Physical therapist Amy Newberry on pelvic wellness
In her last year of the physical therapy program at Augusta University, AMY NEWBERRY took a class with a professor whose specialty was pelvic physical therapy. “I always knew I wanted to do something in health care,” Newberry says. “I love helping people and I’m intrigued by anatomy, the body, exercise, and movement.” What she likes most about physical therapy is that she can spend more time with her patients.
“Unlike other health care professions, I spend an hour at a time over months getting to know my patients,” Newberry says.
After shadowing her professor, she realized pelvic physical therapy required a lot more training and intimate care about often embarrassing topics like urinary and bowel leakage, painful sex, and pain associated with childbirth and conditions like endometriosis.
“There’s a huge need for it,” she says. “One in four women will have a pelvic floor problem in their lifetime.”
After graduating with a doctorate in physical therapy, Newberry practiced ‘traditional’ physical therapy, but in the last two years has focused solely on pelvic physical therapy. She treats a variety of urinary and bowel conditions and works with women – and men – who are experiencing pain after surgical procedures like a hysterectomy or hernia repair.
Newberry also works with expectant mothers to help them prepare for childbirth and with new mothers who suffer from postpartum diastasis recti, or abdominal separation, and athletes who experience pain when working out.
Newberry begins with a phone consultation where individuals share their symptoms and concerns. Her practice, Pelvic Prescription, started as a mobile operation where she provides therapy in-home. She now has a brick-and-mortar location at 321 North Front Street, Suite 101.
She performs a comprehensive evaluation that often involves an intravaginal or intrarectal assessment of the pelvic floor muscles, with client consent. This is the most effective and direct way to assess the pelvic floor muscles for dysfunction, but other techniques are available as well.
“A manual exam helps determine what muscles are causing tension and pain. Pain radiates, so it’s important to identify the source,” Newberry says. “Your bladder, bowel, and sexual health all go together. The pelvis is the gatekeeper for the urethra, vagina, and anus. So, usually, one issue causes another issue.”
Treatment depends on prognosis, the severity of symptoms, and long-term goals. She then guides her patients through an individualized treatment process. Stretching exercises help open the pelvis. And internal massage using a pelvic wand help to lengthen and stretch tense and weak muscles.
Newberry uses social media as a platform to educate, dispel myths, and eliminate shame and embarrassment associated with pelvic health.
“I want to normalize the conversation,” she says. “I’ve treated people in their 70s who have experienced pain during sex and suffered for decades.” In August 2021, Newberry started hosting workshops at CrossFit gyms and yoga studios. “It’s an opportunity to explore all the things we should know about the pelvic floor that no one told us,” she says. Topics range from leakage and postpartum healing to diastasis and constipation.
Newberry’s goal is to educate and empower women to get to know their bodies better. “I want to help them identify and understand a pelvic floor problem and know that there are ways to conservatively and holistically manage a problem. Surgery may not always be needed,” she says. “You don’t have to struggle in silence.”
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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