Women have often heard about the more common symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, mood swings and night sweats.
However, there are a whole range of symptoms associated with the decrease in oestrogen levels that involve the nether regions that often aren’t spoken about.
Oestrogen is important for keeping the vulva, vagina and lower urinary tract healthy and working well. Oestrogen maintains optimal genital blood flow and as oestrogen levels decrease there is a subsequent thinning of the vaginal skin and loss of elasticity of the tissues. This can lead to issues ‘down there’ including vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence or development of vaginal prolapse.
Women frequently report they were unaware that these symptoms could be a feature of menopause or that there is any treatment available. As a result women often fail to mention these things to their health provider and subsequently many women suffer in silence. The new term in the medical world is the ‘genitourinary syndrome of menopause’.
Women generally go through menopause between 45 and 55 with 51 being the average time. Menopause is defined as having been free of menstrual periods for 12 months. It is usually diagnosed on the presence of vasomotor symptoms including hot flushes as well as the absence of periods.
What can a physiotherapist do for menopause? There is often plenty to be done!
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of the genitourinary syndome of menopause (GSM) then a pelvic floor physiotherapist is well placed to help you with your predicament.
If you’ve started leaking wee, you’ve started rushing to the toilet; sex has become painful; or you have a sensation of heavinesss or dragging through the pelvis then a pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you in assessing and treating your individual symptoms.
Often the pelvic floor has weakened over time, with pregnancy, during childbirth, and over a lifetime of heavy lifting or coughing and needs a bit of personalised one on one instruction to get it up and running again.
You might have been told old wives tales about how best to look after your bladder and be unnecessarily visiting the toilet and driving up your bladders irritability and ultimately causing you to need to go to the toilet more often.
A physiotherapist can talk to you sensitively about what’s going on with your vagina when it comes to sex and provide you with practical tips and tricks on vaginal moisturisers and lubricants or provide some release work to tight and tender muscles.
If you are feeling heaviness through the vagina (pelvic organ prolapse) then a physiotherapist can assist in strengthening the support structures and help you to better manage your symptoms or in many cases become symptom free.
We can also help to get you exercising as your bone density and avoiding falls as we age is also a very important part of preventative health care which your physiotherapist is well placed to assist you with.
Some useful links:
Australasian Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org.au/
Find a physiotherapist: https://cfaphysios.com.au/ or contact me and I can help you find one in your local area
Jean Hailes: https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause