The pelvic floors are a group skeletal muscles located at the base your torso and responsible for bowel and bladder function, as well as sexual pleasure.
Inconvenient, embarrassing, or even dangerous symptoms can result from weak pelvic floor muscles. A physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation might be able to help.
What are the pelvic floor muscles used for?
These inner muscles work together with your abdominal, hip, and back muscles to support your pelvic organs.
Why would I need pelvic floor rehab?
Harinder Bajaj and Sharon Arditti, both physical therapists at Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, discuss six reasons why women and men may need pelvic rehabilitation.
You have fecal or urinary incontinence.
Incontinence is a condition where urine or stool leakage can occur due to problems with the pelvic floors muscles. It is also known as stress incontinence, which occurs when you sneeze, cough, or exercise causes leakage.
To treat constipation and difficulty urinating.
Chronic constipation — straining pain or the inability to have a bowel movement — and pain when urinating may be symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.
“When the pelvic floor muscles are not fully relaxed it may be difficult to empty the bladder or rectum,”Sharon.
You are experiencing fecal or urinary urgency.
A pelvic floor disorder is characterized by sudden urges to urinate, or bowel movements that send you running to the bathroom.
Prolapsed pelvic organs.
Pelvic organ prolapse refers to a condition where the muscles and ligaments in the pelvic floor are weakening, causing the pelvic organs lower in the pelvis. Similar to a hernia or a hernia this disorder can cause organs to bulge into either the rectum or the vagina. Women who have had a childbirth, a hysterectomy, or menopause often experience pelvic organ prolapse.
You are experiencing pelvic pain.
If you experience persistent pelvic pain, such as pain in your genitals, rectum, or pelvis, it could indicate a problem in your pelvic floor muscles. People may also feel pain in their groins, hips or lower abdomen.
You are experiencing sexual dysfunction.
In women, pelvic floor dysfunction can affect the vagina and uterus. This may lead to pain during sex. Erectile dysfunction can occur in men with pelvic floor dysfunction.
How can pelvic floor dysfunction be treated?
Evaluation and Exercise Plan from a Physical Therapist
A personalized evaluation by a trained physical therapist is the first step to treating problems with the pelvic floor.
An intrarectal or intravaginal exam may be conducted by a physical therapist to assess the patient’s muscle strength. Patients typically attend one 45-minute session of physical therapy per week for between 6-8 weeks after the initial evaluation.
“If we find that a patient has a lot of muscle weakness, we will show them how to exercise starting in a lying down position, and eventually progressing to sitting and standing,”Harinder.
Physical therapists also use a treatment modality (technique) called biofeedback/electromyography (EMG), which collects information from the pelvic floor muscle. This information is displayed on an interactive computer screen. The visualization allows patients to visualize the hidden pelvic floor muscles using a simple graph.
“When you are exercising your arm or leg, you can see your muscles working,”Sharon. “You can’t see the pelvic floor muscles, which makes it hard to exercise them correctly.”
Proper posture and body movement
Sharon says that physical therapists also focus on body mechanics and postural training, as well as breathing.
“We help patients to strengthen their abdominal, back and hip muscles so they can move and lift with proper body mechanics,”Sharon. “We also teach patients to use their diaphragm to breathe correctly, which can improve pelvic floor health.”
While “up training”Refers to strengthening “down training”Another technique physical therapists use is to relax tight or painful pelvic floor muscles. It is crucial to do the exercises at your home, just like with any physical therapy program.
“We teach self-care so people can practice at home,”Sharon. “It’s about educating and empowering our patients.”
Next Steps & Resources
HealthU material is intended to be used only as general information and should not be considered as a replacement for the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor for individual care.