Spoiler alert: the answer is probably ‘yes’!
I wrote about this in my newsletter last week and decided to share it here too, just to help spread the message as far as I can.
I hadn’t originally planned to share this because it feels a bit personal, but I am so astounded at the changes that I couldn’t not share my recent experience seeing a fabulous Women’s Health Physiotherapist. In two sessions I feel like a different person – or more like me – and so much better connected in my body.
I knew I was holding on to tension/trauma in my body (nothing overly dramatic but childbirth x 3, surgery x 2, bereavement, giving CPR to someone in the street, general life-stuff) but I didn’t realise the impact it was having. I honestly thought I could get away with it, so long as I just kept on holding all that shit together! Turns out that I’m human after all and now that I can physically feel how much better it is to let it out, I’m on a mission to do more of that and to spread the word!!
A bit of background:
In the summer of 2020 I had two surgeries for breast cancer. The first one was a lumpectomy and removal of two lymph nodes in my armpit. I was cautiously back at work a week later, waiting to get the ‘all-clear’ and start the next stage of my treatment. I then found out that the first procedure had not been a complete success so I underwent a mastectomy with implant reconstruction four weeks later. This surgery was successful but of course it had a massive impact on my body, not least in terms of how I felt about myself.
Since 2020 I have also experienced a couple of bouts of severe back pain and associated muscle spasm, the most recent one about six or seven weeks ago.
In an attempt to cover all bases with regards my on-going low back & coccyx pain, I decided to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist in case there was tightness/restriction in my pelvic floor which was contributing to the problem. And also to check that I am using my 56-yr-old pelvic floor muscles effectively (happily I am – gold star for me!)
What is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist?
I saw Jenny Gillespie (based near Tunbridge Wells) for a women’s health assessment. She is a chartered physiotherapist, specialising originally in musculoskeletal work and now in women’s health physiotherapy, offering holistic assessment and management to women of all ages with symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and musculoskeletal pain.
I was pretty nervous before my first appointment, not really knowing what to expect. I actually almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad I did.
Jenny started by taking some details of why I was there – my back pain issues, breast cancer treatment and childbirth history, most of which was quite emotional for me to share, but she put me at ease very quickly and suggested a treatment plan.
What does a treatment involve?
I can only tell you about my experience and what my sessions have involved. We are all different and treatments will be bespoke, but hopefully this will help to give you an insight & dispel any concerns you might have.
Jenny started off by working over my breast cancer scars and surrounding areas which felt very restricted and were causing me considerable discomfort. She is literally the first person to see my scars so that was pretty emotional, but having some release work done was fantastic. Even after one session, the difference was astonishing; and after the second session today I have much more symmetry and much more comfortable movement in the shoulder and across my ribs.
She then worked over my abdomen for some visceral release. She found & released loads of areas where I didn’t even know I was holding tension. After the first session my abdomen was a totally different shape (much flatter – nice!) and much more responsive to exercise, whereas it had been ‘gripping’ ever since my surgeries. In the second session Jenny did even more work over this area of the body and it feels so much more comfortable.
The final part of the treatment was the part I had been not looking forward to – the internal assessment and scar/trigger point release work. Trust me when I say it was WAY less invasive than having a cervical smear test. My upper body was clothed and my lower body was covered with couch roll (paper tissue). There was no speculum, no bright lights & no peering inside my body!!
Every woman’s experience will be different but for me there was some internal scar release work required, which was weirdly incredible! As Jenny worked over internal trigger points I could feel areas of my hips, legs and back letting go of familiar uncomfortable holding patterns. It’s very hard to describe the sensation but nothing in either session has felt painful, intrusive, embarrassing or even unpleasant.
While Jenny was working on my body I felt very safe, respected and nurtured. I felt ‘seen’ as a whole person, like she had understood fully why I was there and what my body needed.
How does it feel afterwards?
Obviously this is going to vary from one woman to the next.
Jenny warned me that I would probably feel exhausted after the first session, and she was not wrong!! I cried a lot on the way home and afterwards (and the next day) but I know that I hold lots of emotion about my childbirth experiences (never mind all the other stuff I’ve been lugging around for years!!) so it actually felt good that some of that had been disturbed. The next morning my body felt different – almost disconnected while things settle into new movement patterns – but also much more ‘easeful’, a bit calmer, less tense.
In the week since, I have noticed
- less hip/buttock pain when sitting & walking,
- less gripping in my abdomen when exercising,
- an easier/deeper/fuller/more effortless breathing pattern
- a much better connection to and awareness of my pelvic floor – like it was asleep and it’s not any more
- a change in how my reconstructed boob sits over my ribs, now much better aligned to the natural side
Also I’ve been making much better food choices over the past week because I feel so much better about myself.
And I feel really proud of myself for doing something that I had previously not felt brave enough to do.
Is it for you?
I’m going to stick my neck out and say that every woman needs this!
If you have a vagina, regardless of whether or not you have had children (or how you birthed your children), and you have any low back/hip pain, any pelvic floor issues or any prolapse concerns, do yourself a favour and book an appointment. If you’re not sure if you need to book an appointment, I would say, do it anyway! You won’t regret it.
Also if you’re a man reading this and you know someone that fits into the criteria above, get them to book an appointment – they will be very grateful. I should also mention that men’s health physiotherapy is also available if you need it for yourself.
I have known for a long time through my professional networks that seeing a WHP is a good idea for all women, but I didn’t know it through my own experience until now. My oldest child is 33 this year which means that I have been carrying some of my internal scars for that long.
Oh how I wish I had done this sooner, which is why I’m telling you in the hope that you will do it soon too…
Where to get help
If you would like further information or would like to find a women’s health physio in your area you can find out more here:
- pelvic, obstetric and gynaecological physiotherapy – information for patients
- they also offer a range of patient booklets which can be downloaded (free) here
I booked my WHP privately but there is support via the NHS for certain conditions.