The Power of the Breath
Deb Caruso meets a Pelvic Physiotherapist who is changing lives, one breath at a time.
We can take it for granted that our bodies will do what they are supposed to do, when and how they are supposed to do it. But it doesn’t always work that way and when it comes to pelvic health, when it goes wrong, it can go very wrong.
That’s where Angie Vienne comes in. She is a pelvic health physiotherapist who specialises in working with women, men and children on the things that are rarely talked about but can really affect our quality of life, pride and self-esteem.
Due to the complex nature of the pelvis, this area of physiotherapy is very specialised, particularly in pelvic floor dysfunction which can cover conditions such as urinary and faecal incontinence; pelvic organ prolapse and pre and post-natal physiotherapy.
She also assists with rehabilitation after trauma or surgery; and has a special interest in pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction including painful intercourse; managing endometriosis, vulvodynia, and other conditions that can occur across our lifespan.
Her private clinic in Noosa Springs is a haven where clients can be heard, supported and have the space to breathe.
Having spent years working alongside medical specialists in hospitals and medical practices, including the multidisciplinary Pelvic Pain Clinic at the Mater Mother’s Hospital and Eve Health (the largest Private Gynecology practice in Australia), Angie is extremely passionate about transforming her patient’s lives through a holistic, intuitive and empowering approach.
She applies evidence-based pelvic health physiotherapy with yogic philosophy such as meditation and yoga, to treat a range of conditions.
“A lot of my work involves education and building an understanding of normal pelvic floor muscle function as well as the role of pain from a neuroscience perspective,” she said. “It’s such a fascinating area and empowering patients with the knowledge, skills and support to achieve their goals is so rewarding; the treatment really can be life changing.
“When you consider that 1-in-10 women suffer from pain and endometriosis, 1-in-5 women experience painful intercourse, and up to 15% of men suffer persistent pelvic pain, it upsets me to think that so many people are suffering in silence and not seeking help.”
Changes in pelvic health can be triggered by pregnancy, childbirth, hormonal changes including menstrual periods and menopause, weight gain, chronic constipation, and prostate surgery.
While issues can come about as we get older, Angie also sees a lot of young women and girls who might be experiencing painful periods, intercourse or tampon trouble.
“Many of my patients experience pain in this region, which promotes a protective guarding response and up-regulation of the pelvic floor muscles,” she said. “This response can lead to pelvic floor muscle overactivity and future issues if not addressed.
“All too often the recommendation is surgery for many pelvic health conditions but studies show there are less invasive conservative options, and physiotherapy is internationally recognised as first-line treatment for incontinence.”
And while early intervention is important, it is never too late to seek help to address underlying issues.
“Relaxation of the pelvic muscles is as important for kids as it is for adults,” Angie says “It’s important to see people early and when the first symptoms arise.
“Some of the topics we discuss may be considered private and even taboo to some patients, and can often be a cause for embarrassment, so it’s important to provide a safe space where they can feel supported, be heard and understood, and know that they are not alone.
Angie said the first appointment was the most important to establish a thorough understanding of the patients condition and their goals.
“We take the time to listen to your story and unpack everything from quality of sleep and emotional wellbeing to bladder, bowel, and sexual health, movement, diet and self-care routines. This integrative approach is thoughtful and professional, and allows us to identify any underlying issues, and develop a personalised wellness plan.
“The pelvis is one of the most complex parts of the body – we can’t see the organs or the muscles so we’re quite disconnected from it, particularly if it makes us feel uncomfortable. So introducing that area of the body and building an understanding and connection is important. This is where the breath comes in as it is a really beautiful portal to the pelvic floor.
“It sounds odd, but most patients don’t know how to breathe and years of ‘sucking our tummy in’ can be tightening the wrong muscles and causing unnecessary pressure on the pelvic floor.
“Once we develop breath awareness through breathwork practices, we can begin to restore synnergy within the muscle system, whether the pelvic floor is overactive or underactive.”
Angie has her Masters in Women’s and Pelvic Health Physiotherapy, as well as training in meditation and yoga and she weaves these philosophies into her sessions. Angie believes in patient-centered care, and everything is done carefully and mindfully and guided by where the patient is at.
It’s important to Angie that there are no surprises so her patients feel relaxed and understand the various assessment and treatment options and their benefits. She empowers them to make informed choices about their health care and works together with GPs and different specialists such as dieticians and psychologists to ensure a multidisciplinary approach. Patients may also be eligible for a health care plan through their GP, which provides a Medicare rebate for up to five sessions.
Angie said a typical treatment plan may take three-four months with initial consultations more regularly before spacing out to every four weeks.
“I aim to give clients the power and skills to self-manage and the tools they need if something happens along the way,” she said. “These are complex and sensitive topics and we’re implementing some lifechanging initiatives. I am incredibly passionate about improving the quality of life of my patients, and get great satisfaction hearing their newfound joy and happiness after years of suffering.”
Dealing with private and sensitive areas can be scary so it’s important to have a specialist like Angie who takes the time to understand you and address things that interfere with your happiness and confidence.
It might be time to take a breath and seek help.