By Lea El Feghali
“Get comfortable being outside your comfort zone because that is the only way to grow.”
I am a 24-year-old Lebanese physical therapist who was working in a sports rehabilitation clinic in Beirut when I decided to stop working for someone else’s dream and build my own.
Most Lebanese physical therapists treat patients who have joint pain (knee, hip, ankle etc.) or those who have low back or neck pain. What is not common is working with the muscles that we don’t usually talk about: pelvic floor muscles.
Talking about muscles “down there,” painful intercourse, or urine leakage while laughing, coughing, or running is kind of a taboo subject. Unfortunately, an alarming number of Lebanese women and men struggle silently with pelvic floor dysfunction and live with the pain because they are embarrassed to talk about it or simply do not know they can seek help.
Conservative treatment of pelvic floor disorders has proven effective for many years, but no appropriate training was available in my country. Therefore, I conducted an online search and found out about the Section on Women’s Health and its dedication to providing great educational resources for physical therapists treating patients throughout their lifetime.
I applied for the CAPP-OBF and CAPP-OBA courses through the American Physical Therapy Association and received the opportunity to gain experience by shadowing several women’s health therapists in the U.S., specifically Vanda Szekely and Suzan Giglio. These women first helped me enter the world of pelvic floor physical therapy.
I was the only international physical therapy student in class who had to make the journey to a foreign country I had never been to before. Despite my initial hesitation, I jumped at the chance to participate in the program and have never looked back. It was a big, interesting–yet scary–jump for me, but I believe the fear of regret of never trying is so much worse than the fear of failure.
I knew that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would help me deepen my knowledge and education in this field and, therefore, help patients live, work, and have sexual relationships without embarrassment or pain.
I was originally educated that pelvic floor therapy was all about Kegels exercise. But after going through my internship and courses, I realized pelvic floor physical therapy goes way beyond Kegels. I have to admit that the intravaginal /rectal manual exam was weird at first, but when you start practicing and gain the patient’s confidence, you notice how easy and important the assessment of these muscles is in order to develop an individualized treatment plan.
Now that I am a member of the International Organization of Physical Therapists in Women’s Health (IOPTWH), I am ready to face the greatest challenge by going back to my country and actually starting my practice. I am impassioned to highlight the importance of pelvic floor physical therapy in the Middle East and to break down barriers for patients and practitioners to begin to appreciate the power of this muscle group and its multi-function capability!
I believe we have greater need in my community not only for proper conservative care of treatment, but also for information about pelvic health to be shared more publicly among men and women.
I am convinced the experience I gained in the United States will help me make a difference by giving Lebanese children, women, and men a service they deserve and require in order to improve their overall health.
“In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take”
Author: Lea El Feghali recently opened her own women’s health practice in Beirut, Lebanon. She can be reached at [email protected].
Tags: International physical therapy