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Our team of physiatrists and physical therapists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of abdominal and pelvic pain (dysfunctions) for men and women of all ages.

We empower patients with noninvasive techniques to help manage symptoms, relieve pain and improve strength, mobility and function. 

Contact:

616.840.8684 

Physician referrals may be made through:
Great Lakes Health Connect
616.840.8684 – phone
616.840.9771 – fax


Who We Help

Patients with chronic or recurring pelvic and abdominal pain (dysfunctions):

  • Musculoskeletal pain (hip, low back, sacroiliac joint, tailbone)
  • Bladder and bowel incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Painful intercourse

These issues may stem from:

  • Perinatal pelvic changes
  • Surgery (C-section, hysterectomy, bladder suspension or other abdominal surgeries)
  • Trauma
  • Effects of radiation to the pelvis for cancerous conditions (or pelvic radiation)
  • Neurological disorders
  • Pregnancy (prenatal and postpartum)
  • Diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation)

How We Help

Mary Free Bed’s Pelvic and Abdominal Rehabilitation Program delivers an interdisciplinary model of care that includes the collaboration of physicians and physical therapists who specialize in the rehabilitation of pelvic and abdominal diagnoses. This superior clinical model is the ONLY program of its kind in West Michigan.

Our team-based model includes:

  • Initial appointment with both a physician and a physical therapist to ensure effective communication and eliminating the need for multiple physical examinations
  • Treatment appointments with a physical therapist
  • Ongoing communication between physical therapist and physician
  • Follow-up visit with physician to evaluate progress
  • Treatment based mainly on physical therapy techniques, but may involve conservative medication management or injection therapy if appropriate

Pelvic Pain

The pelvic floor is a group of small, but very important, muscles that sit within the pelvic bones. They provide stability, as well as influence the movement of the hips, legs and low back. These muscles also make up the container for important organs of the urinary, digestive and reproductive systems. They are essential in balance, continence and sexual functioning. Pelvic floor dysfunction can present as a multitude of symptoms including constipation, incontinence of urine or stool, painful intercourse, pelvic pain, hip pain or low back pain.

Our team can help determine the primary contributing causes of your symptoms and establish a treatment program to address those causes.


Pregnancy-Related (Prenatal and Postpartum)

A variety of biomechanical changes occur in the body during pregnancy, particularly in the pelvis and low back area, in addition to changes in weight distribution and posture.

Prenatal: A physical therapist can help pinpoint certain areas of weakness and offer mechanical suggestions to help manage painful symptoms and improve overall wellness during pregnancy. The therapist can also provide education to prevent further complications during labor, delivery and postpartum.

Postpartum: Following childbirth, new moms can experience problems with urinary and bowel leakage, organ prolapse, generalized pelvic pain, and pain with intercourse.  Your physical therapist can teach you techniques to help re-train your pelvic floor muscles, improving the strength and coordination needed for bowel and bladder control.  Utilization of a variety of manual therapy techniques can help alleviate problems with pelvic pain following vaginal tearing or an episiotomy. Your physical therapist also can provide biomechanical suggestions to help reduce painful stress on your back and pelvic girdle that often occurs with breast feeding and when caring for young children. 


Incontinence

Bowel and bladder incontinence can occur for a variety of reasons, negatively disrupting quality of life. Whatever the cause, often strategies related to behavioral modification, dietary habits and pelvic floor strengthening can improve these symptoms.


Oncology

Oncology-related dysfunctions create unique challenges, including injury to the lymphatic system, tissue injury from radiation and systemic issues from chemotherapy. Long-term effects of cancer treatment can cause pelvic or abdominal pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, fatigue or bone-density issues.


Treatment

Patients are empowered and taught how to manage symptoms noninvasively to relieve pain and improve function, mobility and strength.

Pelvic and abdominal rehabilitation focuses on treatment of the muscles, ligaments and joints of the pelvis and surrounding regions. Physical therapy helps relieve pain and improve function through promotion of good posture appropriate body mechanics, reduction of soft tissue adhesions with manual therapy, and prescription of an individualized exercise program to help provide long term relief.  Comfort and success in treatment is our highest priority.

Physical therapy services include:

  • Instruction on behavioral techniques and dietary modifications for bladder and bowel retraining
  • Biofeedback to train/re-educate pelvic floor muscles
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Fitting for braces or supports
  • Prescription of an individualized exercise program
  • Integration of manual therapy techniques: Joint mobilization, stretching, myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization
  • Education on pain management strategies
  • Postural and biomechanical education and training
  • Utilization of therapeutic exercise for strengthening and conditioning

Our Team

Physiatrists
Kelly Armstrong, MD
Colleen Sullivan MD

Physical Therapists
Keri Spangenberg PT
Shana Holda PT, DPT
Melanie Werth PT, DPT
Sarah Ayotte PT, DPT 


Frequently Asked Questions

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

What is pelvic and abdominal rehabilitation?

Pelvic and abdominal rehabilitation focuses on the rehabilitation of the muscles, ligaments and joints of the pelvic region and surrounding areas. Symptoms commonly treated are pelvic, tailbone, abdominal or low back pain, urinary or bowel incontinence, and painful intercourse, all of which could be due to pregnancy, childbirth, age-related changes, surgery, cancer or trauma.

What should I expect on my first visit?

An evaluation generally lasts 60 minutes. The appointment begins with you and your therapist discussing your symptoms and past medical history. Your therapist will then conduct a biomechanical evaluation based on your symptoms, and may perform a brief, minimally invasive internal examination of the tone, strength and endurance of your pelvic floor muscles. At the end of the exam you will be given a home exercise program that is unique to your condition and based on exam findings. We encourage you to ask questions and share any concerns throughout the evaluation and treatment process.

How often will I have to see the therapist?

Every client is different and your plan of care is tailored to you. Our patients with bowel or bladder incontinence or dysfunction typically have four-six visits within a six-eight-week period. Patients with pelvic pain are generally seen one-two times per week, progressed to every two-three weeks as appropriate, often for 12-16 weeks. Pregnant or post-partum clients are usually seen one time per week to every other week for six-eight sessions of therapy.

What will I be doing in therapy?

Treatment varies based on individuals and conditions, but commonly used interventions include exercise for pelvic floor retraining and core stabilization, education and manual therapy. Some patients benefit from modalities such as biofeedback. You’ll receive an individualized home exercise program to enable you to self-manage your symptoms. We do this while taking into account even the busiest of schedules!

How is pelvic floor training different than doing Kegels at home?

Pelvic floor training may incorporate Kegels. However, studies have shown that without proper training, many individuals actually do Kegel exercises incorrectly. Your therapist will assess the tone, strength, and endurance of the muscles of the pelvic floor. You’ll be assigned a specific type of exercise using these or other muscles based on your performance and specific condition(s). Learning the correct form and type of training should help you to recover faster and more effectively than simply doing these exercises on your own.

I’m pregnant. Is this therapy safe for me and my baby?

Absolutely. Our women’s health therapists are trained in the treatment of pregnant and post-partum women, and offer expert advice for pregnancy-related pain or other symptoms, both from a treatment and future prevention standpoint. Their goal is to improve the health and wellness of you and your baby during this period. An internal examination is generally not performed during pregnancy, and modifications to other treatments may be provided to accommodate the pregnancy.

My doctor mentioned biofeedback - what is that?

Biofeedback is a treatment technique that allows observation and measurement of your muscle activity. This non-invasive procedure uses sensors placed externally over your pelvic floor muscles. The sensors are attached to a computer through wires. You and your therapist will use this computer screen to observe your muscle activity, including the contraction and relaxation of your muscles in a variety of positions. This information serves as a learning and measurement tool for you and your therapist.

Urinary and bowel incontinence has made it difficult for me to enjoy my favorite activities. Can therapy help me to manage my symptoms?

Yes. Incontinence of bowel and bladder can occur for a variety of reasons, and can be a major disruptor to your quality of life. Whatever the cause, there are often strategies related to behavioral modification, dietary habits and strengthening and coordination of the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature that can change these symptoms. Often, with a little education, patients can see changes in their symptoms within a few weeks, which can continue to improve with long-term changes and/or exercises.

Is there a way to manage my pain during pregnancy?

Most likely. Pain during pregnancy is common, but it does not have to be normal. There are a variety of biomechanical changes that occur in the body with pregnancy, in particular in the pelvis and low back area, in addition to changes in weight distribution and posture.

A therapist can help you to pinpoint certain areas of weakness or increased strain that could be contributing to your symptoms. Your therapist can offer mechanical suggestions to help manage these symptoms and improve your overall wellness during pregnancy. Your therapist also can provide education to prevent further complications due to your condition during labor, delivery and post-partum.

What makes Pelvic and Abdominal Rehabilitation different from other physical therapy services?

Our staff of female therapists offers more than 15 years of experience working with women’s health conditions, in addition to knowledge of treating a variety of spine, neurological and other orthopedic diagnoses.

Their experience and specialized training has focused on the rehabilitation of the muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissue of the pelvic region and surrounding areas, and how this affects overall movement patterns of the body.

All treatment is confidential and conducted in private rooms, rather than a busy gym or curtained area. Your comfort and success in treatment is the therapist’s highest priority, and each one hopes to work with you to maximize your potential for recovery.

How do I get a referral for Pelvic and Abdominal Rehabilitation?

Talk to your physician about your symptoms, as well as your desire to pursue therapy through Pelvic and Abdominal Rehabilitation. Your physician’s office can fax a script to the Outpatient Therapy Center at 616.840.9763. You should hear from one of our schedulers shortly, but if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 616.840.8005.

We look forward to meeting you!