HONOLULU -- Pelvic health physical therapy research has expanded at Tripler Army Medical Center, thanks to a grant from the Army Medicine Advanced Medical Technology Initiative last October.

The grant will fund a research team to collect more supporting evidence for urinary incontinence and severe pelvic conditions related to chronic pelvic pain by utilizing new advanced medical technology.

"The goal of the pelvic health physical therapy program is to enhance the readiness of our soldiers, family members, and retirees throughout our Oahu 'ohana," said Capt. Stephanie Fournier, assistant chief of physical therapy and TAMC's PHPT program director.

Military duties and activities related to load carriage, psychological impact and environmental barriers contribute to pelvic and genitourinary system stresses to female soldiers. Symptoms include urinary leakage, pelvic pain, or feelings of pressure in the pelvic region.

Whether pain is a symptom or not, it can be better identified with innovative technology, such as real-time ultrasound, Tripler staff said.

Fournier is board-certified in women's health physical therapy and is the U.S. Army and Defense Health Agency expert in PHPT.

"We want to provide relevant and compassionate care by ensuring that our beneficiaries can access specialty services, like PHPT, regardless of their location," Fournier said.

Urinary incontinence is any involuntary leakage of urine, a symptom of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction or fatigue, according to Fournier.

"[PHPT] makes sure that our warfighters are at their most lethal and not held back by pelvic floor movement dysfunction," Fournier said.

Lt. Col. John E. Musser, director of the urology residency program, said he frequently refers his patients to participate in the physical therapy program.

"Pelvic floor physical therapy can get our Soldiers, sailors and airmen back to normal activities and improve their quality of life without the need for chronic medications, which often cause significant side effects," Musser said.

"Pelvic floor physical therapy is the best treatment for a variety of urologic conditions and symptom control," Musser added.

Emily Brainard, a TAMC patient, said she was referred to PHPT after undergoing surgery.

"Every couple of weeks I go in and she [Fournier] checks and it's kind of like checking in with a trainer," Brainard said. "Hopefully, when I hit six weeks I can continue moving forward."

Brainard feels the program is having a positive impact on her recovery.

"It wasn't the surgery that made me feel whole again; it was actually going through the PT that let me realize it doesn't have to be life-changing to have pelvic organ prolapse," she said.

Tripler began its program in 2016 with physical therapist April Bronowski, and is one of eight Army facilities practicing PHPT. Similar programs are located at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Md.; and Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas.

Tripler staff recommends that those who experience any symptoms of urinary leakage, pelvic pain, pelvic pressure, or other pelvic symptoms speak with their primary care manager about a possible referral to the PHPT program.