How to Find a Pelvic Physical Therapist
"How do I find a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT) near me?"
It's one of the most common questions we're asked when patients reach out. It's still a relatively small specialty, and it can be difficult to find a pelvic physical therapist near you (especially one who is qualified to help!).
There's a wide range of experience and expertise in the pelvic PT field. If you don't have success with one pelvic floor physical therapist, don't give up - you can always get a second (or third!) opinion. It may just be a matter of finding someone whose expertise and personality are a good fit for you.
With pelvic PT you should be seeing a significant difference - not necessarily a wholesale improvement, but definitely a change - in the first 3-5 visits. If you aren't experiencing that difference with your pelvic PT, a second opinion can be really important! If you're having trouble finding a good pelvic PT near you, there's a lot of great resources online and remotely for pelvic PT. We run an online support group called Finding Pelvic Sanity that provides both support and practical, positive information for patients with recommendations for providers. The clinic also offers second opinions via our remote consultations with Dr. Nicole, which give you a better understanding and review of your entire case but also a written action plan for next steps.
Below are some of the best resources for finding a qualified pelvic physical therapist. We've also written an article about the Things to Look for in a Pelvic PT, which can help you ask the right questions to ensure you find a qualified option. We go into more detail there, but in general you should be looking for:
A Specialty Practice: Ideally, your physical therapist should be at a clinic specializing exclusively in pelvic health. This usually means the practice is geared towards complex patients and the staff there has had a chance to mentor under a more experienced pelvic PT after being hired.
Full-Length Appointments: Complex pelvic conditions require more time to treat than a sprained ankle, so look for a physical therapist who offers an hour session if possible.
Hands-On Focus: The leading studies in the field confirm the importance of manual physical therapy (as opposed to simply using biofeedback or having you work with aides on exercises, for instance).
Both Internal and External Treatment: The pelvic floor can't be treated in isolation - it's related to all of the structures and muscles around it, so treatment should include both internal and external physical therapy.
1. Herman & Wallace Institute
The Herman & Wallace Institute is the leading organization who trains pelvic physical therapists (full disclosure, I developed and teach a course for H&W on physical therapy for IC). Physical therapists from across the country take their education courses, which range from an introduction to pelvic therapy to extremely specialized courses.
The Herman & Wallace website has a listing of PTs who have taken at least one course from the Institute. The only requirement for being listed here is that you've taken at least one course from Herman & Wallace, but they are the leading provider of education in the field.
2. PelvicGuru Directory
There is a relatively new directory of healthcare practitioners available at PelvicGuru. As far as we are aware, this is the only directory that is free to use for both providers and patients. They utilize a tiered system, so any practitioner can self-list their practice, but some pay an annual fee to show a photo or more information about their clinic.
While this resource just launched in 2019, it's certainly one of the most promising developments in the field of pelvic health. It allows for any specialist - doctors, nurses, physical therapists, sex therapists, nutritionists, doulas, and more - to list their practice, and may become a go-to resource for patients as it grows.
3. American Physical Therapy Association Specialist Search
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is a professional association that oversees the licensing and specialty exams for physical therapists. They administer the test for a Women's Clinical Specialist (WCS), though there are still fewer than 500 of these across the country. These specialists often also treat men. You can search for a physical therapist in your area on the APTA website.
Unfortunately, a physical therapist does have to a paying member of the APTA in order to be listed on their site, and many practitioners - especially ones who are not based in a large, hospital-based systems - are not members of the APTA. So this isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a good starting point in finding options near you.
4. Patient Advocacy Organizations
Many conditions have patient advocacy organizations that have important resources for many patients. Several of these have listings of qualified physical therapists that have either been self-nominated or have been nominated by their patients. Some of these include:
These can be great resources, but also have some limitations. Some are only available if you are a (paying) member, and providers do submit their own information. However, you do know that those who are listed are providers who are interested in treating patients like you! Both the American Urogynecology Society and International Pelvic Pain Society list not only pelvic floor physical therapists, but also doctors (primarily gynecologists, urologists, and urogynecologists) who specialize in treating pelvic floor pain and dysfunction.
5. Social Medial
Social media can be a powerful tool in helping to find qualified physical therapists. Many conditions have large Facebook groups, where you can ask if anyone in your area has had success with a physical therapist. On Twitter or Instagram, you can search the terms #pelvicmafia or #pelvicpt to see if there is anyone active in your area.
Social media is also a great way to vet and cross-reference a physical therapy clinic that you've found through other means. Most leaders in the field have an active social media presence, and you can get a very good idea of the provider's philosophy and 'vibe' from what they post.
Also, many specialty clinics offer remote consultations or out-of-town programs for patients that might be a good option; don't be afraid to send a direct message or reach out to someone you follow on social media.
6. Ask your Doctor
While you may have had to find out about pelvic physical therapy on your own, your doctor has likely had contact with a local pelvic floor physical therapist. You can ask your doctor if they have anyone they would recommend - and don't let them 'talk you out' of going to PT! We've had doctors even tell patients they 'don't believe in pelvic floor dysfunction!' - that's like not believing in sprained ankles or arthritis pain!
When you do ask your doctor, don't be afraid to probe. Some doctors don't like to look like they are showing favoritism by recommending only one PT, so they may give you a list of different ones. One way to break through it is to ask - "If you were sending a family member to a physical therapist, which would you recommend?" Again, don't ever be afraid to ask!
7. Google Search
When in doubt, ask Google! You can search for 'Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist in (hometown)' to find listings of pelvic PTs. It's always best to try and find a clinic that specializes in pelvic health (rather than simply a single pelvic PT at a larger orthopedic clinic, for example).
If you do find a PT on Google, make sure to do your own research. Try checking their Google reviews or search for their Yelp account or Facebook pages to read patient reviews. It can be difficult -- considering the personal nature of what we do -- to get many patient reviews or referrals, so they may not be as helpful as they are for other businesses. Feel free to call and ask questions (for good questions to ask, see our article 6 Things to Look for in a Pelvic PT).
Pelvic Floor 101 (Printable)
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity Physical Therapy in Orange County, CA. PelvicSanity treats patients from all over the world with remote consultations and the Immersive Out of Town Program. She also runs Pelvic PT Rising, training other pelvic PTs to better serve patients. Named Physical Therapist of the Year, Dr. Nicole is author of the award-winning book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Her passion is helping those with pelvic health issues - regardless of where they live - find lasting relief.