• May 17, 2022

    Therapy can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles weakened by COVID-19

    Pelvic FloorIt’s common for people to talk about feeling fatigued or short of breath after they’ve recovered from COVID, but few may realize that COVID-19 may have also weakened pelvic floor muscles, causing bladder or bowel issues.

    “After COVID, some people have developed new or worsening symptoms of urinary urgency, frequency, leakage or post-void retention - that feeling that you still need to go after you’ve already emptied your bladder. Others may experience constipation or bladder/pelvic pain,” said Patricia Dispirito, PT, DPT, who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation at Rome Health Outpatient Therapy at Chestnut Commons. “Even patients who experienced mild to moderate COVID symptoms can experience pelvic floor issues.”

    Pelvic floor skeletal muscles are part of the body’s “core”, which can become weak or tight due to aging, stress, back/hip injuries, childbirth, or an illness. This can cause impairment as the pelvic floor provides support to your pelvic, reproductive, and bowel and urinary organs.
    Through exercise and soft tissue releases, Dispirito helps her patients control pelvic pain, elimination dysfunction, strengthen and retrain the pelvic floor muscles, and ultimately improve an individual’s overall quality of life.

    The literature suggests several possible causes why COVID-19 can impact the pelvic floor, including inflammation of the bladder, coughing, tightness around the diaphragm, inactivity and anxiety, Dispirito explained.

    Increased coughing can lead to poor intra abdominal pressure management. The diaphragm and pelvic floor mirror each other, so restriction of one area can limit how the other functions. If the pressure down on the bladder, during coughing, is too much or repetitive, it can overload the pelvic muscles’ ability to support and lead to weakness or guarding. Both can impact how urine is controlled and how the organs are supported.

    Tightness around the diaphragm from shortness of breath, prolonged positioning or scarring can limit how deep one inhales and because the diaphragm connects to the pelvic floor, can weaken the muscles here.

    Shortness of breath can cause more rapid breathing and anxiety which can lead the nervous system to send the bladder into over activity.

    Limitation of access to healthcare and disruption of normal work/home routines including the ability to exercise may have also contributed to a weakening of the pelvic floor. The stress of the pandemic added to these changes has affected the mental well being for many.

    “Pelvic PT may work towards improving tightness of muscles, improving diaphragmatic breathing and coordinating control with pelvic floor /core muscles, downtraining (relaxation) and strengthening,” said Dispirito.

    Specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation, Dispirito has more than 35 years of experience in outpatient therapy, home care, skilled nursing and private practice. She received her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL and her doctor of physical therapy degree from Utica College.

    A physician’s prescription is required to make an appointment for pelvic floor rehabilitation. The therapy is covered by most major medical insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid.
    For more information, contact Rome Health Outpatient Therapy at 315.337.7952. The office is located in Chestnut Commons at 107 E. Chestnut St., Rome.

    About Rome Health
    Rome Health is a non-profit health care system based in Rome, N.Y., providing services to patients throughout Central New York. From primary and specialty care to long-term care, Rome Health delivers quality, compassionate medical care for every stage of life. We are a comprehensive health care system that connects you to the best clinicians and the latest technologies so they are easily accessible to you and your family. Rome Health is an affiliate of St. Joseph’s Health and an affiliated clinical site of New York Medical College.