DETROIT – A sports pelvic floor therapy program available at the new William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine is specially designed to help women regain function and return to their active lifestyle after pregnancy or living with pelvic floor disorders like pelvic pain, incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Unlike a typical pelvic floor therapy program, this one specializes in treating fitness or athletic-minded women and is unique to this facility.
“This program is for active women who are having issues such as incontinence or pelvic pain. This may include women who are post-partum and trying to get back into regular fitness,” says Andrea Staley, the program’s physical therapist who has additional training in sports medicine.
“I work with these women to rebuild their core and help them breathe again. And hopefully get them back into doing something they struggled with. It could as simple as chasing their toddler around the house or running a marathon.”
Katie Lakin of Wyandotte credits pelvic floor therapy with relieving her of “unbearable” pain and discomfort she began experiencing four months after giving birth to her son Owen in 2018. The pain started in her glutes, traveled to her lower back and then down her leg.
“It made it uncomfortable and difficult to do the day-to-day tasks that come naturally for a parent – carrying a car seat, holding a baby for long periods of time,” says Lakin, 32, an avid runner and fit specialist at RUNdetroit. “It reduced my ability to be as mobile as I should have been with my son.”
Lakin sought out therapy after hearing Staley speak about the topic at her store. “I went from having no idea on how to treat this, to being uncomfortable constantly, to having a better understanding of what muscles need to be targeted, what was actually causing the pain and how to fix it,” she says.
She had three therapy sessions with Staley and applied her rehab exercises at home. In October, seven months removed from her son’s birth, Lakin ran a person best of 3:27:35 at the Chicago Marathon. After several more therapy sessions, she ran another personal best at an event last April.
“I was floored,” Lakin says of her Chicago performance. “I didn’t expect to come back from having a baby and be even close to where my training was.”
Today, Lakin says the pain and discomfort is “mostly at bay.”
Staley says the sports pelvic floor program at the new facility is also geared for post-menopausal women trying to stay active in their later years.
“We’re retraining a lot of different habits,” Staley says of her patients.
A woman’s posture, body mechanics, flexibility, diet and medical history are all assessed before Staley designs a therapy plan individualized for each patient. The objective is to return patients to their level of function with lessened symptoms or, even better, the symptoms have all been alleviated.
“It’s a quality of life issue for sure,” Staley says. “Incontinence, bowel dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, painful intercourse – all these things can affect someone’s physical capacity but also their quality of life.”
An athlete herself, Staley says she brings personal insight to her expertise.
“So many women have been told different things throughout the years. Like ‘oh, that just happens when you get older’,” Staley says. “Leaking is not normal, and you should not have to live that way.”
One day, Staley hopes that pelvic therapy after pregnancy becomes standard medical care in the United States. In parts of Europe, it’s been that way for years.
MEDIA CONTACT: David Olejarz / David.Olejarz@hfhs.org / 313.874.4094