Professional advice to help improve the health of your pelvic floor

Do you pee a little when you laugh or sneeze? Or maybe you leak a little when you run. Do you struggle to hold your urine while you sprint for the bathroom?

Most men and women expect physical changes as they age. Or for women, physical changes after pregnancy are common. But, peeing when you laugh, sneeze, or go for a run are signs that you may be experiencing pelvic floor issues.

There is some good news –  you do not need to live with pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help address many of the health concerns related to pelvic floor disorders. And, there is no better time to tune into your body and help get your pelvic floor back in shape.

Pelvic Floor Health

Pelvic floor health has long been a hush-hush topic. Commonly dismissed as a side effect to aging or childbirth. And, rarely discussed amongst sufferers. But, times are changing. Research indicates that approximately 24 percent of women in the U.S. experience one or more pelvic floor disorders. And, the number increases with age! By age 80, approximately 50 percent of women in the U.S. will experience pelvic floor disorders. 

Pelvic floor health is becoming a common topic. Healthcare providers are helping patients address the signs and symptoms. So, let’s demystify the pelvic floor and break down what the symptoms are, who you can go to for care and the exercises that can help.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is made up of thick, firm muscles, ligaments, and tissues. Your pelvic floor muscles stretch between the sits bones and from the tail bone to the public bone. The pelvic floor is a web of muscles that acts like a sling or basket supporting vital organs in the pelvis. The vital organs in the pelvis can include the bladder, bowel, rectum, prostate, uterus, and vagina. These flexible muscles help to control bowel movements, urine movements, and sexual function while providing support and movement in the lower abdomen.

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction can refer to a wide range of problems. Problems that can occur when the muscles of the pelvic floor are not functioning normally.

People with pelvic floor dysfunction may have difficulty with tightening or relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor as needed. This can be caused by the pelvic floor muscles being weak or especially tight – causing pain and discomfort. People with tight pelvic floor muscles often have trouble urinating or passing stool. Whereas people with weaker pelvic floor muscles may experience leakage of urine or feces. 

Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms. Many of which can interfere in your daily life. Depending on the type of pelvic floor dysfunction, a person may experience:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Constipation or pain with bowel movements
  • Leakage of either stool or urine with or without your knowledge
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Incomplete urination 
  • Pain with urination
  • Pain or difficulty engaging in  sexual intercourse 
  • Ongoing pain in your pelvic region, genitals, or rectum

There are several common types of pelvic floor dysfunction that can demonstrate one or many of the symptoms listed above. The three most common types of pelvic floor disorders are:

Pelvic Organ Prolapse – Stretching of the pelvic floor muscles causing the pelvic organs to drop.

Fecal Incontinence – A loss of bowel control.

Obstructed Defecation –  The inability to pass stool normally. 

What are the risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction?

Many factors can lead to a weakened pelvic floor including age, childbirth, weight, heavy lifting, or trauma. 

Common contributing factors of pelvic floor dysfunction include:

  • Age – Pelvic floor disorders can affect upwards of 40 percent of women ages 60 to 79 and 50 percent of women 80 years and older.
  • Pregnancy and Childbirth – Childbirth is the leading cause of pelvic floor dysfunction in women. Approximately half of all women who have given birth will experience pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, or both.  
  • Weight –  People who are overweight are more likely to experience pelvic floor disorders.
  • Trauma or Surgery –  A trauma to the pelvis or pelvic surgery can cause pelvic floor disorders.
  • Poor Neuromuscular Control – Having difficulty with the brain to body connection to engage or relax the pelvic floor muscles.

Seeking help for pelvic floor dysfunction? 

It can be uncomfortable to discuss the symptoms related to your pelvic floor health. But, there is no need to live with ongoing symptoms. Most pelvic floor disorders can be improved with proper treatment. Begin by discussing your symptoms with your primary care physician. They can help to direct you to the appropriate specialists. 

Don’t be surprised if you are referred to a physical therapist to treat your pelvic floor disorder. Many pelvic floor disorders can be resolved with a personalized exercise program. With support from a physical therapist, you can retrain your pelvic floor muscles and relieve your symptoms.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

According to Dr. Kailey Edgar, an Optimal Sports Physical Therapist, pelvic floor  training can be used as a treatment or preventive measure for many pelvic floor disorders. Both men and women can benefit from pelvic floor exercises. And, research indicates that practicing pelvic floor exercises can reduce the frequency and severity of some pelvic floor disorders.

There are many exercises that help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Exercises like kegels, squats, or bridges can all be beneficial. Dr. Edgar recommends working with a Physical Therapist to ensure the targeted muscles are engaged. Noting, that with some practice, pelvic floor exercises can be incorporated into your routine. And, you can achieve maximum results. 

Remember, pelvic floor dysfunction can affect anyone. But, you do not need to live with the symptoms. Dr. Kailey Edgar can evaluate and treat a number of pelvic floor disorders. Call the Optimal Sports Physical Therapy office today at 406-502-1782 to schedule a consultation.

Metadata: Optimize your pelvic floor health – demystify the causes, symptoms, and treatments of pelvic floor dysfunction.