Get to Know Eagle County’s Only Certified Women’s Health Physical Therapist: Stephanie Drew
Having practiced physical therapy for 10 years, including work with orthopaedic patients, Stephanie Drew has specialized in women’s health at Howard Head Sports Medicine since 2009, helping transform the lives of both women and men of all ages dealing with sensitive problems in the body’s nether regions. Drew is one of just 194 physical therapists in the United States with a board certification in women’s health. What exactly does this mean? Let her tell you.
She will be the first to say that “it is definitely not a field for everyone – you deal with a lot of touchy issues,” but Drew takes great pride in her work.
Vail Daily: What is a women’s health PT?
Stephanie Drew: Broadly, a women’s health PT has expertise in treating pretty much everything musculoskeletal that pertains to female plumbing. Specifically, in addition to treating standard orthopaedic and neurologic issues, a women’s health PT also treats pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence (male and female), tailbone pain, constipation, pre and post partum pain as well as problems associated with osteoporosis, breast and prostate cancer.
VD: What is the primary demographic of your patients?
SD: That’s the crazy thing that many people don’t expect. I see all ages and both genders. Incontinence and pelvic pain are not just problems of the senior population. Muscle imbalance in athletic young people can cause pain and incontinence. Hormone changes and weakness can cause the same thing as we age. Hip injuries, prostate surgeries, low back issues, a fall on your tailbone, pregnancy or just plain poor posture can all contribute to trouble. I have seen patient ranging in age from their teens all the way up to their 70s and 80s.
VD: Why did you choose women’s health physical therapy?
SD: I have been interested in women’s health since I graduated in 2003. I began pursuing the specialty more intensely when I moved to the Valley in 2009 and realized that the women of our Valley were going to Denver, Aspen or Grand Junction for help or, more often, just suffering silently and assuming they had to “just live with it.”
VD: How can you help people who struggle with urinary incontinence?
SD: I help them find the cause of their incontinence. For some women, it is more an issue of muscle weakness and posture. For other people – men and women – it is more about finding what their triggers are and changing their habits to eliminate those triggers.
VD: Can women avoid drastic urinary incontinence surgeries through PT?
SD: Many women are able to avoid surgery by strengthening and by learning the things that trigger their incontinence. If they do have to have surgery, PT improves the outcome and longevity of the surgery. Just like with orthopaedic issues, there are ligaments and muscles associated with our urogenital systems.
VD: What are the greatest benefits of what you do?
SD: I love what I do because it helps give people back their identity. With regards to incontinence, men and women regain control so that they feel comfortable to lead a normal social life; they no longer have to map out every bathroom on their walks or plan their outfits around what will hide their pads. Many can stop using or reduce drastically their use of diapers/pads. With regards to pelvic pain, they are again able to enjoy intimacy and are able to sit long enough to drive and work.
VD: Why do you feel some patients have lost their identity due to pelvic issues?
SD: Because pelvic pain is often intertwined with sexuality, it affects our relationships and our perceptions of ourselves. Not feeling like you have any control over something that is embarrassing or painful is one of the most frustrating aspects of any of these complaints. In general, when we as people have some control, we feel we can maintain dignity.
VD: How do you spend your time outside of work?
SD: When I’m not working, I am pretty consumed with the newest edition to our family—Josiah James, born April 19. When I have a few minutes, I also love snowboarding and mountain biking, although I’m pretty sure somebody made those trails steeper while I was pregnant!
To learn more about Howard Head Sports Medicine or Stephanie’s expertise, visit www.hhsm.com or call (970) 569-7777.
Howard Head Sports Medicine, a service of Vail Valley Medical Center, was created through a generous donation by Howard and Martha Head. Howard Head’s ingenuity changed skiing forever and that same spirit of ingenuity quickly spread to pioneering therapy protocols and reshaping physical therapy worldwide.