What is the Pelvic Floor?
To understand the importance of the pelvic floor and how potential dysfunction can affect our bodies, we should first cover what the pelvic floor does normally.
Your pelvic floor is a versatile set of muscles that supports your colon, bladder, sexual organs and rectum. Specifically, the pelvic floor muscles help your bladder and rectum relax and contract on demand when needed. These are also the muscles that contract during sex.
What are Common Pelvic Health Problems?
Problems can develop when pelvic floor muscles are too loose or too tight. If your pelvic floor is weak or damaged, this can lead to accidental bowel leakage, urinary leakage and pelvic organ prolapse (when the bladder and uterus slide down into the vagina), a condition that causes the uterus, bladder and bowel to drop, causing a sensation of fullness and pressure.
If the muscles are too tight, you may find it difficult to relax. This can make bowel movements difficult and cause incomplete emptying of the bladder, burning during urination, constipation, a weak urinary system or pain when having sex.
Here are some common symptoms of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction or weakness:
- A heaviness or dragging in the pelvis or back
- Recurring urinary tract infections, or recurrent thrush
- Leaking urine when sneezing, coughing, running or laughing
- Passing wind from either the anus or vagina when lifting or bending over
- Pain in the vulva, pain with sex or inability to orgasm
- A sensation of heaviness in the vagina
- A distinct bulge at the vaginal opening
- Deep vaginal ache
- Tampons that dislodge or fall out
- Failing to reach the toilet in time
What Causes Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction?
Both women and men can experience pelvic floor issues. The pelvic floor can be weakened by:
- The pressure of obesity
- Constant coughing
- Lower levels of estrogen after menopause
- Chronic constipation and straining to poo
- Supporting the uterus's weight during pregnancy
- Vaginal childbirth, which can overstretch the muscles
- Tension in the pelvic floor muscles caused by endometriosis and painful periods
- Nerve damage from disease or surgery
Anything that puts pressure on the muscles can lead to a pelvic floor disorder. While it's discussed more rarely, men can also develop these as a result of enlarged prostate, infection, pelvic surgery, neurological disease, trauma and even radiation treatments for conditions including prostate cancer.
While both genders can suffer from this common medical condition, pelvic health issues are not a normal part of aging and can be successfully treated.
How Can I Keep My Pelvic Floor Healthy?
Stress and lifestyle factors can aggravate and exacerbate pelvic floor issues in both men and women. Just as everyone should exercise and maintain a nutritious diet to prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease, we can also work on improving our pelvic health at any age. Our Nepean physiotherapists can help you maintain a strong pelvic floor to avoid chronic issues, including lack of bladder and bowel control.
You may want to try these tips to maintain pelvic floor health:
- Avoid heavy lifting, which can lead to organ prolapse.
- Strengthen your pelvic floor health by performing daily Kegel exercises.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Loosen overly tight pelvic muscles by practicing meditation and guided relaxation.
- Avoid constipation by drinking lots of fluid to stay hydrated, and exercising regularly.
- Avoid pushing or straining while urinating and during bowel movements.
- Avoid prolonged toileting.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol, artificial sweeteners and caffeine.
- Quit smoking, or refrain from starting.
- Take warm baths and practice yoga to relax muscles in and around the pelvic floor area.
Pelvic physiotherapy can include at-home exercises prescribed by a physical therapist. These can be done while you are lying down, sitting or standing.
At Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy, we can assess and treat conditions related to the pelvic floor and any symptoms you may experience.
When to Seek Treatment for Pelvic Floor Issues
While a healthy pelvic floor is essential to our health, many people feel embarrassed to admit they are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. As a result, these conditions often go untreated. However, there's no need for silence to lead to unnecessary suffering - we're here to help! Some people are at higher risk for pelvic floor disorders, including those with:
- Multiple births
- History of pelvic radiation and pelvic surgery
- Steroid dependency
- Connective tissue disorders
The good news is, there are options for treatment, including pelvic physical therapy. If you have been suffering from pelvic floor pain or dysfunction, or are in an at-risk category, please contact us.
Pelvic Physiotherapy at Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy
We treat a wide range of conditions, from intense urges to urinate to persistent low back pain, sciatica, irritable bowel syndrome and more. Our pelvic physiotherapist is specially trained to provide internal assessment and pelvic health services.
Physiotherapy for pelvic pain includes a consultation process, assessment and treatment. Once your physiotherapist has conducted your exam, they will explain their findings to you, discuss any exercises you can do at home and summarize what changes you can expect to see, and how long you should expect your treatment to take.
You may receive "homework" to do between treatment sessions, including stretches, strengthening exercises or tracking aspects of your health and lifestyle, such as elimination habits, fluid intake and diet.
As your privacy and comfort are our first priority, treatment takes place in a closed-door treatment room at our physiotherapy clinic. You may need to return to our physiotherapy center for ongoing treatment.
Are you wondering how our physiotherapist can help with pelvic pain or dysfunction? Let's discuss how we can assist.
We can help develop a physical therapy plan to help you heal.
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.