Physical Therapy (PT) vs Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy (PFPT)

By Shannon Strauch, PTA, STMT-1 on 5/30/2024

physical therapy

Regular physical therapy (PT) and pelvic floor physical therapy (PFPT) both aim to relieve pain and improve function, but they differ significantly in their focus, techniques, and approaches to treatment, especially in the context of pelvic pain.

Regular Physical Therapy

  1. Focus:

    Regular PT typically addresses musculoskeletal issues throughout the body. This can include joint pain, muscle strains, sports injuries, post-surgical rehabilitation, and general mobility issues.

  2. Techniques:

    Techniques may include:

    • Strengthening exercises

    • Stretching exercises

    • Manual therapy (e.g., massage, joint mobilization)

    • Modalities like ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and heat/cold therapy

    • Education on body mechanics and ergonomics

  3. Approach:

    The approach is generally holistic, looking at the body as a whole to improve overall movement patterns and reduce pain. However, it may not specifically target the pelvic region unless the therapist has additional training or specialization in that area.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

  1. Focus:

    PFPT specializes in the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues of the pelvic floor. These muscles support pelvic organs, assist in bladder and bowel control, and play a role in sexual function.

  2. Techniques:

    Techniques are often more specialized and can include:

    • Internal and external manual therapy to release tight muscles and improve muscle function

    • Biofeedback to help patients learn to control and strengthen pelvic floor muscles

    • Specific exercises to strengthen or relax pelvic floor muscles, such as Kegel exercises

    • Education on bladder and bowel habits, sexual health, and posture

    • Techniques to address specific pelvic pain conditions such as endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, or pelvic floor dysfunction

  3. Approach:

    PFPT is highly focused on the pelvic region, taking into account how pelvic floor dysfunction can affect overall health. Here at the Pelvic Health Center, our therapists also look at the body as a whole to see if pelvic pain or dysfunction is coming from other areas of the body. Therapists often work closely with other healthcare providers to address complex conditions that contribute to pelvic pain.

Key Differences

  • Specialization:

    PFPT is a specialized field within physical therapy that requires additional training and certification. Regular PT has a broader scope but may not delve deeply into the complexities of the pelvic floor.

  • Techniques and Tools:

    PFPT uses specific techniques and tools tailored to the pelvic region, including internal assessments and biofeedback, which are not typically part of regular PT.

  • Conditions Treated:

    PFPT treats conditions specific to the pelvic floor, such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and chronic pelvic pain, which may not be effectively addressed by general PT.


While both types of therapy aim to reduce pain and improve function, pelvic floor physical therapy offers specialized care for pelvic pain by addressing the unique anatomy and functions of the pelvic floor, whereas regular physical therapy provides a broader approach to musculoskeletal health.

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