From Barging into Bathrooms to Helping People Stop Barging into Bathrooms, Why I became a pelvic PT

Posted By: Jenny Porter Member Spotlight,

I, a pelvic health physical therapist (PT), have always had bladder issues. As a kid, it was only discussed in absolutely necessary moments such as changing the sheets (I slept on a towel a lot as a kid) or on road trips when the pit stops were more frequent than my parents would like. I remember the fear and embarrassment of trying to manage my ridiculous bladder. I tried all the typical things that patients tell me about now: not drinking anything on road trips or flights, never passing a potty, finding the bathroom sign immediately upon entering a restaurant or store, learning how to pop-a-squat in any situation (my favorite was hanging between the front and back door of a slowly moving vehicle when caught in a traffic jam…don’t judge me it was college). Despite learning how to manage it, which generally meant barging into random shops/restaurants to desperately ask if I could use the bathroom, the bladder issues never stopped and I now understand that my “management techniques” were only making it worse.

On top of the bladder issues, I also had terrible cramping, cyclic bloating, mood swings, etc, that eventually got diagnosed as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). A physician described it as an elevated form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and I was sent home with a prescription for antidepressants. After finally putting myself on hormonal birth control in my early 20s, I found some relief from the pain, but it wasn't until I was 29 and struggling with fertility that I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Never along the way of having abdominopelvic symptoms did any medical provider suggest pelvic PT, or any treatment other than surgery and antidepressants. While willing to try anything my mom read about to help it (chocolate and caffeine being my favorite suggestions), no real answers were provided for how to move forward other than "deal with it, some people just get cramps.” Ok but what about the back pain, the radiating pain down the legs, the cyclical bowel and bladder changes, the infertility…surely medical training had caught up to this by now.

I came to discover in PT school (age 32) that medical training had definitely _not_ caught up, as the pelvis was routinely glossed over in coursework. I thought it was weird and started digging around on my own. I demanded a pelvic health PT clinical, an arduous task for a number of reasons, but fortunately my history with pelvic dysfunction had made me unreasonably persistent. Once I barged my way into the pelvic PT world, I found people would tell me things they had never told anyone: not parents, not friends, not even partners. People had been living in secrecy with a lack of medical knowledge and feeling ashamed of their pelvic dysfunction–but in our sessions they were finally able to speak openly about it and finally receive support.

With additional coursework, supportive faculty, and some fantastic pelvic PT mentors, I now help people confidently_ pass the dang potty_. People who had gone months without an unassisted bowel movement can now go every other day. Patients with a history of trauma feel more comfortable with their bodies. Patients who never thought they would have pain free sex discover they can actually enjoy it! My clinic provides a welcoming space for people who have never felt safe or supported talking about their issues. The shame, fear, and lack of information can be replaced by relief, curiosity, and understanding their condition. 

There is nothing I would rather specialize in, and so in September of 2023 I opened my clinic to continue being a safe space for everyone with a pelvis who had been told to “just deal with" the very real pelvic problems they were having. I tell patients about my own struggles with urgency and pain to help them see that improvement is possible. We clap, high five, jump up and down (without leaking!) to celebrate their accomplishments. Together we find better solutions than “just dealing with it.” Medical schools are starting to catch up now, and it’s heartening to see continued growth in the industry I barged my way into. 

Author: Jenny G. Porter, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedics, 2024 EPSIG CAPP Scholarship Recipient 

Author Bio: Jenny is a pelvic health PT who lives in the Daytona Beach area with her husband and two cats. She opened Porter Pelvic PT in 2023 for everyone with a pelvis who experiences abdominopelvic dysfunction. Instagram Handle: @porterpelvicpt