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Good Shepherd program specializes in women's physical therapy

By Christina Lane
Jan. 30, 2013 at 10 p.m.


Good Shepherd Medical Center has launched the Women's Health Physical Therapy program - a one-of-a-kind offering for East Texans, officials said.

The program, offered through Good Shepherd's Institute for Healthy Living, provides natural rehabilitation to help women of all ages heal and regain strength through specially-designed exercises and stretches.

"I've been interested in starting this for about 10 years. I knew this was something we needed in this area," said Heather Brooks, who has a master's degree in physical therapy and is the women's health coordinator at the institute. Brooks has more than 10 years of experience in physical therapy and received advanced certification in women's health physical therapy from Texas Woman's University.

Brooks said a women's health movement started in the 1990s, and physical therapy targeting women began to be offered as an optional route for therapists.

The main difference between this and traditional physical therapy, Brooks said, is therapists are able to perform an internal pelvic evaluation to determine appropriate treatment.

After the evaluation is performed, a therapist provides treatment options, such as external massages, internal massages, pelvic floor exercises, a variety of stretches and strengthening exercises and other techniques, she said.

The length of treatment varies from patient-to-patient and is determined after the initial evaluation and additional assessments, she said.

The Women's Health Physical Therapy program treats various matters involving incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, prenatal and postpartum pain, pelvic pain and lymphedema. Women must have a doctor's referral for the program. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances are accepted.

"More emphasis on fitness and wellness has heightened the interest for women to pay closer attention to their bodies throughout life," Brooks said. "Physical therapy can be a very effective treatment option for those who are experiencing pain and dysfunctions of the pelvic floor related to issues such as incontinence, pelvic pain or pressure, and/or low-back pain."

She added that therapists are also able to educate women on such matters as when to begin exercising after giving birth, scar tissue massage and more.

The goals of the program are to restore independence and function and return women to an improved quality of life; eliminate or manage pain; teach lifestyle changes to prevent dysfunction or reinjury; and to provide education to women in all cycles of their lives.

"My hope is to reach women of all ages who are having issues or pain that is chronic," Brooks said.

Since she started accepting patients, Brooks has been able to help women who had been suffering from pain for years recover in as few as three to four sessions, she said.

For information about Good Shepherd's Women's Health Physical Therapy Program, call the Good Shepherd Healthy Hotline at (903) 315-4747 or toll free at (888) 784-4747.

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