Many women and men will experience pelvic floor problems during their lifetime. This includes incontinence, prolapse, pelvic pain and/or leakage with jumping, coughing or sneezing. Women are more often affected, with one in two women experiencing some symptoms in their lifetime. Pelvic floor dysfunction can have significant impacts on quality of life, through uncomfortable or painful symptoms, limiting the physical activity sufferers can safely perform as well as potentially embarrassing situations where leakage could occur. We incorrectly accept that this is a function of aging and change our life to accommodate pelvic floor dysfunction.
Where is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor spans the area underneath the pelvis, separating the pelvic cavity above from the perineal region.
What does it do?
Deep and superficial muscles of the pelvic floor act together as a sling to support the pelvic organs form the pelvic floor. It works together with the other abdominal and back muscles to create intra-abdominal pressure, stabilising, supports the spine and works as sphincters for the urethra, rectum, and vagina.
Who’s at risk?
- Women who’ve gone through a pregnancy, including those who have miscarried;
- Women mid- or post-menopause;
- Women who’ve undergone gynaecological surgery e.g. hysterectomy;
- Men who’ve undergone prostate cancer surgery;
- Women who are overweight (BMI > 25);
- Chronic coughing or sneezing (e.g. through asthma, hayfever, smoking); and
- Elite athletes practising high impact exercise (e.g. runners, gymnasts).
Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
- Accidentally leaking urine during exercise, laughter, coughing or sneezing
- Needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
- Constantly needing to go to the toilet
- Finding it difficult to empty the bladder or bowel
- Accidentally losing control of the bladder or bowel
- A prolapse
- In women, this may be felt as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging or dropping
- In men, this may be felt as a bulge in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bowels but not actually needing to go
- Pain in the pelvic area, or
- Painful sex.
How do we treat it?
Pelvic floor dysfunction is treated through correcting posture, improving breathing technique and teaching proper loading and unloading of the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor becomes overloaded when the muscles are stretched through excessive downward pressure or by creating too much pelvic floor tension without the proper release of the muscles. It is critical that appropriate exercise selection occurs as even relatively basic abdominal exercises can involve excessive strain on the pelvic floor if not cued properly. If you have experienced any of the above signs of pelvic floor dysfunction or are in the at-risk group, book into your local Optimum Health Solutions for an individualised program.