By Dr. Brooke Meinema, DPT, FAFS Background Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is pain in the…
Physical Therapy Following a Cesarean Improves Recovery
By Dr. Brooke Meinema, DPT, FAFS
There are 1.2 million cesarean sections performed annually in the US accounting for 32.1% of all deliveries. Most women recovering from a cesarean section are counseled on general recommendations, including not lifting anything heavier than your baby, pelvic rest, and greatly limiting exercise, but this is about the extent of what we are told to do. Those recommendations leave a lot to be desired. For women recovering from a c-section, it can be difficult to know what you are supposed to do. We are often told to “work on your scar,” but not many people actually know what that means. Likewise, we often hear about “getting your core stronger,” but, once again, it’s tough to know what is safe and where to start.
Studies have found some of the most commonly reported complications following cesarean include: back pain (~53% prevalence), bowel and bladder issues (20-30%), and scar tissue formation. The incidence of low back and pelvic girdle pain have also been found to be significantly higher following a cesarean section when compared to a vaginal delivery. Recent studies have found that understanding these issues and addressing them with physical therapy has been shown improved outcomes and reduce pain after a c-section (Stone).
Physical therapy is considered standard care for other major surgeries, such as joint replacements or repairs, so why aren’t we allowing our new moms the same treatment? C-sections are major abdominal surgery and should be treated as such! What other times would we undergo a major procedure with instructions to “work on our strength and prevent scar tissue formation” without further medical intervention and guidance? Addressing muscle imbalances resulting from c-sections (not to mention the musculoskeletal changes from pregnancy), aiding in scar tissue recovery, and improving functional activity tolerance (lifting the baby, rolling over in bed, and even bowel movements) can create major improvements in our daily lives!
If you have been struggling with daily tasks and feel like your body needs extra help recovering: see a provider who can help! A women’s health physical therapist can assess your body to help establish goals with you and develop a personalized plan to help you along your recovery.
- Stone J, Skibiski K, Hwang S, Barnes C. Physical therapy in addition to standard of care improves patient satisfaction and recovery post-Cesarean section. J Womens Health Phys Ther. 2021;45(1):10-19. doi:10.1097/JWH.0000000000000187