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chronic pelvic pain and sexual abuse

Chronic Pelvic Pain and Sexual Abuse

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.  That is an eye opening number which shows, sadly, how prevalent sexual abuse is in our society.  1 out of every 6 women have been victim of attempted or completed rape.  1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.  21% of TGQN (Transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted as compared with 18% of non-TGQN females and 4% of non-TGQN males.  No one is exempt from sexual abuse (1).

Chronic Pelvic Pain Caused by Abuse

Sexual abuse is known to have lasting implications on the health of the victim, including/not limited to: post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and chronic pelvic pain (2). When someone is sexually victimized and trauma occurs, we know that trauma can create changes in the tissues.  Tissues can become tight and restricted through muscle guarding, which can lead to changes in the musculoskeletal system. This can lead to improper functioning and create pain.

Treating Chronic Pelvic Pain

Physical Therapists are experts in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.  As Pelvic Health PTs, we specialize in treating pelvic dysfunction. It is so important for us to ask our patients who suffer from chronic pelvic pain if they have experienced sexual or physical abuse, as you can’t tell who has been affected. We make it our purpose to create a safe, comfortable environment for healing.  Wherever you are on your path to healing, our role is to help you both physically and emotionally.
It is important to note that physical therapy alone will have greater results with an entire care team of professionals who are also trained to help sexual abuse victims.  This may include a psychologist or licensed counselor, medical doctor, support groups, or other health professionals.
Sexual abuse is unfortunately more common than we like to acknowledge.  Please know there is hope for healing, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Michelle Webb, PT, DPT
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