When They Don’t Have Time for Your Pain

Doctors are supposed to treat all patients equally, but sadly, sometimes they don’t. In fact, if you are a woman, you may actually receive worse treatment for your pain than if you are a man. If being in pain isn’t hard enough— add a doctor who won’t listen, and you can end up depressed, frustrated, and distrustful of the entire medical profession. 

What kind of inconsistencies are happening exactly? Let’s take a closer look. 

  • In a study of almost 1000 patients published in the Academic Emergency Medicine journal, it took women with abdominal pain in an urban emergency department 16 minutes longer than men to be treated. Women were also not as likely to be prescribed opiates. The study concluded that “gender bias is a possible explanation for oligoanalgesia in women who present to the ED with acute abdominal pain.” (Oligoanalegesia is just a fancy term for when pain is undertreated.) 
  • A 2022 article in The Washington Post looked at studies that explored the inferior medical treatment received by women experiencing pain compared to men. This included enduring a longer wait time to be seen for a potential heart attack, or being told they have a mental illness when they had heart disease symptoms. “Among middle-aged women,” that study said, “31.3% received a mental health condition as the most certain diagnosis, compared with 15.6% of their male counterparts.” 

And then there are personal accounts of women struggling for years to receive a proper diagnosis.

Broad City actress Ilana Glazer spoke of her battle to be taken seriously by doctors for pelvic pain. She went undiagnosed for two decades! “I remember being 15 years old and my mom and I sitting there and this doctor telling me that my problem was too problematic for him, and just feeling laughed at and so angry,” she said.  

Essayist Carli Cutchin had to wait 11 years to be told she had a compressed pelvic nerve. The reason? Medical professionals simply didn’t believe that her pain existed.  

Cartoonist Aubrey Hirsch created a comic about being told her ear pain was not significant enough to be problematic. However, when the male doctor looked closer, he discovered it was a ruptured eardrum with an infection. “Why didn’t you say you were in this much pain?” the doctor asked her at the end of the session, even though she had!

A few years ago, when Hillary Koplinka was feeling tired and achy, she was told to participate in yoga by her male doctor for what turned out to be Hashimoto’s disease! 

Maybe you’ve heard stories like these from your female friends and family?

So what can you do? Although the onus shouldn’t be on the patient to get her doctor to listen, there are steps you can take to advocate for yourself.

Zocdoc suggests being thorough in keeping notes about “when, where and how” your pain occurs so you can describe it. Having another person validate your story is also important, be they a friend or relative. It can also help to parrot back the information the doctor shares during the visit. 

Finally, don’t stop until you find a doctor with whom you are comfortable. 

 And if you are having pelvic floor dysfunction pain and live in New York or nearby, consider Revitalize Physical Therapy. You will receive top notch medical care from providers who know what you are going through! We will never dismiss your pain because we recognize that having the right team who takes you and your pain seriously can make all the difference.

Yoga: A Secret Way to Take Charge of Pelvic Health

What do you think of when you think of yoga? Relaxation? Flexibility? Strength? Balance? Community? Sure, yoga can provide all these things, but were you also aware of the potential benefits to your pelvic floor? 


Surprising but true: Yoga is one of many tools that puts a patient in control of their own recovery, and that is something we love to see as physical therapists! Patients need interventions they can rely on when they are not in our offices. And even though yoga does not involve medicine or a physical therapist’s touch, you can still see big changes. It is such a powerful tool that even Herman & Wallace, a respected pelvic health institution, teaches it.


So what is yoga again, exactly? 


Yoga is a practice that uses breath, meditation and movement. It involves both the mind and the body, and has the ability to lower stress and blood pressure, promote weight loss or maintenance, and improve heart and blood vessel health. So you could be getting a lot of bang for your buck here!


Yoga’s long history


Its roots are deep — it was created over 5000 years ago in India, but yoga as we know and love it today spread in the West by the 1970s. The 1970s was a time, very much like now, when being healthy was popular. The natural food craze hit after the excesses of the 1950s and 60s, and activities like roller skating and jogging were being revived, so yoga fit right in! 


But how can yoga help?


Different poses help in different ways. According to US News & World Report, a squat can feel good if you have pelvic pain or tightness and improve bowel movements, while Yoga Journal reports that Reclining Bound Angle Pose can relax the vagus nerve, which in turn can contribute to the lessening of uncontrollable pelvic muscle contractions.


Where do I go for yoga that will help my pelvic floor?


Finding a good yoga teacher — especially one who understands the connection to the pelvic floor — might be a challenge. You shouldn’t just go anywhere. Your therapist is a great place to start for a recommendation. You can also ask him or her for yoga exercises you can do on your own. It might even be worth it to ask your local hospital. In New York, Northwell Health has created a yoga class for pelvic health, for instance. I personally like Your Pace Yoga, taught by Dustienne Miller, a board-certified physical therapist and yoga teacher, who offers at-home yoga instruction for constipation, vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis and more. 


Now that being said, you don’t want to cause any more pain. And although injuries aren’t super common in yoga, if you have hypermobility, you can have a higher chance of being hurt. Or yoga just might not feel right to you or be something you like to do. Never force it! Take your time. Read about it, like you are doing now! Especially ask your doctor if it is right for you, and come to your own conclusions. 


But once you safely embark on a regimen that includes yoga — along with other treatments from your physical therapist and medical team as needed — you may find yourself that much closer to the end of your healing journey. And as anyone who has recovered from pelvic floor dysfunction can tell you, that is an amazing place to be.