Physical Therapy for Women, PLLC

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What a Difference an X Makes...  The Society for Women's Health Research Presents: "What a Difference an X Makes: Perceptions and Realities."


By: Susan Priem, MHS/PT

Osteoporosis affects all women ? young, middle-aged, and old. It has been described as a disease of the old with an adolescent onset. Starting with her first menstrual cycle, a woman becomes at risk and the risk increases as a woman experiences menopause and ages.

Diet, exercise, and the way you move your body all contribute to good bone health. Weight bearing exercises are important to increase bone mass, but keeping key muscles strong and flexible are also important in reducing fracture risk. Erect posture helps maintain good alignment in the bony structure and further reduces fracture risk. Balance training helps to prevent the falls that cause fractures.

An exercise program is important at all stages of a woman?s life. A woman is never too young or too old to begin an exercise program for bone health. A women?s health physical therapist can help you assess your risk by analyzing your posture, assessing the strength and length of key muscle groups and designing an exercise program to specifically target your risks. Analysis of your body mechanics (how you use your body in space to do common every day tasks) will help you to develop good habits for a lifetime or reduce the risk of a compression fracture if you already have osteoporosis.

Take a walk today ? hold your head high, breathe deeply to expand your rib cage, pull your stomach muscles in, and swing your arms. Your bones will be glad you did.

Section on Women's Health -
American Physical Therapy Association

What Is Menopause?

The medical definition of menopause is cessation of menses for 12 months, when the ovaries stop making the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. For most women, menopause simply marks the end of their reproductive years. While the average age of menopause is about 51, some women may experience it as early as their thirties or as late as their sixties. Symptoms of menopause include: hot flashes, night sweats, bladder and reproductive tract changes, insomnia, headache, lethargy/fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations and joint pain.

How Does Exercise Help?

The good news is that a regular program of physical activity can help manage many of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause as well as the related health concerns, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

The mood-elevating, tension-relieving effects of aerobic exercise help reduce the depression and anxiety that often accompanies menopause. Aerobic exercise also promotes the loss of abdominal fat—the place most women more readily gain weight during menopause. In addition, some research studies have shown that the increased estrogen levels that follow a woman's exercise session coincide with an overall decrease in the severity of hot flashes. Strength training also helps. It stimulates bones to retain the minerals that keep them dense and strong, thus preventing the onset and progression of osteoporosis. These effects of exercise, along with improved cholesterol levels and physical fitness, work together to help prevent heart disease.

Keep in mind, though, that good nutrition works hand in hand with a physically active lifestyle. A low-fat, high-fiber diet and adequate calcium intake are vital to realize the full benefits of exercise.

The Good News

If you have been a consistent exerciser during the years leading to menopause, you already have an advantage. Aerobic activity during childbearing years reduces the risk of breast cancer, a disease that becomes more prevalent after menopause. You also will have a jump on your bone health since your strength-training exercises may have increased the density and strength of your bones.

To reap the benefits of exercise, a balanced program of weight-bearing aerobic activity (walking is great), strength training (with weights, resistance bands, yoga or even gardening), and flexibility is essential. Consistency is key so strive for some moderate activity daily, or at least most days of the week, every week.

Menopause And Beyond:

Exercise Helps...

Reduce and prevent symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal and bladder atrophy
  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety, irritability, depression
  • Sleep disturbances, insomnia

Reduce risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight gain

Improve and increase:

Strength, stamina, flexibility, energy
Function of vital organs
Condition of heart, lungs and muscles
American  Council on Exercise

Back Pain During Pregnancy

When a woman imagines what it is like to be pregnant, joyful and wondrous thoughts usually fill her mind. She may also imagine what her body may look and feel like as she progresses through her pregnancy. One of the things she will probably not think about initially is back pain. Yes, back pain. Studies show that between 50 to 80% of pregnant women will experience back pain at some point during their pregnancies.

From the very early stages of pregnancy, hormonal changes begin to occur in the female body leading to the softening of muscles, tendons and ligaments as the body prepares for the growth of the fetus and ultimately delivery. As the fetus grows inside the mother's uterus, her abdomen enlarges and changes the center of mass or gravity in her body, drawing it forward, tightening the lower spine and its supporting musculature.  A pregnant woman's feet can become pronated or flattened and enlarged due to her increasing weight and the laxity in ligaments, rendering decreased shock absorption in the spinal column. As the baby enlarges, it may put pressure on the nerves of the mother's lower spine and pelvis. These phenomena can all contribute to back pain, in particular lower back pain.

Enlarging breasts and a change in the shape of the rib cage to accommodate baby can also contribute to upper back and neck pain.

Some say this discomfort is just part of your prenatal experience. Well, expectant moms need not suffer in silence. There are some simple solutions that may help minimize and prevent back pain during pregnancy.

  • Exercises that target strengthening of the feet, legs and spine as well as postural exercises will assist in providing support for the back and abdomen.
  • Gentle yoga-like stretches to the spine may provide relief for tension and soreness in the back.
  • It is generally considered safe to exercise in the same way that you have been prior to pregnancy. It is NOT recommended to begin a vigorous workout if you have not regularly exercised in this way prior to pregnancy. If you have any doubts, consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before beginning any new exercise regimen when pregnant.
  • Wear shoes with adequate arch support, shock absorptive soles and enough room for your toes to wiggle.
  • Use special low back supports that are designed for pregnancy by providing a lift to the abdomen.
  • Wear a supportive bra designed for pregnancy to help lift the breasts and reduce strain on the neck and upper back.
  • Physical therapy to relieve pressure to the pelvis and the spine, as well as guidance for a safe exercise program can also be beneficial.When a mother-to-be can take her mind off back pain, she can better focus on the miracle of life within her.

This article was originally published in Rockland Parent December 2009 issue.

Lotus Physical Therapy for Women @ the Open Space
150 S. Broadway
Nyack, New York 10960


What Does A Women's Health Physical Therapist Do?
The emphasis of the health sciences on fitness and wellness has brought to women's attention a need to pay closer attention to their bodies during recreation, work, and throughout life. Many physical therapists have specialized training which will benefit women with a variety of medical conditions. These therapists use every facet of their physical therapy training to evaluate and treat female clients, promoting and enhancing health through the life span. All treatments are individually designed after thorough evaluation.

Examples of Conditions Treated included

Other Questions

Section on Women's Health - American Physical Therapy Association

The PT Project | The Athletic Pelvic Floor   Do certain high impact sports contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction?  Find out more by clicking on the above link.