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Stephanie Kates, a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health, helps Kelli Andrews, of Clinton, with a hip stretching exercise on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center in the Center for Integrated Wellness, Bloomington. Andrews recently completed physical therapy with Kates and is experiencing diminished pelvic floor and low back pain.

CLINTON — When Kelli Andrews' obstetrician/gynecologist suggested specialized physical therapy for her pelvic floor and low back pain, Andrews was skeptical.

"I didn't want another surgery so I thought, 'Maybe I'll give it a try,'" the Clinton woman recalled last week. "I'm glad I was open-minded to it. Where I was, compared to where I am now, is night and day."

Andrews, 50, has had hip problems since birth. While she was able to have four children, she has dealt with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus, and had a partial hysterectomy.

In 2013, the endometriosis had wrapped around part of her intestines and right ovary and the ovary was surgically removed. In 2015, scar tissue on the right side of her abdomen was surgically removed.

From 2015 to earlier this year, Andrews experienced increasing pelvic pain.

"It was all over my abdomen, hips, groin, lower torso," she said. By earlier this year, "it felt that my tail bone was on fire."

In addition, she was not able to go to the bathroom regularly, so she adjusted her diet to mostly liquids and soft vegetables. She couldn't sit for long periods of time.

She was in so much discomfort that, after work, she'd take a bath and go to bed by 7 p.m. Soon, she had to stop working.

Andrews spoke with Dr. Dele Ogunleye, her Bloomington OB/GYN, who suggested that she see Stephanie Kates, a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health.

"Kelli first came to me with reports of pain and constipation," Kates said. She discovered that Andrews' problems were related more to the sacroiliac joint, which connects the bone at the bottom of the spine with the pelvis.

"We needed to address the sacroiliac joint and pelvic floor together," while also considering that Andrews' hips were out of alignment. The hip problem and sacroiliac joint dysfunction put tension on the pelvic floor.

Meeting twice a week for one hour per session, Kates had Andrews do Pelvicore exercises described in the accompanying story. Kates also performed manual therapy and massage on Andrews, helped her with stretching and advised techniques, such as a deeper squat for toileting.

"We were able to release some of the pelvic floor muscles," Kates said. Andrews said her pain is reduced and she can sit and stand comfortably for longer periods of time.

"She has improved significantly," Kates said. "Her endurance isn't quite there but she has an established program to help."

Andrews completed her physical therapy program — which was covered by insurance — at the end of June and continues to do exercises on her own. She hopes to return to work soon.

"I didn't realize these simple exercises would make such a big difference," Andrews said. "I would recommend them for anyone having problems with their pelvic floor."

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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