Being a Male Physical Therapist in Pelvic Health Physical Therapy
Why would a male Physical Therapist (PT) write for Section on Women’s Health? Good question.
A better question is where else could I write about this pelvic floor perspective. We know how important pelvic floor PT is and what amazing benefits it has for women and we are trying to get more people to understand this. So why would a guy want to work in that area? Because we also know that men benefit from pelvic floor PT.
First off, I came to pelvic floor therapy from a different angle. After having some minor pelvic floor trouble myself, I realized that there were not too many males to go to for treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction. My background was orthopedics with a manual therapy focus on spine, pelvis, and foot/ankle. I realized that pelvic floor was the natural next step that I needed and had been missing in my practice. I knew how distressing and personal and embarrassing it could be to address these issues. And, since I knew that it was hard enough to get men to see a medical professional in the first place, I wanted to give men the option to not have to discuss “guy stuff” with a female.
Does every guy feel more comfortable with that? Of course not, but options are always better and a male to male perspective can really help. I’m lucky that I work in a clinic with excellent female therapists that work with pelvic floor so our patients have a choice. I will chip in with the female patients as well. There have been times when a female patient didn’t realize I was male, but they always have the choice to say no and change to a female therapist.
Mine is one perspective. Dr Onyekachukwu McDonald Nwosu, PT, DPT, MBA, FAAOMPT, CSCS, has another
“I chose to pursue PT and found out about women’s health physical therapy. I didn’t know anything about it and no one really told me much about it. I attended a 1-hour women’s health lecture when taking an orthopedics class which made me want to learn more. (Had WCS Instructor).
“I was mostly focused on orthopedics and I was at the point where I was not as satisfied with what I was doing. I was a personal trainer and 90% of my clients were female. I was getting more results with female clients, helping them reach their goals. That passion for helping female athletes grew before and during PT school. I started looking into more education around women’s health physical therapy. The pivotal moment was when I was working with a personal training client and she got pregnant. We were at the point of OK, what are we going to do? How do we keep you active but safe?” says Nwosu.
I started researching to figure out what to do about it. This is how I found about the Section on Women’s Health CAPP-OB courses. I eventually signed up for classes.”
Here is a third. D. James (Jim) Ballard, PT, DPT, GCS, WCS has been practicing PT for 22 years.
“I wanted to do sports medicine. I had a kind of classic story. Like many others, I had an athletic injury and that was my introduction to physical therapy. Pelvic health was by far remote from whatever I thought that I would be doing.
Training as an undergraduate student, I worked as a surgical technologist and did not enjoy working in OBGYN or urology OR. I left the room with a concern for the welfare of the female and male patients. I was specifically interested in men because at that time (way before any effective pharmacologic treatment for erectile dysfunction), the gold standard treatment for erectile dysfunction was penile implant surgery.
These implants, especially the multi component implants are mechanical devices would break down. I would see these men returned to have their components removed and sometimes replaced. In the mid to late-80s, as a PT student recognizing the association between form and function and learning a little bit about the superficial perineal muscles, I began to wonder if men could be helped by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises if their erectile function, penile rigidity could be helped by doing pelvic floor exercises. This was my PT school capstone project where we’ve found through randomized control trials that men can improve in penile rigidity, correct penile function and sexual function by doing pelvic floor exercises.
I enjoy working with men and women with urinary incontinence and other pelvic health issues because it’s such a quality of life issue. And when you can help individuals with these problems, it’s so rewarding, so gratifying as a therapist.”
Is this dilemma about treating the opposite sex that different in regards to pelvic health? Sure it’s personal area, but most physical therapy deals with personal stuff. I remember being taught in PT school that respect for the patient was utmost in treatment. They were not “the ACL repair” they were Ms. Smith who has an ACL repair. We spent hours learning how to “drape” a patient so they would not feel exposed or embarrassed. The overall idea was that the patient needed to feel comfortable with us and trust us in order to allow us to help them. The same is true for Pelvic Health, but by the very nature of the location in the body we are dealing with, we need to be even more respectful and gain even greater trust whether it is Female to Female, Male to Male, or Female to Male.