From the Canadian Physiotherapy Association

Some chronic health conditions, including breast cancer, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence, are important concerns for women. These conditions can significantly affect a woman’s physical and mental well-being, participation in daily activities, and even her identity as a woman.

Benefits For Specific Conditions Affecting Women

FlowerPhysiotherapy can offer valuable benefits in chronic health conditions that are predominantly seen in women. Physical training can help women cope with the effects of breast cancer and its treatment. Also, specific therapeutic exercises can noticeably improve pelvic pain and urinary incontinence, whether the symptoms occur secondary to labour and delivery or occur earlier or later in life. Your physiotherapist will assess your problem, discuss your concerns, and develop a treatment plan that can help you return to an active life.

Breast Cancer

Fatigue, a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation, can linger even after treatment is finished. An exercise prescription from your physiotherapist can reduce fatigue and improve physical functioning, cardiorespiratory fitness and well-being, even during treatment.(1,2) Specific physiotherapy techniques can also reduce post-mastectomy pain and swelling (lymphedema) and improve lost range of motion and strength that may occur in the arm on the side of the surgery.(3) Your physiotherapist can assess your overall fitness, identify specific problems resulting from surgery and/or radiation, and design an individual program that can support you during treatment and recovery, and help you cope with chronic symptoms that persist after medical recovery.

Chronic Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain is chronic if it lasts beyond a few months. Living with chronic pelvic pain is draining, and can interfere with sexual intercourse, good quality sleep, hygiene and daily functioning. Although no specific cause can be identified in many women, pelvic muscle or nerve inflammation, a sensitized nervous system, pelvic muscle spasm, or postural problems affecting pelvic muscles and joints may be implicated.(4) Your physiotherapist can assess your pain and develop an appropriate treatment program. Specific therapeutic exercises can stretch painfully contracted muscles, strengthen weakened muscles, and address postural problems that may be contributing to your pain.(5) Physiotherapy can produce a substantial and lasting reduction in pelvic pain and let you focus on enjoying your life again.(3)


Urinary incontinence (the involuntary leakage of urine) is common in women, affecting up to 30% of women by 65 years of age.(6) It should not, however, be dismissed as a normal sign of aging or long term effect of labour and delivery. In addition to reducing well-being and activity levels, urinary incontinence can cause secondary health problems, such as urinary tract infections and skin ulceration(7), and may lead to reduced fitness, quality of life and depression. Bladder and pelvic floor muscle training are proven treatments for improving symptoms of urinary incontinence, recommended by the International Continence Society as the first line treatment for this condition. Clinical studies have found that targeted exercise therapy can resolve or improve most types of incontinence.(6,7) Age is no barrier in this condition, as women over 75 years of age can also benefit from physiotherapy.(8) If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, talk to your physiotherapist about exercise therapy to eliminate or reduce your symptoms.

For a consultation regarding your women’s health concerns and physiotherapy, contact your Cross Roads therapist today.


1. McNeely ML, Campbell KL, Rowe BH, Klassen TP, Mackey JR, Courneya KS. Effects of exercise on breast cancer patients and survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. CMAJ 2006;175:34–41.

2. Markes M, Brockow T, Resch, KL. Exercise for women receiving adjuvant therapy for breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev2006 Oct 18;(4):CD005001.

3. Gomide LB, Matheus JP, Candido dos Reis FJ. Morbidity after breast cancer treatment and physiotherapeutic performance. Int J Clin Pract 2007;61:972–82.

4. Montenegro ML, Vasconcelos EC, Candido Dos Reis FJ, Nogueira AA, Poli-Neto OB. Physical therapy in the management of women with chronic pelvic pain. Int J Clin Pract , 2008;62:263–9.

5. Hall J, Cleland JA, Palmer JA. The effects of manual physical therapy and therapeutic exercise on peripartum posterior pelvic pain: two case reports. J Man Manip Ther 2005;13:94–102.

6. Shamliyan TA, Kane RL, Wyman J, Wilt TJ. Systematic review: randomized, controlled trials of nonsurgical treatments for urinary incontinence in women. Ann Intern Med 2008;148: 459–73.

7. Dumoulin C, Hay-Smith J. Pelvic floor muscle training versus no treatment for urinary incontinence in women. A Cochrane systematic review. European J Phys Rehabil Med 2008;44:47–63.

8. Perrin L, Dauphinée SW, Corcos J, Hanley JA, Kuchel GA. Pelvic floor muscle training with biofeedback and bladder training in elderly women. A feasibility study. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs 2005;32:186–99.

Women’s Health Matters Treated By Physiotherapy