Men’s Health: Physical therapy can improve your overall health and wellness

You don’t want to worry about your body working the way it’s supposed to. Our physical therapy team at St. Vincent Healthcare is here to make sure you don’t have to. If you’re dealing with pain, recovering from a surgery or looking to regain independence, we can help. June is Men’s Health Month, so we’re taking this opportunity to share how physical therapy can improve the health of men who may be experiencing a variety of health concerns.

From recreational sports and outdoor activities to labor intensive work -- like farming, ranching or construction -- it’s common to experience some pain after engaging in strenuous, physical activity. But sometimes that pain is more than just a sore muscle. Physical therapy can offer valuable pain relief and restoration ability. 

Physical therapists can provide specific and effective exercise prescriptions that help people move freely and painlessly. 

“Physical Therapists are movement optimization specialists. We are trained to evaluate how people move, why they are moving that way, and provide solutions to restore pain free movement and activity performance,” explains Michael McMahon, St. Vincent Physical Therapist. “Physical Therapy can help identify weak muscles, faulty movement patterns or restricted vertebrae. We have a variety of methods at our disposal to eliminate pain including hands on manual techniques to relieve restrictions, soreness and tension in muscles, as well as improve movement of the joints and spinal segments to restore comfortable movement. We caringly teach you some simple exercises to help retrain those muscles and keep you at your best.”

“We also have to be aware of how other health issues can interact with the musculoskeletal system, and therefore we treat each person’s unique impairments – thus leading the differing combinations of treatments for each person,” said Joseph Parker, St. Vincent Physical Therapist.

The common problems that men can experience in their lifetime are pain in the neck, back, shoulder, hip and/or knee. 

“These problems could be related to a new injury, or as a result of overdoing it, as in a weekend warrior, more yard work or home improvement projects,” McMahon pointed out. “A lot of times it is a result of bad mechanics when bending for lifting. It could also be related to an old injury that was never addressed, a job that is repetitive in nature, and it almost always has a postural component.”

Another area that men should be aware of is  their pelvic floor health. Pelvic floor health is often thought of in women, especially after child birth. However, it is just as important for men. 

“Pelvic floor is an important group of muscles that help to maintain bladder and bowel function. These muscles form the ‘floor’ or hammock internally that help to maintain continence and provide support/stability to the pelvis and internal organs. As children when we go through potty-training, we learn how to gain control and awareness of these muscles. Throughout the lifespan, men can experience changes (surgery, cancer, trauma, repetitive injuries, and age/health related change) that disrupt the normal function of these muscles which can lead to incontinence and/or problems with sexual function,” explained Amanda Bohn, St. Vincent Physical Therapist.

According to Bohn, the pelvic floor is a group of muscles and needs to be treated like any other type of muscle group in the body. The pelvic floor can weaken if not used on a regular basis. Men can work on strengthening their pelvic floor by regularly performing pelvic floor contractions or doing Kegels.

“In pelvic floor physical therapy, we help our patients find the muscles of the pelvic floor,” explained Bohn, “Often, our patients have been taught how to Kegel but are actually compensating by contracting the glutes or inner thighs instead of the muscles of the pelvic floor. We tailor our approach to each patient based on examination findings and his goals. Treatments often include: manual therapy to decrease muscle tension, strengthening exercises, motor control training, and even breathing exercises to improve core function.”

“It is important to discuss any urinary, bowel, or sexual changes with your primary doctor. They can help you find the treatment you need which may include physical therapy. Also know that many conditions related to the pelvic floor are common. Some common conditions that physical therapists will treat are urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, urinary frequency and urgency, pelvic pain, and constipation,” added Michaela O’Dore, St. Vincent Physical Therapist.

Overall health plays a large role in keeping your body feeling strong and agile. Levi Oblander, St. Vincent Physical Therapist, recommends a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, coupled with strength training, mobility and stretching to reduce risk of injury. Men should eat well, stay hydrated and maintain healthy body weight. Exercising can also lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve blood sugar regulation and bone health. Exercise has also been associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as more positive body image.

It's important to remember that the “Montana toughness” stigma doesn’t need to lead to worsening discomfort. “Address any pain they may be experiencing. The longer pain goes unaddressed, the more chances that things can progressively go wrong,” says McMahon.

Parker says, “If you are having pain with everyday movements, and it is affecting your ability to do your job, care for your family or perform any of your hobbies, we can help. We take the time to evaluate not only the painful muscle or joint, but other parts of your body that work with said joint or muscle. This makes sure that all of your joints and muscles are working together to allow you to be able to get back to your job, hobbies and family.”

“Most people wish they had come to see us sooner. They didn't realize PT would make such a positive difference in their lives,” says McMahon.

To find out more information about physical therapy services at St. Vincent Healthcare, click here.

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