Patient Access to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Physical Therapy: Challenging Trends to Adequate Patient Care

Main Article Content

Debra McDowell, PT, PhD Denise Gobert, PT, MEd , PhD , NCS


1.1 Background/Rationale

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) can impact daily activities and quality of life, such as bladder and bowel incontinence, acute and chronic pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction. Pelvic floor physical therapy (PFPT) addresses such dysfunction; however, lack of awareness or barriers to accessing PFPT may prevent or delay individuals from receiving these services.  This study evaluated awareness of pelvic floor physical therapy among patients receiving general physical therapy services and examined medical services among patients who have received PFPT.


1.2 Methods/Methodology

This study was conducted from June 2016 – April 2017 at seven outpatient physical therapist (PT) clinics in Texas and Colorado. All participants (N=58) were sampled by convenience and referred for physical therapy services. Volunteers completed a confidential, 12-item survey, which ranked awareness and access to PFPT services. Questions included: satisfaction of care, wait time before seeking treatment, and delay of initiation of treatment. Completed surveys were grouped as to whether or not receiving PFPT services (n = 24) or non-PFPT services (n = 34). Chi square statistics were used to explore group comparisons between demographic variables including PFPT awareness and level of receipt of treatment (p = 0.05).


1.3 Results/Findings

A significant number of patients in the non-PFPT group, 79.4%, were more likely to report low awareness of PFPT, however 64.7% also reported recent PFD symptoms. In the PFPT group 54.17% indicated delay in seeking medical care despite having symptoms with 37.5% delayed receiving PFPT for 1-5 months. No significant relationship existed between patient demographics and level of awareness.


1.4 Conclusions/Implications

Although PFD is common in the general population, a lack of provider referrals prevents access to PFPT treatment. Limited patient knowledge about PFPT services are barriers to proper care. Physical therapy screening for PFD symptoms as part of the systems review in patients is needed. Further studies are needed to investigate physical therapist screenings for PFD, patient education, and patient/provider communication for ease of patient access and awareness.

Keywords: Pelvic floor dysfunction, Incontinence, Pelvic organ prolapse, Pelvic floor physical therapy

Article Details

How to Cite
MCDOWELL, Debra; GOBERT, Denise. Patient Access to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Physical Therapy: Challenging Trends to Adequate Patient Care. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 8, n. 4, apr. 2020. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 14 june 2024. doi:
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