Blog February 14, 2023

Putting a priority on pelvic floor problems

Posted 2/14/2023. | 5 min. read

How we are helping patients access effective pelvic health therapy

Physical therapy (PT) – as an industry – talks a lot about the benefits of PT, sometimes in general terms.

It can help with the management of aches and pain.

It can help you heal from injury.

It can help you regain strength and improve mobility after surgery.

It can even help you avoid surgery – read Reason 3 in this popular blog to learn how.

And while all that’s true, for this blog we’re taking a bit of a departure to talk about a more, well… pressing problem.

Pelvic floor dysfunction.

It can literally feel like pressure – or pain – in your pelvic region, either in the front or the rear of your pelvic area.

This is a condition that’s a growing problem among U.S. adults – about 25 million – women and men.

And it’s been the elephant in the room that, until recently, no one really wanted to talk about. Let alone admit they knew the elephant was there.

Woman and man in business clothes being squished in a small room with an elephant with the message Ignore Me written on its side.

But the American physical therapy community is bringing the elephant into the light to drive conversation, education and new ways to access care and treatment of pelvic issues.

Now, there’s no need for a show of hands, but if a belly laugh makes you leak urine, if a bowel movement causes you misery or you’re bounding to the bathroom and hoping to make it, this blog is for you.

Read on to learn more.

What is the pelvic floor and its function?

Like many other body parts, the pelvic floor is a mix of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that fit together to form and support various organs in the body. In other words, this “floor” is the base of your pelvis and home to important organs.

Picture the bladder, bowel, uterus (women) or prostate (men) within the pelvic area and the pelvic muscles holding them all in place. Now imagine a bowl holding fruit or a hammock holding a person – that’s what the pelvic floor does.

The support of the pelvic muscles allows us to go to the bathroom without issue. That’s all thanks to the normal function of the muscles tightening and releasing as they should.

But when the pelvic floor muscles are weak (hypotonic) or become too tight (hypertonic) – more about these in a bit – it’s called pelvic floor dysfunction.

That dysfunction can lead to all sorts of uncomfortable or embarrassing things for women and men.

Pelvic dysfunction: women vs. men

Every year millions of women and men experience pelvic floor dysfunction.

In both genders the pelvic floor muscles are attached in two places: the pubic bone (front) and the tail bone (back).

Both genders can share similar symptoms of pain – internal organs, pelvis, hip, groin and tailbone – incontinence, constipation and declining sexual health.

But there are key differences and causes for the dysfunction, too.

Pelvic floor dysfunction: women

  • Reproductive health due to muscle strain during pregnancy or prolonged labor
  • Painful sex due to the muscles’ inability to relax
  • Muscle weakness that causes the pelvic organs to drop through the vagina or rectum

Women who have had multiple births have an increased chance of developing pelvic floor dysfunction.

Often, they may feel like their pelvic floor muscles are too weak or loose – a hypotonic pelvic floor. This means your pelvic floor muscles do not have the strength to properly position and stabilize your pelvis. Because of this you may experience symptoms of incontinence when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise.

Alternately, women can have hypertonic pelvic floor muscles. Increased tension in a muscle is created when you hold the muscles tight for a prolonged period of time – like when you have chronic pain. A good example is endometriosis. Symptoms of a hypertonic pelvic floor would be pain with pelvic exams, pain with intercourse and difficulty using a tampon.

Pelvic floor dysfunction: men

  • Erectile dysfunction that may be caused by muscle tension
  • Extreme workouts or long-term sports due to the core muscles being engaged for long periods
  • Testicular pain
  • Prior prostate surgery

These are just some of the many factors that can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. If you’re experiencing any type of dysfunction of the pelvic region, it’s recommended to seek help.

Can physical therapy help pelvic floor dysfunction?

In a word, yes.

Physical therapy can be an effective and non-invasive, non-surgical way to help with pelvic floor dysfunction.

It may be key in finally finding relief and getting back to a better quality of life. So if you’re one of the more than 25 million U.S. adults whose laughter, coughing or sneezing we referenced at the top of this article – or whose pelvic area is in constant pain – impacts your day-to-day, you may want to talk with one of our pelvic floor therapists.

Of course, depending on what your symptoms are and how long you’ve had them will determine the best type of therapy and its length.

With all the DIY self-help on the internet and apps to download for pretty much anything, you may think there are plenty of ways to find improvement without working with a specialist. Or you may think it too embarrassing to talk about. But the reality is that a pelvic health specialist is trained in how the body functions and can determine the nature of your pelvic floor condition and work with you one-on-one.

You’ll benefit from a professional assessment and a program of therapy and exercises we’ll put together just for you and your needs.

Woman squeezing a therapy ball between her legs.

Without an assessment, there’s no way of knowing which muscles or body parts you need to focus on. With DIY you’ll be guessing, which could lead to bigger problems.

Working with us, you’ll have the benefit of immediate feedback to adjust your exercise and monitor your progress.

If you’re experiencing pelvic pain or any of the symptoms we’ve highlighted, it’s important to seek medical attention. A physical therapist can provide the necessary treatments to help reduce and eliminate your pain and discomfort.

To request an appointment to work with one of our clinical team members or ask us questions about treatment, fill out our short online form. A member of our team will connect with you to confirm your visit.