The pelvic floor is a little-recognized but critical area of the body. This diamond-shaped set of muscles located between the front of the pelvis and the tailbone plays an important role in everything from pleasurable sex to reliable continence. That is why, when things go wrong in the pelvis, it may be time to attend pelvic floor physical therapy.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor consists of the set of muscles that lies between the pubic bone and the tailbone. These muscles control the sphincters surrounding the urethra, vagina, and anus and support internal organs such as the bladder and the bowels.
When working appropriately, the pelvic floor helps to lift these organs, tighten the opening of the anus and the urethra, and contribute to pleasurable intimacy. While many people do not give any thought to these muscles until there is a problem, they work every day to achieve specific actions that most people take for granted, such as bowel and bladder control.
What causes damage to the pelvic floor?
Sometimes, the pelvic floor muscles are damaged or weakened. Most often, this damage occurs in women during pregnancy or during childbirth. These muscles are forced to bear the weight of a growing child and endure the pressure of the baby passing through the birth canal.
These stressors sometimes make it difficult for these muscles to go back to their previously tight and supportive position in the body. Other causes of weakness can include being overweight, aging, overusing the pelvic muscles, pelvic surgery, and pelvic injuries. These same circumstances may also contribute to a pelvic floor that is too tight.
When these muscles become weak or damaged or too tight, whether from childbirth or another cause, a condition known as pelvic floor dysfunction can occur. Those who suffer from this condition experience the results of pelvic muscles that are unable to perform their normal function within the body.
When should I see a pelvic floor physical therapist?
Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to a wide range of symptoms. They include any of the following:
- Pelvic pain
- Pain with sex
- Low back pain
- Hip pain
- Urinary incontinence
- Loss of bowel control
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Lower abdominal pain
- Painful bowel movements
- Pelvic organ prolapse
These symptoms can severely impact an individual’s ability to live their daily lives. Pain, embarrassment, strained intimate relationships, and more can make it hard for sufferers to imagine a more comfortable life and a more reliable body.
That is why anyone who is suffering symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction should seek an evaluation from a pelvic floor physical therapist.
However, a pelvic floor PT may be able to help even before an individual begins experiencing symptoms. In particular, prenatal physical therapy can help a patient to strengthen their pelvic floor while they are pregnant in order to avoid pelvic floor dysfunction after the baby is born.
In addition, women who have given birth may also wish to see a pelvic floor PT, even if they do not have symptoms. Sometimes, pelvic floor dysfunction appears months or years after a woman gives birth. Proactively receiving assistance from a therapist can help women avoid this problem in the long term, before they suffer from the pain and discomfort of pelvic floor dysfunction.
How can a pelvic floor physical therapist help?
A pelvic floor physical therapist can assist you in strengthening your pelvic floor. The potential approaches they use can include any of the following:
Your PT may ask you to complete certain exercises meant to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Known as Kegels, these exercises can be taught in the PT office and continued at home on a daily basis.
While not usually the first therapy utilized by a PT, internal therapy can help to restore strength and stability to the pelvic muscles. This therapy involves the therapist inserting a gloved finger into the vagina in order to provide treatment for the pelvic floor dysfunction.
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy can be completed internally or externally. It involves the application of pressure to specific points to support pelvic healing.
This approach uses electricity to ease muscle spasms and pain. It is usually provided within the office.
Your pelvic floor physical therapist may also provide you with exercises to strengthen your core in order to more fully address the range of muscles that are connected to and interact with your pelvic floor.
Creating a pelvic floor that is strong enough and relaxed enough to function well is the central goal of pelvic floor physical therapy. By pursuing this type of treatment when you are at risk of or experiencing symptoms of dysfunction can help you to lead a happier, more fulfilling, and more comfortable life. Contact In Touch NYC Physical Therapy today to learn more.