What is the Pelvic Floor?
Many of us tend not to think about our pelvic floor unless we have issues or are going through life changes that affect our physical health or functioning.
The pelvic floor is an important, versatile set of muscles that supports your bladder, colon, rectum and sexual organs. Specifically, the pelvic floor muscles help your bladder and rectum relax and contract on demand when required. These muscles also contract during sex, so dysfunction can have serious effects.
What are Common Pelvic Health Issues?
Pelvic floor muscles being too loose or too tight can can contribute to problems. If your pelvic floor is weak or damaged, this can lead to urinary leakage, accidental bowel leakage and prolapse of pelvic organs (when the bladder and uterus slip down into the vagina, causing a sensation of pressure and fullness).
You might find it difficult to relax if your pelvic muscles are too tight, which can make for difficult bowel movements and cause incomplete emptying of the bladder, constipation, a weak urinary system, burning during urination or pain when having sex.
Some common symptoms of pelvic floor muscle weakness or dysfunction include:
- A sensation of heaviness in the vagina
- Recurring urinary tract infections or recurring thrush
- A drafting or heaviness in the back or pelvis
- Pain in the vulva, pain with sex or inability to orgasm
- A distinct bulge at the vaginal opening
- Passing wind from either the vagina or anus when lifting or bending over
- Leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running
- Failing to reach the toilet in time
- Deep vaginal ache
- Tampons that dislodge or fall out
What Causes Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction?
Both men and women can experience pelvic floor problems. The pelvic floor can be weakened by:
- Nerve damage due to surgery or disease
- The pressure of obesity
- Vaginal childbirth, which can overstretch the muscles
- Constant coughing
- Tension in the pelvic floor muscles caused by painful periods and endometriosis
- Lower levels of estrogen after menopause
- Supporting the uterus's weight during pregnancy
- Chronic constipation and straining to poo
When the muscles experience pressure, this can cause a pelvic floor disorder. While pelvic floor issues in men are discussed more rarely, males can also develop these problems as a result of pelvic surgery, infection, neurological disease, an enlarged prostate, trauma and even radiation treatments for conditions such as prostate cancer.
Though both genders can suffer from this common medical condition, pelvic health issues are not a normal aspect of aging and can be treated successfully.
How Can I Keep My Pelvic Floor Healthy?
For both men and women, pelvic floor issues can be exacerbated by stress and lifestyle factors. Just as everyone should exercise and maintain a nutritious diet to prevent obesity, heart disease and diabetes, we can also work on improving our pelvic health at any age.
Our physiotherapists in Nepean can help you maintain a strong pelvic floor to avoid chronic issues, including a lack of bladder and bowel control.
You may consider trying these tips to maintain pelvic floor health:
- Strengthen your pelvic floor health by performing daily Kegel exercises.
- Loosen overly tight pelvic muscles by practicing meditation and guided relaxation.
- Avoid heavy lifting, which can lead to organ prolapse.
- Take warm baths and practice yoga to relax muscles in and around the pelvic floor area.
- Reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid prolonged toileting
- Avoid constipation by drinking lots of fluid to stay hydrated, and exercising regularly.
- Avoid straining or pushing while urinating and during bowel movements.
- Quit smoking or refrain from starting.
Pelvic physiotherapy may include at-home exercises prescribed by a physical therapist. You may perform these while you are sitting, standing or lying down.
The physiotherapist at our sister location, Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre, is specially trained to provide internal assessment and pelvic health services.
We provide pelvic physiotherapy services in a quiet, private treatment room and also offer virtual physiotherapy appointments so that our clients can start or continue treatments from the comfort of home.
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 for those who are at risk for or actively experiencing pelvic floor pain or dysfunction is that there are options for treatment, including pelvic physical therapy.
We treat a wide range of conditions, from intense urges to urinate to persistent low back pain, sciatica, irritable bowel syndrome and more. The pelvic physiotherapist at our sister location in Nepean 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.