“Interstitial cystitis”, claimed the doctor two knuckles deep in my vagina.
That was it. With those two simple, little words he labeled years of ongoing pelvic floor pain. Only, I didn’t know it was pelvic floor pain. I didn’t even know I had a pelvic floor, and despite this for some reason I knew he was wrong.
You see, interstitial cystitis is basically a chronic inflammation of the lining of your bladder, or at least that’s how I understood it. But I wasn’t having chronic bladder issues, or even bladder infections.
What I was having was abdominal, rectal and back pain that I described as:
And sometimes when things really flared up:
- Double-me-over or lay-in-bed and don’t move all day pain
I was fifteen when I started having symptoms. I felt it when I ran, when I sat (or stood) for too long, and eventually years later during intercourse.
Physical therapy were the doctors orders. He was the third doctor I’d seen in six months after I finally decided I didn’t want to live with this ongoing, often debilitating pelvic pain. One doctor had no clue. The second doctor diagnosed me with endometriosis (which is a whole other intense and scary thing). So when this third doctor said physical therapy was the ticket, I didn’t ask questions. It seemed strange. I thought people went to physical therapy when they pulled their back, or had knee surgery. Not because their lady parts (and sometimes their anus) hurt. But it certainly seemed like an easier solution than surgery or daily medication for the. rest. of. my. life. So, I went.
I got lucky with my first physical therapist. She was nice enough. As you can imagine, this sort of thing can be a bit awkward and strange. It was a lot like you walking into a room, taking your pants off, and laying on a cold table, while a lady (physical therapist) puts on blue latex gloves and pulls at your pelvic muscles from inside your vagina. The pain was relieved, for good lengths of time, but it always returned and so I always returned to her. But eventually she packed up and moved and my pelvic floor pain didn’t.
I shopped around for other pelvic floor physical therapists near me, but a lot of them were either not knowledgeable about my particular issue or strangely uncomfortable with the whole ordeal.
Finally, I found Breathe. Physical Therapy and Wellness in Des Moines, and just in time too because I was pregnant, and pregnancy does all sorts of new things to your pelvic floor muscles.
At my first appointment they didn’t even do an internal exam. I was asked me about my diet, my exercise habits, do I know how to sit on my vagina? That was the strangest part of the whole appointment, and mostly just because the word vagina made me nervously laugh. It was so professional and so knowledgeable, but beyond that, they were the first physical therapists I had met who were interested in how I live and not just how to get me in and out with a slightly lower number on the pain scale. My new physical therapist and I talked about her personal experiences with the same condition. I remember she had essential oils in the diffuser. The whole thing felt calm and welcoming and reconditioning. Reconditioning what I thought pelvic floor physical therapy was or must be and reconditioning my hopelessness for ever being able to manage my pelvic floor pain on my own.
Leaving the office that day, I had not only significantly less pain, but also a new (correct) way to breathe, a guided meditation to relax my pelvic floor muscles, exercises to correct a misalignment in my pelvis, and a friend. I couldn’t wait to utilize all the tools Breathe. had armed me with.
It’s been almost two years since that first appointment and I’m still learning more from Breathe. Physical Therapy and Wellness. They’ve empowered me to find my personal wisdom to advocate for and heal myself. They’ve armed me with ideas, exercises, knowledge, and pain relieving techniques, and they’ve encouraged me go for my goals. Using the expertise shared by my pelvic floor physical therapist, I’m having the best sex, the best running, and the best (not peeing my pants) dance sessions of my life – all while being one year postpartum. When an occasional episode flares, I know exactly what to do to relieve the pain and get myself back on track, and if I can’t – Breathe. is just a phone call away!