Meet Dr. Chris

dr christine pieton santa barbara physical therapist

Dr. Christine Pieton, DPT, MBA

When I graduated from physical therapy (PT) school, I thought I knew exactly where I wanted to work and who I wanted to serve. I had it all figured out (or so I thought) and was excited to hit the ground running, both literally and figuratively. I had worked hard to specialize in sport and orthopedic rehab through my clinical rotations, and loved supporting fellow runners get back to logging their miles pain free. That was my jam – working with all the runners.

I quickly became the go-to running specialist at the clinic I worked at. I loved it, and soon started supporting a lot of female runners, which then turned into a lot of mother runners…What I never could have expected was that my mother runners would turn my PT career upside down in the most profound of ways, leading me to discover my true calling: becoming a sport and pelvic health PT.

Those courageous women become my WHY behind further understanding the importance of pelvic health and the unique needs of postpartum recovery. They needed help unpacking the WHY behind their leaking with running, with understanding the differences they were feeling in their bodies after baby that no one could explain (aka why things weren’t “bouncing back”), with needing better tools to return to fitness activities and day to day life as a mom without chronic aches and pains. Many of these mothers had been to multiple PTs before seeing me, and I quickly realized I wasn’t getting them the results they wanted/needed either, and I didn’t know WHY.

Not being able to successfully problem solve for them left me feeling like a failure, and made me question if I was meant to be doing what I was doing. Why couldn’t I help my mother runners get better like my other runner patients? What was I missing? Why aren’t they responding to the usual things that help most runners get better? These were a few of the questions I started asking myself. So, I turned to my patients with more questions. I had no idea where these questions would lead…I was lost and searching for a needle in a haystack, or so it seemed…Back pain, leaking while running, pelvic heaviness, pelvic pain with sex and exercise, etc…started to be the themes I was hearing over and over again in their answers. The puzzle pieces all started pointing towards signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, something I had gotten ONE three hour lecture about in PT school, that was it! (important side-note: Pelvic health is still not part of PT school curriculum). Eek! now what?!

So I did what we all do when faced with a question we don’t know the answer to…I consulted Dr. Google 😛 I ended up down a million research rabbit holes, reading all the articles I could access for free, and started to piece together a little more of the WHY, but still had no idea HOW to solve these issues. I guess I should take a Pelvic Floor PT course, just to learn a little more…there just so happened to be one happening near me in 6weeks – thank you universe!

I entered that course thinking I was simply gathering more info for the sole purpose of knowing who to refer these mother runners to for guidance. I had no plans of becoming a specialist in this area, are you kidding?! I didn’t feel comfortable talking about all those intimate details about bowel/bladder/sexual function, let alone do an internal pelvic exam – oh, hell no! I do sports and orthopedics…funny how “never say never” tends to backfire. I walked out of that four day course with an entirely new perspective and appreciation for an area of the body I had never really learned about. And I was a 28year old medical professional. “I have to treat this,” I thought, “we need more clinicians supporting pelvic health. This is SO important and why aren’t we learning more about this in PT school?!”

Fast forward five years later, I have my own sport and women’s pelvic health practice, and I can’t imagine a day where I don’t talk about all the things “down there”. I can’t imagine not carrying around my pelvic model and teaching my patients about the amazingness of their pelvic floor and all that it does for us on the daily. This information needs to be more widely accessible. It shouldn’t be privileged, top secret intel, but rather normalized, easily accessible info. I can’t help but wonder how much shame and embarrassment could be avoided, and how much more self confidence we’d see and feel if that were the case.

Women deserve access to quality information about pelvic health and wellness, and how it relates to running during pregnancy and postpartum recovery. I’m passionate about helping my fellow ladies feel strong and confident from the inside out, without pain, leaking or limitations. I’m also on a mission to change the conversation from “I wish someone had told me” to “I’m so glad I knew…”

I recently started Mama Runs Wild a free fb group that talks about all things women’s health, strength training, and pelvic floor support as they relate to running. If you’re looking for a supportive community of mother runners and want to learn more about your pelvic health I’d love to have you join!

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