Sharon Whelchel Thompson is the newest member of the PelvicSanity team; with her strong orthopedic background and pelvic floor training we're ecstatic to have her on board! So to help you get to know her a bit better, here's a quick Q&A.
Nicole: So how did you get interested in pelvic floor physical therapy?
Sharon: My first introduction to pelvic floor physical therapy was actually on a medical mission trip to Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. It's an entire hospital built to help women who are struggling after pregnancy. Women who had complications after childbirth would be ostracized in their local villages, and local healthcare practitioners didn't know what was going on or how to treat it. The hospital would bring these women in and perform the life-changing surgery. Seeing how much treating these pelvic issues impacted their lives made me want to do something similar back home, which was the genesis of my interest in the pelvic floor.
Nicole: What do you enjoy most about working with pelvic floor patients?
Sharon: First, I absolutely love my patients. Many of them have been dealing with these issues for years, and I'm also so inspired and impressed by their resiliency. It's a great feeling to be able to provide hope to this patient population, and help give them the tools to empower them.
It's also a very under-served area, and pelvic floor patients often don't get the attention or consideration they deserve. Many have been ignored, brushed off, told 'it's all in your head,' or misdiagnosed. Being able to clearly explain what is going wrong to my patients and - more importantly - how we can fix it together is a great feeling.
Nicole: What attracted you to PelvicSanity?
Sharon: It's great to be able to work at a clinic that specializes in this area. One of the things that makes such a big difference is the full hour appointments - they have become so rare in our field, but they are so important for helping patients get better! How are you supposed to try and address everything in 15 or even 30 minutes at a busy clinic? You can be the greatest physical therapist in the world, but there's such a limit to what you can do when you're rushed and don't have time to address all the different areas that are contributing.
I'm really exciting about having the time and ability to actually listen to patients, craft a treatment plan that addressing their unique goals and desires, and watch them improve week to week!
Nicole: We were talking earlier about female athletes. Often these are people we think of as at the highest physical condition, yet they're often silently struggling with pelvic pain and dysfunction. Can you talk a little about your interest in that area of pelvic health?
Sharon: Definitely! I was a college soccer player at UCI and still play in adult leagues today. Almost half - half! - of high-level female athletes struggle with incontinence. The constant physical strain and jarring to the pelvic floor contributes, but there just isn't any awareness of pelvic health. Generally it's a problem that can be easily corrected, but it's often just ignored or laughed about. Then they get worse as we get older, or have children, or experience any other trauma like a pelvic or abdominal surgery.
If these athletes, who are at the height of physical fitness, are struggling with pelvic floor issues, they can affect any of us. Pelvic floor conditions aren't just affecting young mothers, or people as they age, they can be an issue for anyone. Many times we're embarrassed to seek help, or don't really know where to turn. That's one of the reasons I'm so excited to be here at PelvicSanity, and working towards letting people know that there are options out there and they don't have to suffer in silence.
Nicole: So what do you do outside the clinic?
Sharon: Well, I've always loved soccer - I played for a year at UCI during my undergrad, and have been playing ever since. It's actually how I met my husband, playing on an intramural soccer team, and we still play together in leagues here in Orange County.
If I'm on the soccer field, you can find me playing with my English bulldog (Po), who is slowing turning into an Instagram celebrity. I also like to crochet and enjoy photography and painting.
Nicole: So excited to have you on the team, and I'm sure we'll be hearing more from you soon!
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. One of only 270 PTs to be board-certified in the pelvic floor, and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Nicole is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University. The PelvicSanity blog focuses on presenting practical, positive information to help patients beyond the walls of Nicole's clinic.