The pelvic floor is an often overlooked, but important group of muscles. It’s the job of the pelvic floor muscles to provide support for the pelvic organs — the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum — and help them function properly. They act as a hammock to hold the organs in place above the opening in the pelvic bone and work with the abdominal and back muscles to support the spine.
The strain of pregnancy and childbirth is one of the main causes of pelvic floor weakness, but repeated straining on the toilet and improper lifting technique in weight training or jobs that require heavy lifting can be problematic. The recurrent downward pressure from chronic coughing or sneezing from asthma or allergies can also compromise the muscles. Chronic straining loosens the muscles an weakens the pelvic floor, leading to a host of problems: urinary and fecal incontinence, constipation, diarrhea, pelvic pain, back pain or prolapsed organs. These inconvenient and uncomfortable issues can sap your quality of life.
The pelvic floor is a complicated group of muscles that are hard to isolate and exercise. Your muscles need to be able to contract and relax correctly in order to effectively support the pelvic organs. Physical therapists can provide education on how the pelvic floor works and training on the proper technique for strengthening exercises. Performing movements and exercises in the wrong way can make the problem worse. A PT will look at how the muscles are integrated into your everyday movement patterns, evaluate your posture and assess your pelvic girdle, which affects how the muscles function.
Due to the personal nature of their problems, many people are uneasy talking about pelvic floor disorders. But these are common conditions with proven treatment solutions. A physical therapist can help you strengthen your pelvic floor to eliminate your incontinence or prolapse, teach you proper techniques to prevent injury and improve related issues with movement and back pain.
Experiencing incontinence, pain or prolapse? The Des Moines University Physical Therapy Clinic can help. Call 515-271-1717 to schedule an appointment.