Many people struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction, often in silence, and it’s time to break the cycle. The topic is out there and we’re diving right in: what is the pelvic floor and how can pelvic floor therapy transform your life?
What is the Pelvic Floor?
First things first: the pelvic floor, also known as the pelvic diaphragm, is the set of muscles and tissue that support the pelvis. Both men and women have pelvic floors. It supports the bladder, the intestines, the urethra, the anus, the vagina and uterus in women, and the prostate in men.
In a simpler way, the pelvic floor’s muscles and connecting tissues are what holds some of our lower organs tight in place. As you can see, it is quite an important in sexual and reproductive health.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
There are many dysfunctions that can affect the pelvic floor and they are caused by a “malfunction” of these muscles. More often than not, when there is a dysfunction in the pelvic floor it is because the muscles aren’t able to properly contract and relax.
This can lead to incontinence, constipation, pain, erectile dysfunction, or even pelvic organ prolapse in women. Pelvic organs prolapse is what happens when the muscles supporting the pelvic organs are weak or damaged and allow the organs to “drop down” and pressure the vagina.
What causes Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
There are many causes of pelvic floor dysfunction, the main being:
- Surgery complications
- Injuries to the pelvic area
- Certain bladder conditions like interstitial cystitis
- Age-related weakening of the muscles
- Overuse of the pelvic floor caused by, for example, constipation
Unfortunately, pelvic floor dysfunctions can also be hereditary, but a genetic root cause hasn’t been found yet.
What is Pelvic floor therapy?
Obviously, pelvic floor dysfunctions need to be treated, and there are a few ways of doing so. One of them is Pelvic floor therapy, a kind of physical therapy that targets the pelvic floor specifically.
While every case is different, pelvic floor therapy may include stretches, ultrasound therapy, manual therapy, and exercises to do at home. The objective is to rehabilitate the muscles, by either strengthening or loosening them, depending on your condition.
We know what you are thinking. Kegels. Right? And if you did think of Kegel exercises, you are absolutely correct. These are pelvic floor exercises, very common in pelvic floor therapy.
However, just like Kegels, pelvic floor therapy is not exclusive for those with dysfunctions. It can also be used in a preventive way, for example, in preparation for childbirth. It can help to have an easier natural delivery and can even prevent the need for a C-section.
When to seek pelvic floor therapy?
The answer is simple: whenever you feel like you need it. Pain is a very frequent indicator that something is wrong because pain is simply not normal. No one should have pain during intercourse, urination or bowel movements, or while doing normal mundane things like walking or sitting.
Granted, pelvic floor dysfunction might not be the reason for your discomfort, so it is important you seek medical help if something is not right. Remember, pelvic floor dysfunction tends to aggravate if left untreated.
Check a handy and complete guide to the menstrual cup.
What to expect on a first appointment?
The first appointment of pelvic floor therapy will be mostly a kind of diagnosis. It should include a thorough interview and discussion about your experience: symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle.
Some of the questions will touch sensitive subjects, such as sexual intercourse and experiences, periods, personal habits, etc. Note that pelvic floor therapists are trained medical professionals, and they are aware that these topics can be sensitive, personal, and how many women feel reluctant, embarrassed, or exposed when talking about them.
Next, there can be a physical evaluation, but not always. Pelvic floor therapy focuses also on posture, back, and hips since pelvic floor dysfunctions might be connected to these. There might be a need for an internal exam to properly assess the state of your pelvic floor muscles. This internal exam is done through the vagina and/or through anus, and most likely using some biofeedback sensors.
Nervous about your first gyno visit?
Why is pelvic floor therapy important?
Physical therapy is only one of the treatment options for pelvic floor dysfunctions, along with medication, surgery, lifestyle changes, or the use of certain devices. However, this does not diminish its importance.
Pelvic floor therapy can significantly improve your quality of life by helping to reduce or even eliminate symptoms like pain, incontinence, painful intercourse, constipation, and others. All of these have not only physical implications but also serious emotional ones.
It is estimated that up to 50% of women suffer from some kind of pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives, and about 11% will undergo surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse by age 80. Additionally, 1 in 4 women suffers from chronic pelvic pain, which can be dramatically increased with pelvic floor therapy.
So, why is pelvic floor therapy important? Because you, your well-being and your health are important.
Take good care. Of your vagina. Of yourself. Of our planet.