What is the pelvic floor?
In layman’s terms the pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the base of the pelvis that supports organs such as the uterus, prostate in men, bladder, and rectum. In a little more detail, the pelvic floor is composed of three layers of tissue ranging from superficial to deep and also includes the piriformis and obturator internus which make up the pelvic wall.
What is the function of the pelvic floor?
Support-Provides supports to the organs within the pelvic cavity
Stability- too much mobility can lead to prolapse, whereas, too much tone can lead to pain, but also supports the trunk to control movements of the extremities
Sphinteric- ability to start and stop a stream of urine (urge/stress incontinence), ability to defecate (constipation or inability to control bowel movements)
Sexual Health- pain with intercourse
Posture and Breathing- abnormal posture or breathing patterns can lead to too much/little intra- abdominal pressure and lead to pelvic floor dysfunction
Who needs a pelvic floor therapist?
Pelvic floor dysfunction can present in many different ways. Some people may experience the more common symptoms indicating a need for a pelvic floor therapist such as pain with intercourse, pelvic pain in general, pain with OB/ GYN appointments, bowel health, sexual health, urinary incontinence, stress incontinence, or pelvic prolapse. However, because of the connection of the pelvis to the rest of the body, people who have a nagging high hamstring strain or chronic low back pain that is not getting better may have a pelvic floor involvement. Believe it or not, even plantar fasciitis could involve a pelvic floor dysfunction. Of course, anyone who has given birth should see a pelvic floor therapist to assess, treat, and reeducate the muscles for return to function.
Also of interest, athletes, especially crossfitters, tend to have overactive pelvic floors with increased tone due to always being told to squeeze their butt, which can cause dysfunction. Clearly, anyone with a pelvic floor, which is ALL of us (men included), may find it beneficial to see a pelvic floor therapist.
I know there might be a reputation associated with seeing a pelvic floor therapist- that it is frowned upon or that something is wrong with you. There is NOTHING wrong with you and it is completely NORMAL to see a pelvic floor therapist!
What to expect in a pelvic floor physical therapy evaluation?
First, your physical therapist will ask you some questions based on current symptoms, when they began, medical history, and where the pain is (if you have pain) or what brings them to physical therapy. Next, the physical therapist will look at some full body movements, screen range of motion and strength of the hip and back, assess your breathing, and palpate to find areas of tenderness. With the patient’s consent, the pelvic floor therapist will perform an internal exam to find areas of tone or laxity. From there, the physical therapist will discuss the findings, diagnosis, prognosis, goals, and formulate a treatment plan.
In summary: Because the pelvic floor is central in our body and the body moves as a kinetic chain, every dysfunction can have pelvic floor involvement that needs to be addressed. So, give Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy a call and schedule a visit with our Women’s Health/ Pelvic Floor Specialist!