Wednesday, October 20, 2021

What is the Pelvic Floor?

by Meg Crowley, PT

If you feel you've seen more and more articles referencing the pelvic floor, you're not imagining it - this group of muscles has been talked about recently on everything from local news stations to Buzzfeed. But you may have wondered: what exactly does the pelvic floor do? What does it look like? Why is it so important?

The pelvic floor is a bowl-shaped group of muscles located at the base of your pelvis (hip bones). These muscles have 5 main functions:

  • To help support internal organs 
  • To control bowel and bladder function
  • To aid in sexual function and pleasure 
  • To provide stability to trunk and low back 
  • To help with circulation of blood and fluid from lower legs back to torso 

As you can see, these muscles are in charge of making sure a lot of everyday function continues smoothly! Like any other group of muscles, however, the pelvic floor can be weak, overly tight, or a combination of both. This can create a variety of symptoms, of which these are some of the most common:

  • Leaking of urine or stool
  • Sensation of heaviness while doing higher level activities such as jumping or squatting
  • Pain with sex
  • Frequent urination (>6-8 times per day)
  • Chronic pain in hips or low back that has not been attributed to something else

Physical therapy can help with the above-noted symptoms and many others. Therapists must undergo advanced training in order to effectively assess and treat this area of the body. In an evaluation, the therapist looks at how the patient moves and breathes and assesses the patient's strength, mobility and balance. If necessary - and with the patient’s consent - there may also be an internal assessment component in order to better assess the strength, coordination, endurance and mobility of the pelvic floor. This is something your therapist will discuss thoroughly with you beforehand and you both should decide together if this is the best option for you and your case. 

Though some of these issues may feel taboo to discuss, if you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, you are not alone in this! Please reach out if you have any questions, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted above.