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Chief Clinical Consultant for
Physical Rehabilitation Services

Scott Gaustad

CAPT Scott Gaustad

Whiteriver Service Unit
200 Hospital Drive
Whiteriver, AZ 85941

Phone: (928) 338-3648 
Fax: (928) 338-3522

scott.gaustad@ihs.gov

Women's Health

Role of Physical Therapists in Women's Health
by LCDR Megan Horeis, PT, ICCE

Why is there a need for interested therapist's to focus on women's health? One reason is that over 50% of the population is female. There is also a common dependence between women's activities, roles, anatomy and physiology and their health.1 Physical therapists need a broad understanding of the impact of being female on the lifecycle and on specific health issues which can arise for women patients. [1]

The role of the physical therapist in women's health care is an expanding and exciting field, although it is as old as physical therapy itself. We can thank Elizabeth Noble, an Australian physical therapist, for pioneering women's health physical therapy in the U.S. In 1976, Noble founded the OB/GYN Special Interest Section of the American Physical Therapy Association, now called the Section on Women's Health. She drafted a document that described the potential for physical therapy practice in the field. Noble's pioneering work helped the role of the PT in women's health care become better understood. However, the role is still not completely accepted by either the medical profession or by physical therapists themselves. [2]

Currently the field of women's health PT has expanded into rehabilitation and treatment of the following: musculoskeletal conditions in the pregnant woman, high risk pregnancy, urologic conditions, breast cancer surgery, pelvic pain, maternal diseases, gynecological surgery, and sexual dysfunction. PT's also share an important role in childbirth education. Therapists treating urologic conditions may also branch into the subspecialties of pediatric and male incontinence.

Many therapists feel unprepared to treat obstetric and gynecologic patients. Most of our professional curricula do not cover the area at all, or they address the topic in one or two day lectures, which do not adequately prepare us for this patient population. It is not the intent of our web page to cover all aspects of OB/GYN care in physical therapy. The intent is to foster the interest of other therapists to add this specialty area to their professional practice. The web page is designed to impart knowledge about the field to help interested therapists begin to provide treatment.

There are many ways therapists can begin providing OB/GYN care in their facilities. Focusing on one area of OB/GYN care such as back school for pregnant women or stress incontinence can be a great place to start. Talking to your facility's administrator's and OB/GYN providers about patient needs and ways that physical therapy can help is also a good avenue. As physical therapists treating female clients we are not over stepping our practice boundaries but we are proving our worth to the medical community using a multidisciplinary approach to OB/GYN care. It is our goal to promote knowledge and increased access to women's health physical therapy.


References
1. Sapsford R. Women's Health. A textbook for Physiotherapists. London, England: Harcourt Brace and Company Limited; 1999.
2. Stephenson RG. Obstetrics and Gynecologic Care in Physical Therapy.Thorofare, NJ: Slack Inc; 2000.


Helpful Links to Womans Health:


Helpful Reference Tools for the Physical Therapist