Today, we are so excited to talk pelvic floor health with the co-owners of B.Wise Rehabilitation, Alexa Bancel (PT, MPT, PRPC) and Rachel Wise (PT, DPT, OCS)!
B.Wise Rehabilitation is located in the heart of Lincoln Square, and offers an individualized approach to pelvic health and orthopedic physical therapy, with more time spent focusing on 1-on-1 patient care and education. Read on to learn more about Alexa & Rachel’s journey to open B.Wise Rehab, preventative measures you can take to improve your pelvic floor health during & after pregnancy, and so much more!
Thanks so much for speaking with us today Alexa and Rachel! Can you tell us about yourselves, and what brought you both to Chicago?
Alexa: I am a local girl! I grew up in the Southport Corridor. I went east for college because I wanted to experience a different part of the county, but planned on coming back to Chicago after graduation.
Rachel: I am originally from Madison, WI but moved to Chicago in 2010 to use my skills as a physical therapist to work with professional dancers. Chicago is such an awesome city – beautiful architecture, a fantastic food scene, and a great center for the arts. I feel so fortunate to live somewhere where dance, theater, comedy, and museums are so accessible at such a high quality.
What were each of your career journeys prior to founding B.Wise Rehabilitation? How did you decide to start B.Wise Rehab together?
Alexa: Right out of school I worked at a large physical therapy company, treating orthopedic patients and endurance athletes. 2 year into my career I started treating women’s health patients and my passion for that population just grew rapidly. Three years into our careers, Rachel transferred into the clinic I was working at. After seven years of working together we were fed up with work for the big box company. We wanted to focus more on the individual patients. So after an amazing meal at Schwa and maybe a little too much wine, we decided to jump into the deep end and open our own business.
Rachel: I initially worked more with the performing arts population, specifically dancers. It was a great opportunity to learn how to work quickly and think on my feet. The dancers I worked with were so talented, so it was my job to make sure they could perform safely and to the best of their ability. It was such an honor to be able to do this kind of work, but as the years went on I started to look for other ways to use my skills as a physical therapist. That is when I started to transition into treating more and more women’s health and pelvic health issues. There is such a need for treatment of this population, and Alexa and I thought that we could help to fill a void by opening our own clinic.
Tell us more about B.Wise Rehab and all that you have to offer!
Alexa: We are an orthopedic physical therapy clinic that focuses on Pelvic Health. We are here to help women navigate their bodies and treat the things that many of us don’t like to talk about, ie, pelvic pain, pain with sex, urinary leakage, and address the body changes during and after pregnancy. We are also here to help with your everyday discomforts or injuries: back pain, knee pain, getting you back to running, crossfit, tap dancing, whatever you need.
Rachel: We offer one-on-one treatment sessions. We do not have clients overlapping, because we want to make sure that we are giving each patient our full and undivided attention. We hope to start doing some classes for women focusing on pregnancy, birth prep, and new moms once physical distancing recommendations are lifted. We are also working on upping our Instagram abilities, although that is a work in progress. We are adding tips and tricks to help people improve their knowledge about their bodies and pelvic floor.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
Alexa: I love making someone’s life better. We often see patients as their last resort, or after someone telling them “maybe you can get better”. Being able to tell and show someone that they can feel better is the best feeling in the world.
Rachel: Helping someone get back to their life without pain or discomfort is so rewarding. Many people are told that medication or surgery might be the answer to their issues, but showing someone that our bodies can heal, change and adapt with exercise and movement is awesome. I also love getting to know our patients on a personal level, because we are the health care provider that has the time to get to know our patients.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you interact with your patients? Do you have options for telehealth visits?
Alexa: We are still open for in-person treatment. We require everyone in our clinic to wear masks, have temperature checks, and answer Covid related questions before sessions. We do have the option for telehealth visits if necessary, but we prefer in person as we are able to assess and help with hands on techniques.
Rachel: We have tried really hard to adapt and make sure that we are safe and comfortable for all of our clients. We make sure that there is one client to each therapist in the clinic at all times, socially distanced. We have also purchased HEPA air filters to make sure we are cleaning and filtering the air as much as possible. Telehealth is a good option for people who still do not feel 100% comfortable coming into the clinic.
What are some of the symptoms that women should be looking for to know if they should be seeing a specialist for their pelvic health?
Alexa: Honestly we think all women should see a pelvic health therapist after giving birth! Things to know are: you should NEVER have pain or discomfort with a gyno exam, tampon insertion, or intercourse and you should never leak urine or feces. If you have any of these symptoms following your 6 week check up with your doctor you should see a pelvic health physical therapist. We can also help with low back pain or pubic pain during pregnancy.
Rachel: I think a lot people let “little things” slide, like leaking a little when they laugh, aches and pains during pregnancy, chronic constipation, or discomfort when having sex. We want people to know that these symptoms are NOT normal, and that we can help minimize or eliminate them so that they can live their life without discomfort.
It seems like pelvic floor health is something that doesn’t concern most women until they experience pain! Are there certain preventative measures that women can be taking to avoid issues during or after pregnancy?
Alexa: Pelvic health issues can actually happen at all ages, and throughout all stages of life. It doesn’t have to just be pain, but it can be weakness or poor coordination of the muscles. Preventative measures for our moms to be would be: learning proper abdominal and pelvic floor activation, not letting your belly “cone” when engaging your abdominals and tightening your pelvic floor, as you were picking up a blueberry with those muscles (but don’t practice this while peeing it is not good for you), and don’t forget working on a perineal massage to prep for a vaginal birth. These three techniques help in the postpartum phase as well. Consider these your jump start to having pain free intercourse with your partner, getting your abdominals to kick back on for back stability, and keeping your pelvic floor strong to prevent incontinence or prolapse.
Rachel: I think it’s important to listen to your body when you are pregnant. Many people are able to continue activity through most of their activities, but if your body doesn’t seem to be cooperating it may be a sign that you need to adapt or adjust your activity. I think it is also important to remember that pelvic health issues don’t just affect women around pregnancy. We often see athletes and people who perform high levels of activity who have pelvic floor issues from holding too much tension in their pelvis. You would also be surprised how often we see clients who have been treated for hip or back pain who come to realize that their pain is referred from their pelvic floor.
What is one more thing that you’d like to share with our readers that we haven’t covered?
Alexa: I think the biggest thing is that pelvic floor issues can happen to anyone. It is extremely common, but not normal, so don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Being an advocate for yourself and for your friends is the best thing you can do. Illinois is a direct access state, so if a physical therapy company is in network with your insurance plan you do not need a prescription from your provider before seeing us.
Rachel: Be proactive about your pelvic health. Make sure you drink enough water, stay strong but also stretch, and learn to give yourself some grace and time to recover. Moms and soon to be moms should prepare for birth – learn about your body and the changes it goes through – and then seek help when your body needs to recover from months of changes and then giving birth. We are here and excited to help you!