Pelvic floor dysfunction refers to a common medical condition wherein a person is unable to correctly relax and synchronize the muscles in their pelvic floor to perform basic functions such as urinating or having a bowel movement. Women who suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction also feel pain during sex, and men, they may find themselves suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). If you suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, you might find relief with the help of pelvic floor therapy in NYC.
The Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor muscles refer to the group of muscles found on the floor (or base) of your pelvis (the bottom of your torso). Think of your pelvis as the home of important organs like the bladder, uterus (for women), prostate (for men), and rectum. The pelvic floor muscles act as the foundation of your pelvis. This group of muscles provide support and keeps everything in place inside your body. It provides support to some of your organs by keeping them wrapped around your pelvic bone.
The pelvic organs are made up of the following:
- The bladder (which holds your urine)
- The vagina and uterus (in women)
- The prostate (in men)
- The rectum (part of the large intestine where solid waste in your body is stored)
Under normal circumstances, you should be able to go to the bathroom without any issues because your body naturally tightens and relaxes its pelvic floor muscles. This works just like any muscle in the body—for example, your biceps tighten when you lift heavy objects, or the muscles in your hand tighten when you clench your fist.
But when you suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, your body keeps tightening those muscles rather than relaxing them when necessary. When you feel this tension, this means that you probably have:
- Trouble releasing a bowel movement
- An incomplete bowel movement
- Urine or stool that leaks
Symptoms and Causes of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
There is still a lot of uncertainty on what causes pelvic floor dysfunction. However, according to pelvic floor therapy NYC, some known factors include:
- Traumatic injuries (such as a car accident) sustained to the pelvic area
- Overusing the pelvic muscles (this happens when you pee too often or push too hard when defecating), resulting to poor muscle coordination
- Pelvic surgery
- Obesity or being overweight
- Old age
Is pelvic floor dysfunction the same for men and women?
Although both men and women have pelvic floor muscles, there are different pelvic conditions that are unique to each gender.
Pelvic floor dysfunction in men
Millions of men suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction every year. Pelvic floor dysfunction can co-exist with many other health conditions men suffer from because these muscles work as part of the waste (excretory) and reproductive systems during sex and urination. These health conditions include:
- Urinary dysfunction in men –this condition involves leaking urine after peeing, incontinence, and other bowel and bladder issues.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) –this condition refers to when men are unable to achieve or maintain erection during sex. Sometimes this condition is caused by pelvic muscle tension or pain, but ED is a complex condition, so this may not be the case.
- Prostatitis –pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms are somewhat similar to prostatitis, an infection or inflammation of the prostate. There can be a wide range of reasons for prostatitis including bacterial infection, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or trauma to the nervous system.
Pelvic floor dysfunction in women
In women, pelvic floor dysfunction can greatly affect their reproductive health, especially their uterus and vagina. Women that suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction also exhibit other symptoms such as pain during sex.
It should be noted that pelvic floor dysfunction isn’t the same as pelvic organ prolapse. The latter happens when the muscles that keep a woman’s pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, and rectum) in place loosens and gets stretched out. Pelvic organ prolapse can cause an organ to protrude of the rectum or vagina and you would have to push them back inside.
Pelvic floor dysfunction and interstitial cystitis
Interstitial cystitis refers to a chronic bladder condition where you experience pain in your pelvis or bladder. Bladder pain can cause pain in the pelvic floor muscles, whereas loss of muscle relaxation and strength is what causes pelvic floor dysfunction. Having any of these conditions increases your risk of having the other.
Treatment of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Although having pelvic floor dysfunction can be inconvenient, it is quite easy to treat it. Your condition will gradually improve with pelvic floor therapy in NYC, but it might take a few months of sessions to get the best results. Pelvic floor dysfunction is treated without any surgery needed. Non-surgical treatments include:
- Pelvic floor physical therapy –this treatment is usually done together with biofeedback (more on this later). The therapist will see which muscles in your pelvis and/or pelvic floor are tight. Then, the pelvic floor therapy NYC therapist will teach you exercises to help relax and stretch these muscles so you can improve their coordination.
- Biofeedback –this is the most common treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction and is usually performed with the help of a pelvic floor therapy NYC physical therapist. This treatment is not painful and is proven to help more than 75% of people suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. Your physical therapist (PT) might use this method in different ways to re-train your muscles. For instance, they may use special sensors and video to observe your pelvic floor muscles as you try to clench or relax them. The therapist will then give you feedback and assist you in improving your muscle coordination.
- Medication –daily medications can help give you regular and soft bowel movements. This is a very important part in treating pelvic floor dysfunction. Some of these medications can be bought over-the-counter a the drugstore. These can include stool softeners and laxatives. Your doctor or gastroenterologist can recommend you which medications can help in keeping your stools soft.
- Relaxation methods –your doctor or PT might also recommend that you try relaxation methods or techniques such as yoga, warm baths, meditation, or acupuncture.
Photo by Arina Krasnikova: