Physical therapy is an option doctors sometimes recommend for treating dysmenorrhea – generally defined as painful menstruation. The condition, which is associated with musculoskeletal pain, often is accompanied by symptoms such as heavy menstrual flow, irritability, nausea, and loose stools. Your gynecologist may refer you to a physical therapist for a stretching program and other treatment techniques to help alleviate abdominal and low back pain that you suffer with the condition.
Physical Therapy Evaluation
Along with asking you questions about your general health, current complaints, family health history, medications, and recent lab and/or other clinical test results, a physical therapist will evaluate your present functional status and activity level.
Upon initial examination by a physical therapist for treatment of dysmenorrhea symptoms, he or she will assess:
Tightness and range of motion in your hips and lumbar spine
Pelvic-floor muscle function
Hip and pelvic structure and function – particularly the SI (sacroiliac) joint that connects the spine and pelvis
A physical therapist may also palpate (examine by touch) your pelvis, abdomen, and back for trigger points, tenderness, and weak muscles.
Physical Therapy Treatment
In developing a plan of care, the physical therapist who works with you will set goals and determine treatment interventions during which time he or she will monitor your progress and change the frequency or duration of your treatment as needed.
Treatment may include:
Heat therapy. Your physical therapist may apply steamed towels or moist heating packs to your abdomen to help alleviate pelvic pain associated with dysmenorrhea.
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). A physical therapist may use a TENS unit – a device to stimulate nerves – to ease cramping pain in the lower abdomen or pain in the low back.
Strengthening exercise. Your physical therapist may instruct you in a side-lying clam exercise to help improve core strength and strengthen your hips. He or she will design an exercise program for you that includes back-strengthening exercises to alleviate low back pain. Your treatment program also may include exercises to strengthen your upper leg muscles to help you avoid putting excess strain on your back.
PFM (pelvic-floor muscle) exercise. Exercises that strengthen and increase circulation to pelvic-floor muscles – the muscles that support your pelvic organs – help improve their function. Pelvic-floor muscle dysfunction can cause pelvic pain, including painful menstrual periods with pain radiating from the pelvis to the lower abdomen, low back, inner thighs, and groin. Pelvic floor dysfunction can also lead to problems controlling bladder and bowel functions.
Managing high muscle tone. Your physical therapist will guide you in exercises to restore proper posture and body mechanics if muscle tone remains high when your pelvic floor muscles are relaxed. Exercise and other treatment modalities help to relax and decrease tone in these muscles when they are at rest. Otherwise, muscles that continue to contract involuntarily can make the pain even worse.
Whether the discomfort you experience right before or during your menstrual period is a dull, aching pain or severe pain, physical therapy treatment, like what is offered at places like Dynamic Rehabilitation Services, can help reduce or eliminate the pain.