When many people hear “pelvic floor”, they often think of kegels. While doing a Kegel (contracting the muscles in your pelvic floor) can be helpful in some instances, it is not necessarily the solution for everyone and in some situations it can actually make symptoms worse.
The pelvic floor is made up of many different muscles that all work together. They run from the pubic bone to the tailbone and act like a hammock to help provide support to our internal abdominal organs. They are also responsible for stopping the flow of urine or feces from leaking during activities. Just like any other muscle in the body, these muscles can tighten (contract) and lengthen (relax). In order to be functional with your day-to-day activities, your pelvic floor needs to be able to move throughout its full range of motion.
When we exercise, cough or sneeze the pelvic floor needs to be able to contract to prevent urinary incontinence (leaking). These muscles also need to be able to contract when our bladder is full to help prevent leaking on the way to the bathroom. If these muscles are not strong enough, or do not have enough muscle endurance, they are unable to fully contract and urine can leak out. This can also occur in athletes during high impact sports.
When you get to the bathroom, to urinate or have a bowel movement, the pelvic floor muscles need to be able to relax so that you are able to fully empty your bladder or bowels without needing to strain or push. Oftentimes if these muscles are unable to relax fully, people experience symptoms like constipation, trouble starting the stream of urine or feeling like they are unable to empty their bladder completely.
Common symptoms of pelvic floor muscle weakness include; urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
Common symptoms of pelvic floor muscle tension include; constipation, urinary urgency, urinary frequency or pain with intercourse.
It is important to remember that every body is different. Some people may experience a combination of weak and tense pelvic floor symptoms and some people may only experience one symptom.
A pelvic health physical therapist can help assess your pelvic floor muscles to determine the strength, endurance and if there is any tension in the muscles. Based on your symptoms and the findings of the pelvic floor muscle assessment, specific exercises will be recommended. This can include; pelvic floor muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, deep core stability exercises and yes- even sometimes kegels.
Because there are many muscles that attach around the pelvis, there are many hip, lower back and abdominal exercises that can help reduce symptoms as well.
Pelvic health physical therapy goes beyond kegels to address a wide range of symptoms. If you think you may be experiencing any pelvic floor symptoms, please call us at 617-618-9290 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an initial evaluation with one of our pelvic health physical therapists!
Maggie Curtis, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist
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