by Magdalen Link
Most of us have heard the term pelvic floor, but do you know what the pelvic floor is? Do you know why it matters? The pelvic floor is the most under-rated part of the body (in my opinion 😉) and understanding its function and being aware of signs of dysfunction is useful for everyone!
The pelvic floor is everything inside the bowl of the bony pelvis. It is everything between your pubic bone in the front and your tailbone in the back! It contains the pelvic organs, the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue and all the nerves and blood vessels that supply these structures. The pelvic organs include the bladder and the urethra, the uterus and the vaginal canal, the bowels and the anus. The exit points of these 3 organs are tubes that pass through the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles start at the pubic bone loop around at the tailbone and come back around to the tailbone as well as attach to the pelvic side walls from left to right. The pelvic floor muscles are organised into deep and superficial layers. The superficial muscles include the ischiocavernosus, bulbospongeosus, superficial transverse perineum, the perineal body and the external anal sphincter. The deep pelvic floor muscles are called pubococcygeus, ileococcygeuys, coccygeus and puborectalis muscles.
Alright enough with the boring anatomy–what do these muscles do? Like any other muscle in the body when they contract the muscle shortens from origin to insertion. Two main actions happen–each of the tubes is pulled forward a bit and sinched off, the pelvic floor helps with fecal continence, urinary continence, and sexual function. The pelvic floor muscles contract to close off the exits and they relax to let things out, or in. The other main action they perform is the very important job of lifting your organs up. Without them, there would be nothing holding the organs up inside your body. The pelvic floor muscles keep the organs sitting where they should! Other functions to mention include assisting with the stability of the pelvis, helping with circulation from the legs to the top half of the body.
Sounds like some pretty important jobs to me! Some studies have found that over 1/3 of people who identify as a female have pelvic floor dysfunction–so chances are you know someone who does or you yourself do. Now how do you know if your pelvic floor muscles are working properly? Know the simple signs that indicate they might not be functioning to their full ability:
-You leak urine when you cough, sneeze, jump, laugh, are trying to get to the toilet, etc.
-You have to strain the have a bowel movement
-You have pain with penetration
-You feel like you cannot completely empty your bowels or bladder and have to go back soon after to try again
-You urinate frequently (>10x/day or >1x at night)
-You have a hard time holding your urine–when you have to go you HAVE to GO!
-You have low back or hip pain that has not responded to any treatment
– You have pain in your pelvic region–genitals, perineum, rectum, tailbone
If you experience any of those symptoms go see a pelvic floor physical therapist! A pelvic floor physical therapist is someone who has done extra training beyond a Doctor of Physical Therapy to be qualified to address and treat various conditions related to the pelvic floor. The good news is the evidence for pelvic floor physical therapy is GREAT–there have been multiple Cochrane reviews and metanalyses published that demonstrate grade A evidence for pelvic floor rehab as a first line of treatment for many conditions. Take care of your pelvic floor today–your future self will thank you.
If you want to learn more about your pelvic floor follow me on:
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