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Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

While it may not be at the top of your mind when it comes to your muscular health, your pelvis hosts a number of important muscles. These 'pelvic floor' muscles support your internal organs, control urination and more. Here, our Nepean physical therapists explain how these muscles can be impacted by pelvic floor dysfunction, its symptoms, its treatments and how you can prevent its development.

The muscles of your pelvis serve many purposes in both supporting overall health and sexual function. They control the flow and frequency of urination, assist in passing bowel movements and can affect sexual sensation. Because of these muscles' location in our bodies, if they become strained or injured, they may cause pain, discomfort, sensitivity and more. When your pelvic floor muscles experience strain or injury, it is referred to as pelvic floor dysfunction. 

Physical therapy may be able to help you recover to function and feeling in the muscles of your pelvic floor, strengthening them and building them up to prevent future injury. If not treated this way, symptoms of injuries like urinary incontinence or organ prolapse can become facts of life.

What causes dysfunction in my pelvic muscles?

The exact cause of your injury or dysfunction in your pelvic floor can actually be quite difficult to nail down. This is because the symptoms of injury in your pelvic floor can actually be similar to symptoms caused by other health conditions altogether. 

The difficulty in pinning down the cause can also be attributed to the diverse range of possible ways the muscles of your pelvic floor could be adversely impacted. Some common causes of injuries or other pelvic floor dysfunction include:

  • Ageing
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Prostate Cancer
  • An Episiotomy (during delivery)
  • Chronic Constipation 
  • Traumatic Pelvic Injuries
  • Overactive/tight muscles
  • Lower levels of estrogen after menopause

What are some of the most common symptoms of pelvic dysfunction?

While symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction may appear as pain in the muscles of that area of your body, often, the symptoms of pelvic dysfunction that require physiotherapy may take on very different forms. 

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of injuries, strains or dysfunction in your pelvis can include:

  • Groin pain
  • Constipation
  • Urinary Urgency
  • Painful Urination
  • Urinary/Bowel Incontinence
  • Increased Urinary Frequency
  • Reduced Sexual Sensation or Pain during intercourse
  • Lower Back Pain Without An Obvious Cause

If you notice that any of these conditions are consistently coming up in your daily life, you may have dysfunction in your pelvic floor. While many people will accept these symptoms as the 'price of aging,' this doesn't have to be true. With physiotherapy treatments offered by our Nepean physical therapists, we may be able to help you to recover control over your bodily functions, alleviate your pain and reduce the discomfort you feel in your pelvic floor.

What treatments are involved in pelvic physiotherapy?

Our Nepean physiotherapists offer treatment to patients who are suffering from pelvic floor pain or dysfunction using a number of different methods. And, while these treatments are tailored for your specific case of pelvic floor dysfunction, you don't need to be in pain to seek physical therapy for your pelvic floor muscles. In fact, physiotherapy shines as a preventive treatment - supporting the strength and mobility of the muscles in your pelvis (or any other part of your body) to prevent injuries or dysfunction from ever occurring in the first place! 

The methods we use to treat and prevent the development of pelvic dysfunction fall under two large umbrellas: passive and active physical therapies. 

Passive Physiotherapy for Your Pelvic Floor

Passive physiotherapy is called this because it doesn't require our patients to take action themselves. During passive physiotherapy treatments, our physical therapists treat our clients to help relax tight muscles, encourage healing of injuries, and assess what exercises or activities might be best suited for our patient's particular case. We offer a number of passive physiotherapy treatments for pelvic floor issues in our patients, including:

  • Manual Therapy - Our physiotherapists offer a number of manual therapy techniques (tissues & joints) depending on the root cause of your pain to help loosen and relax seized or spasming muscles.
  • Myofascial Release & other tissue techniques (cupping, dry needling, etc) - When we have identified the source of pelvic pain as residing in a specific muscular trigger point, we use physical stimulation to release stress and tension from the identified source in your pelvic floor, low back, and buttock.

Active Physiotherapy for Your Pelvic Floor

Active physiotherapy treatments are exercises specifically prescribed for a client by one of our physiotherapists based on their professional assessment of the root cause of their discomfort or pain. These activities and exercises, help to strengthen muscles, encourage relaxation and stretch tight muscle groups.

The exercises our physiotherapists prescribe for pelvic floor issues will be hugely dependent on the specific root cause of their discomfort, but generally involve exercises, stretches and relaxation techniques to do at home.  Kegels are NOT the ONLY or right answer for all!

Always wait for a physiotherapist's prescription of an exercise before engaging injured, pained, or stiff muscles. If you attempt exercises or activities without consulting your physiotherapist, you may cause yourself further injury and pain!

Are you experiencing any symptoms of pelvic pain or dysfunction?

Our team of Nepean physiotherapists are here to help you recover.

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Welcome to the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre blog, where we provide lots of helpful tips, news, information and advice about physiotherapy and massage treatments, as well as general health and wellness, in Nepean and Ottawa.

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