Acupuncture & Pelvic Health Physical Therapy: A Teamwork Approach

Acupuncture & Pelvic Health Physical Therapy: A Teamwork Approach

Many women struggling with pelvic health dysfunctions (ie, urinary incontinence, urinary urgency, constipation, and/or pelvic and low back pain) have been told “Oh, that’s just your age” or “Well, you had a baby. What do you expect?” Contrary to popular belief, there IS a way to be proactive and conservatively manage not just your symptoms but the actual source of the symptoms. And more good news: there are a variety of health care providers out there who share common goals yet have different areas of expertise in order to holistically assist in healing over the course of time! One example of a shared responsibility model is physical therapy and acupuncture. I sat down with acupuncturist Natalie Willits from Acupuncture Northwest & Associates in order to better understand how acupuncturists can help treat women struggling with pelvic floor dysfunctions. Natalie is a licensed practitioner of East Asian Medicine in the state of Washington, a Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) and is board certified by the NCCAOM in both acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. I should also mention she was listed on the Seattle Met’s list of 2019 Top Doctors (so it’s safe to say she’s passionate about providing top quality patient care!).

To sum up Natalie’s area of expertise, acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that uses the body’s energetic framework to balance the flow of Qi (vital energy, pronounced chee) in the body. Acupuncture also increases blood flow to targeted issues, which in turn helps the body heal by minimizing inflammation and flushing out waste products more quickly. To help resolve pain and activate this healing process, Natalie uses a variety of techniques along with acupuncture, including Chinese herbal medicine, Tui Na (a type of body work), moxibustion (a type of Chinese herb), cupping, and nutrition & lifestyle recommendations. In addition to fertility issues, she sees all sorts of concerns that we as PTs also see as co-morbidities, such as pain, headaches, allergies, anxiety, stress related issues, and digestive complaints.

The thing that makes Natalie’s work particularly complimentary to PT is her specialized work with the body’s energy system, which is oriented along various lines, or meridians, that flow in the body. In discussing shared populations of pelvic floor dysfunction, Natalie gave the example that the meridian that often holds stress runs through the both bladder and the liver, which is a primary line of treatment for Natalie to explore as she works with women experiencing pelvic pain often accompanied by stress, anxiety, and other unpleasant symptoms. In working with the rebalancing of the body’s energy, she hopes to help the body dial back the nervous system in order to allow energy to flow more easily through the body for purposes of healing. Another shared population: postpartum mothers. Natalie and her colleagues often see women before their 6-week Ob/Gyn checkup to ensure the mother’s healing has started off on the right foot (think: life with newborn = possible pain, anxiety, fear, lack of sleep, etc, etc!). Natalie and her colleagues will then follow the mother’s care somewhat consistently starting again at 3-4 months postpartum as mother and baby adjust through the phases of growth and healing.

Acupuncture and all forms of TCM are best utilized as a preventative form of medicine, but also effectively treat symptoms surrounding difficult to cure diseases (just like pelvic health PT or any other form of PT for that matter!). In this day and age, people tend to favor the ‘quick fixes’ for pain and dysfunction, all to find out their symptoms return with a vengeance after being “fixed.” Many people are referred to acupuncture and PT late, once symptoms have grown to become a daily disturbance. Often these more sustainable forms of treatment take more time and commitment from the client but tend to yield the best results over the long run. As clinicians, we know that time and money aren’t infinite. This is why spending valuable time and resources on sustainable treatments is important in order to get you feeling like the best version of yourself over the long run. We encourage you to consider augmenting your physical therapy care with some acupuncture. You won’t regret it! Get more info on acupuncturist Natalie Willits and her colleagues at Acupuncture Northwest!

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Covid-19 Notice

3/27/2020 Covid-19 Notice:

On March 19th, we made the difficult, yet important decision to close both clinics, in order to do our part to flatten the curve. We will reopen the clinics part time on Monday, April 6th, with an emphasis on telemedicine. This will allow us to comply as much as possible with the governor's Stay Home Stay Healthy order if it is extended, while also meeting our obligation as essential infrastructure workers. According to Dr. Matos, an expert in biological surety and the management of select agent programs at federal facilities: "Physical therapists are essential in flattening the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic. They play a key role in keeping people they can help out of doctors' offices and ER's. This will not only free up the medical teams to treat those impacted by Covid-19, but also limit the exposure of those seeking the care of the physical therapist." To that end, we will focus on telemedicine, but also allow for select, necessary in-office treatments for low risk, healthy individuals. This will be a joint determination between you and your PT. Many, if not all of our patients, have come to appreciate the effectiveness and efficiency of the hands-on manual therapy techniques our physical therapists use to help relieve pain and improve function. So, we recognize that a telemedicine visit may not seem as appealing. At this time, telemedicine is the appropriate and safe way to continue your care without further interruption and your physical therapists are prepared to alter their approach in order to still provide effective care.

During our temporary closure, your physical therapists have been on unemployment and not able to contribute to our communities financially as they normally would like to. Getting back to work, providing your care will allow us to resume caring for you and our community. For every telemedicine visit we provide in April, the clinic will donate $5 to the following organizations:

Kelsea Cannon, PT- Westside Baby
Lauren Esmailka, PT- Treehouse
Elizabeth Rogers, PT- Rainier Valley Food Bank

We remain passionate about helping you improve and maintain the function of your movement system so that you can do the activities you love. I remain available for urgent (i.e. post-op care, acute injury, treatment needed to decrease/avoid use of NSAIDs and Opiods) in-clinic treatment and telemedicine treatment from now until April 6th. We invite you to follow/Like our  Facebook page, where I am offering complimentary weekly Pilates mat class on Wednesdays at 7am and foam roller class on Fridays at 7am. All are welcome to participate in these classes or view them anytime on our Facebook page.

Please contact me directly with any questions or concerns. If you are a current patient, you should have received an email from me with scheduling/rescheduling info. Be in touch with your PT to schedule your telemedicine visit. I am available via clinic phone (206-535-7356) and email ( We will update you here and our Facebook page as things change.

We are counting the days until we get to resume our work together both virtually and in the clinic! Thank you for your support of this small, locally-owned physical therapy private practice!

Elizabeth Rogers, PT

Owner, Elizabeth Rogers Pilates & Physical Therapy, PLLC

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