For those with pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions, pelvic floor therapy can improve pain and weakness experienced. When the pelvic floor muscles are functioning well, they improve a person’s mobility by allowing blood flow to muscle and connective tissues.
The goal of pelvic floor therapy is to restore and bring back higher levels of healthy functioning, mobility, and movement. For those cases with symptoms of pain and discomfort, identifying muscle trigger points and tightening connective tissues which are causing the symptoms may be one primary work to be addressed.
Medical practitioners have referred to pelvic floor therapy as a long-standing, effective and non-invasive approach to improving pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms relief. At pelvic floor therapy clinics, physical therapists incorporate several non-surgical and painless treatment therapy approached to maintain pelvic floor muscle functioning. Pelvic floor therapy clinic therapists also aim to relax pelvic floor muscles to improve function and more often reduce the pain or discomfort experienced by the patient.
During pelvic floor therapy sessions, medical practitioners teach patients exercises to stabilize and strengthen their pelvic core. The core includes major muscles that stabilize the trunk which include the abdominal muscles, back muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and the diaphragm. A pelvic floor therapy also entails re-training and strengthening pelvic floor muscle groups.
A pelvic floor therapy practitioner will assess which muscles are overly tight. They will teach patients exercises to stretch these affected muscles to enhance coordination and mobility. They will also teach patients postural exercise, diaphragmatic breathing, and some relaxation techniques that are to improve any symptoms experienced and enhance the patient’s health and overall sense of well-being.
The specific treatment approach that pelvic floor therapy clinics recommend for their patients will depend largely on the symptoms that they experience. To improve the symptoms, some patients will have to relax and lengthen pelvic floor muscles and others will require pelvic floor therapy exercises that strengthen those muscles for symptom relief.
Practitioners in a pelvic floor therapy clinic will work with patients on certain behavioral modifications, including modifications in the patient’s diet and lifestyle to relieve symptoms and improve their quality of life.
How Pelvic Floor Therapy is Important to Someone with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
The pelvic floor is composed of layers of muscles that span from the pubic bone to the tailbone in both males and females. In males, the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues support the bladder, bowel, and prostate while in females, they support the bladder, bowel, vagina, and uterus.
In both males and females, the pelvic floor muscles regulate the bladder and bowel control functions and are even necessary for sexual function and pleasure. In pregnant females, the pelvic floor muscles provide the necessary support for the fetus and are supposed to relax during a natural birthing process.
The pelvic floor muscles should work by sequentially contracting and relaxing for bowel and bladder control to function. To cite an example, the pelvic floor muscle groups must contract to circumvent incontinence and inversely relax to allow bowel movements and urination.
Individuals needing pelvic floor therapy often experience dysfunction when this group of muscles is either contracting stronger or weaker than they should. This degree of contraction contributes to incontinence, constipation, pain in the lower back, pelvis, genitals, or rectum, and even pain during intercourse.
Trauma to the pelvic floor muscle region can also cause pain and dysfunction. This may be due to childbirth in women, surgery, and some other medical procedures. A history of physical abuse can also cause dysfunctions in the pelvic floor area.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Symptoms Addressed by Pelvic Floor Therapy
According to established research clinics, one or more of these symptoms indicate dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles. If an individual has any of these symptoms, discussing them with a medical practitioner and undergoing pelvic floor therapy may be best.
- Frequently needing to use the bathroom. These patients may feel they need to ‘force’ urine out and they may stop and start many times.
- Straining pain during bowel movements. About half of the people suffering from long-term constipation may have pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Pushing hard or straining to pass a bowel movement may indicate pelvic floor dysfunction. Patients may also find themselves changing positions in the toilet or using their hands to help eliminate stool.
- Urine incontinence
- Bowel incontinence
- Lower back pain pointing to no other cause
- Pain in the pelvic region, genitals, or rectal area. This pain may occur regardless of bowel movements.
Between men and women, symptoms and conditions may differ relating to pelvic floor dysfunction needing pelvic floor therapy.
In males, problems with ejaculation or erectile dysfunction (the inability to get or maintain an erection during sex) may contribute to groin pain. Prostatitis (infection or inflammation of the prostate) may also present itself with symptoms similar to those of pelvic floor dysfunctions. Although antibiotics may prove effective for the former and the latter, pelvic floor therapy may be the help to get to resolve it.
For females, a pelvic floor dysfunction may present itself as a reproductive health compromise as it affects the uterus and vagina, and may elicit pain during sexual intercourse.
Regardless of gender though, it has been found that pelvic floor dysfunctions relieved by pelvic floor therapy may cause SUI or stress urinary incontinence (leakage of the urine when coughing, laughing, or sneezing). This condition however is more common in women with pelvic floor dysfunction. About 35% of all women experience SUI or stress urinary incontinence throughout their lives.
What to Expect in the First Pelvic Floor Therapy Session
It is understandable how pelvic floor dysfunctions can be highly personal, and patients may feel nervous and apprehensive about what to expect from pelvic floor therapy sessions.
Pelvic floor therapy clinic physical therapist should be reassuring and compassionate. Staff in pelvic floor therapy clinics should also be highly-trained professionals who have extensive experience in working with pelvic conditions. Practitioners should take time to answer questions and explain the process of pelvic floor therapy thoroughly to patients.
During the first appointment at a pelvic floor therapy clinic, the physical therapist will perform comprehensive assessments to come up with the treatment plan that is most effective for the patient.
Pelvic floor therapy aims to restore movement, increase mobility and reduce experienced pain. During the examinations, the therapist will assess the patient’s posture, the strength and flexibility of the spine, hip, and abdominal muscles, and breathing patterns. The pelvic floor therapist will determine any contributing factors through these assessments.
The primary goal of pelvic floor therapy clinics is to identify the probable cause/s of pelvic floor dysfunction. Patients should provide the practitioners with more information about symptoms to more quickly determine underlying issues. Detailed notes of symptoms including what worsens or relieves them will help greatly in the diagnosis.
During the first visit, the pelvic floor therapy practitioner may ask the patient to move around to observe certain functions. Throughout all the visits, the best pelvic floor therapy clinics allow their patients to ask questions and provide feedback as well.