shutterstock_505081366 (1)

The SoWH Blog

Stay up to date on the latest Section HQ news, patient and practitioner education and member stories!

All Posts

Pregnancy, Bodybuilding and Pursuing a New Career in Women's Health Physical Therapy

I have just completed my 6 week clinical experience in the Women's Rehab and Men's Health with UPMC Center for Rehab Services. Unfortunately, according to company policy, I was not permitted to perform internal examinations and based on my school policy for clinical sites, I was not eligible to complete a longer clinical that includes internal pelvic floor examination. I began to seek education and training on my own.

My interest in women's health physical therapy began over 5 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had been an avid exerciser for my entire adult life, worked in Fitness and Wellness for over 10 years and co-owned a gym for about 2 years. I had competed in natural bodybuilding and strength sports for about 8 years and I was now being told that I should consider a new hobby because my body would never be the same and I should stop lifting weights for the health of my unborn child. Of course, I went back to my exercise science roots and began doing research. I found some helpful sources but decided that I wasn't 100% happy with my findings. I began researching certifications and training for women's health so that I could not only find information for myself but also for my personal training clients. One of my clients (an OBGYN) at the time suggested looking into physical therapy. After a week of researching the specialty, I had decided to go back to school to pursue my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree with the intent to specialize in women's health physical therapy.

I am now in my third year of physical therapy school and have completed my 6 week clinical experience in the specialty. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, it was more than I could have imagined! The biopsychosocial aspects along with the personal success stories solidified my interest and I will be applying for a residency program. Upon graduation, and hopefully after successful completion of a residency, I will be working for the Veterans Health Administration (VA) as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). I know that there is a growing interest in beginning programs through VA sites and I would like to either find employment at a location with a program or start a program at my site upon graduation and placement. Until my clinical, I did not understand the depth and breadth of women's health physical therapy and I want to take full advantage of all training opportunities that I can in order to build my skills.

I have been a member of Section on Women's Health since I first became a student APTA member in May of 2016 during my first semester of classes. I attended my first Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) this past February in New Orleans, Louisiana and thoroughly enjoyed the Section on Women's Health presentations that I was able to attend.

More recently, I used the available resources and research during my clinical experience for in-service topics, journal clubs and PowerPoint presentations. The 2014 Update of the Guidelines for Women's Health Content in Professional Therapist Education was a cornerstone of my "Treat the Whole Person" presentation discussing chronic pelvic pain and the biopsychosocial model. I am extremely grateful to be a student member of the Section with all of the opportunities available to members and plan to volunteer for the Section at CSM in 2019.

Brandy Schumaker, SPT
Brandy Schumaker, SPT
Brandy Schumaker is the recipient of the Section on Women's Heatlh Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Level 1 course in Garfield Heights, OH that was conducted September 14-16, 2018.

Related Posts

Early-Career Advice from Pelvic Health Physical Therapist, Nicole Cozean, PT, DPT, WCS, CSCS

How did you decide to pursue pelvic health physical therapy? What is your background? I hadn’t actually planned to specialize in pelvic health in physical therapy (PT) school or the first years after graduation.  My first interest in the area came in PT school when I was assigned the pelvis and pelvic floor for an anatomy project.  I was fascinated by the complexity of the region (and still believe a strong understanding of the underlying anatomy is crucial for a pelvic physical therapist).  About 15 years ago, Hoag Hospital asked me to create a pelvic health program. They allowed me to pursue a fellowship program with an experienced local therapist, and I was able to take amazing continuing education courses from some of the leaders in the field at that time.  

Tips for Improving Urge Incontinence | Bladder Health

Urinary urgency or urge incontinence happens when the bladder contracts when it is not supposed to and may result in subsequent leakage of urine. This can occur for different reasons. However, it can commonly be due to either overactive or under active pelvic floor muscles. Due to the connection with the pelvic floor muscles, Physical Therapists specializing in Pelvic Floor Dysfunction can help. They can use bladder retraining which is a technique to improve urinary urge incontinence by trying to improve bladder and pelvic floor function. It is best to be evaluated first by a medical professional to find out which category you fall in, as well as to rule out other possible causes.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is More Common than You Think and There is Something You can Do About It

Pelvic health physical therapy can be a difficult topic for many people to discuss. It can be embarrassing, confusing, and even painful. Society tends to discourage discussion of these topics, causing confusion and lack of awareness regarding what is or is not normal. The reality is that pelvic floor dysfunction is common and there is something we can do about it. As one of my professors once pointed out, “There is an entire aisle dedicated to adult pads and diapers in every Target, someone is buying them!”