seen this exemplified in your practice?
Every day I see women that are strong as hell. One woman I recently worked with wore her baby in a front carry for three months straight because he has reflux and he was more comfortable being close to mom. He was not a small baby. Another woman worked two full-time jobs most of her life. At retirement age she kept one full-time job and is currently working 50 hours per week. She managed to fit sessions with me and home exercises into her busy week and was able to completely cure her bowel leaks. Oh, and I have to mention a current patient who has had more than 10 babies!
Where can women learn more about you?
Facebook: New Seasons Physical Therapy and Wellness or my group "Pelvic Wise"