Learning More About the Pelvic Floor
We’ve all heard about it before and we know that for some it can be a bone of contention, but what is the pelvic floor? This article will help you learn more about it, its role, where it is and what the signs and symptoms are of dysfunction.
What is it?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that attaches within the base of our pelvis. It has three layers of muscles that act like a hammock to essentially keep all our pelvic organs in place. Each layer has specific roles to play which I’ll outline below.
Pelvic Floor Job Description
Here is a list of what it is responsible for:
- Supports the pelvic organs (bladder, rectum and uterus) like a basket within the pelvis and keeps them stable against gravity.
- Controls our bodily excretions such as urination and passing of stools. It does this by coordinating the opening and closing of the sphincters (anus and urethra)
- Coordinates sexual function during intercourse help to achieve and sustain an erection, and allow penetration.
- Stabilises the pelvis – due to the muscle attachments to the pelvis and hips it creates a more stable unit.
- Acts like a sump pump to pump blood and lymphatic fluid back up towards your heart.
Signs That Things May Not Be Working So Well.
There may be times in your life where the pelvic floor is not able to do its job as well as it should and its important to recognise what those signs and symptoms are.
There are two main types of dysfunction:
- a weak pelvic floor (hypotonic or under-active)
- too tight a pelvic floor (hypertonic or overactive)
Hypotonic pelvic floor
When the muscles cannot voluntarily contract.
- you pee a little when you cough, sneeze, laugh, jump, run
- follow through when passing gas
- fail to reach the toilet in time
- a sense of heaviness in the vaginal opening
- can see something protruding from your vagina or anus
- tampons fall out
What causes it?
- during pregnancy the weight of the baby will press down on the pelvic floor
- vaginal childbirth will stretch the muscles
- being overweight
- straining whilst trying to poo / constipation
- coughing constantly
- hormone levels – lower levels of oestrogen after menopause
- consistently breath holding whilst lifting
Hypertonic pelvic floor
When the muscles don’t relax when asked or they contract when asked for a relaxation.
- slower urinary flow or a feeling of incomplete emptying
- urinary urgency or frequency
- difficulty emptying the bowels or passing ‘skinny stools’
- painful sexual intercourse
- not being able to feel a pelvic floor muscle contraction or release
- pelvic pain
- erectile dysfunction in men
What causes it?
- stress – tension can be stored in pelvic floor muscles
- bladder of bowel dysfunction
- hyper mobility – those with excessive hip / pelvic mobility will compensate
- learned behaviours that cause gripping in abs, pelvic floor and or buttocks
- pelvic surgery – can cause scar tissue or irritate pelvic structures
- infection or inflammation – UTI’s or chronic thrush
- injury – pelvic floor muscles can compensate following an injury in the pelvis
- trauma – a fall onto buttocks or tailbone or trauma such as sexual abuse
What you can do
If you believe you have any of the above symptoms it’s important to go get medical advice. Please ignore some of the incontinence adverts or others out there that say that these issues are ‘common and normal’ and that there is nothing you can do (apart from buy their product for the rest of your life). These symptoms are indeed common but they are NOT normal. It is a sign of dysfunction that CAN be helped.
You can make an appointment with your doctor, a women’s health physiotherapist or if symptoms are minor enrol on a pelvic floor and core restoration programme.
I am in contact with local women’s health physiotherapists who I am happy to put you in touch with. Please complete the contact form to find out more.
Holistic Core Restore® Everywoman
I run a 6 to 12 week pelvic floor and core restore programme designed to teach women how to connect better to this important area of their body. In this programme we look at the essential aspects that affect the muscles and teach strategies on how to correct any issues that may have arisen. I link this in with functional exercise, optimal nutrition and self-care strategies treating the approach as a whole rather than in individual parts. The programme is offered as either 1-1 or as a group programme. For further details please click on the image below.