An Introduction to our Physiotherapy for Women Service - ‘Females are not just small males’
Last updated: 2.20pm, Thursday 3rd November 2022
When we talk about the female athlete or women in sport, or in fact women generally, she could be any age or ability. It is important for women to be active for many health benefits but especially through their journey into womanhood. If they are active in adolescence, there is a greater chance they will be active during pregnancy which will help mother and baby and follow though the post-natal phase into menopause. It is important to highlight that each woman will experience phases within a female lifespan that could impact performance, from adolescence where their menstrual cycle begins, to possibly motherhood, then perimenopause, and later menopause.
Within the sporting world we are starting to delve deeper into the understanding of the sporting female. We are finding that women are more active at all levels which is fantastic, and more women are returning to all levels of sport after motherhood, even elite athletes, such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, and Laura Kenny. It has been recognised that females dont just bounce back into shape after having a baby and it takes time, guidance and the right advice to nurture their bodies back to the new normal. It has been identified by Donnelly et al, 2021, that there is a lack of support and research in helping females return to sport following motherhood. which is where we can help?
What does the research say?
Most research in the past has been carried out on males and this is not comparable to females as despite the obvious, there are many differences! Females have a broader pelvis and therefore a greater predisposition to pelvic floor dysfunction, whether they deliver a baby or not. Breast health is important as they fluctuate in size during the perinatal period, and females have greater general joint laxity than males. Females have cyclical fluctuating hormones as part of their menstrual cycle, which affect bone health and ligament laxity at different periods of their cycle, as well as mood and concentration. So, you can see the effect this can have on everyday life and sport. It is estimated that around 50% of females suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. This is huge, and we need to look at prevention and how weight bearing strength training can help prevent this.
Carrying out research in this area can be tricky, in the sense that menstrual cycles not only vary from person to person, but even from month to month with the same person. As part of a mini-series of blogs we will look at various topics associated with the female athlete. One topic we will look at is the menstrual cycle itself and how and why it is important that we track it. We will also look at ligament laxity and the risk of injury in female athletes. Other topics we will cover are RED-S, exercise for bone health, appropriate bras, and contraceptives and how they affect performance.
I have developed a special interest in working with women of all ages and all abilities and undertaken The Female Athlete Course which delves into lots of these areas. What we see clinically, and recommended on the course, is that when treating the female athlete there needs to be a whole systems approach to look at the multiple factors involved: childbirth related trauma (abdominal wall dysfunction, pelvic floor dysfunction or post-traumatic stress), menstrual health, breast health, energy balance, psychological well-being, fear of movement and sleep (Donnelly et al, 2021). These multiple factors can influence recovery and participation in activity. We want to keep women active.
Our Service - Physiotherapy for Women...
With this in mind, we have developed a new one-hour appointment which allows us to discuss all these factors and perform a full examination to create a bigger picture, to help us understand your individual needs, and address them from the outset. We believe this cannot be addressed in a 30-minute consultation!
With your personal goals in mind, we will then formulate an appropriate treatment plan to progress you towards your goals.
I have developed a keen interest in this area and helping women return to activity after having a baby, and be mindful this can be 6 weeks, 6 months or even 16-years post baby. You are always post-natal if you’ve had a baby! So, whether you want to return to running, netball, walking, or even just want to be able to take your baby for a walk in the pram without pain, then we are here to help.
To book a Physiotherapy for Women appointment please contact/book here. Or if you are unsure or have any questions about booking, please contact Louise on:
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject: Physiotherapy for Women.
Look out for other blogs in the upcoming series:
- Boobs, bras and exercise
- Return to running
- Menstrual cycle and tracking
- ACL injuries in female athletes
- What happens in one of our hour-long appointments
- Case studies
Useful references: Donnelly G.M, et al. British Sports Medicine. 2021. Reframing return-to-sport postpartum: the 6 Rs framework.