Gina Barnett was living in extreme pain. Her pelvic area felt so heavy that she could barely walk, forcing the 52-year-old Freehold resident to give up exercise, singing, and just about every other activity she loved.
“I was constantly uncomfortable,” says Gina, describing unbearable pressure and pain that extended from her pelvis all the way down her legs, along with mild incontinence and other disabling symptoms. “I didn’t want to socialize or even leave the house.”
Gina sought help from many specialists, including her urologist, who found no signs of disease or infection. While tests revealed that nothing was wrong, Gina’s body told her otherwise. Those instincts prompted a referral to the Pelvic Floor Program at CentraState’s OceanFirst Rehabilitation Center, where she finally found the answers—and relief—that changed her life.
Much to her surprise, Gina was diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction, which occurs when the pelvic muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue don’t work properly. Pelvic floor disorders affect one in five Americans.
“The pelvic floor is a muscle group that stretches from the pubic bone to the tail bone, acting as a sling or hammock to hold up the pelvic organs,” explains Molly O’Brien, PT, DPT, CLT, one of CentraState’s three physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor dysfunction. “You need to work those muscles just like any others. If they become weak, the pelvic organs drop and cause incontinence; if they get too tight, they cause pain.”
Gina’s pelvic floor was so taut that the muscles were spasming, causing severe, radiating pain that was exacerbated by stress. Dr. O’Brien planned Gina’s pelvic floor therapy to include stretching and strengthening exercises, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and yoga. Her symptoms improved within a few sessions, and she is currently pain free.
Gina now looks forward to resuming her love of singing, and in sharing her story, she hopes to raise awareness about pelvic floor dysfunction so others don’t suffer in silence.
“I’m so grateful to Molly and her team for helping me understand my symptoms and live without pain,” Gina says. “Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to get help. To live your life with the ability to walk out the door and be who you are—it’s an amazing thing.”