By: Jonathan Berger
Q: What are pelvic floor muscles?
A: Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles surrounding your bladder, vagina, and rectum. After childbirth or with age, these muscles may weaken. Millions of women worldwide face pelvic floor weakness, which can lead to urinary continence, painful sexual intercourse, vaginal discomfort, and other health complications. However, pelvic floor therapy can help build strength in these muscles over time through exercises and other treatments, alleviating your symptoms. These exercises can be an important part of your pelvic care routine, especially as you get older.
Q: How do I identify weak pelvic floor muscles?
A: There are a number of weak pelvic floor symptoms that you can identify. These include urinary incontinence, experiencing bladder leaks when sneezing or coughing, difficulty keeping tampons in the vagina, or heavy sensations in the vagina. These symptoms may be especially pronounced after childbirth, as a result of obesity, or during menopause. Another way to detect pelvic weakness is to try contracting your pelvic muscles. If it is difficult to do so, or you have trouble identifying those muscles (not to be confused with the abdominal or glute muscles), this may be a sign of pelvic floor weakness and indicate that pelvic floor therapy could be a good choice for you. When in doubt, you can always consult a professional specialist.
Q: What are pelvic floor disorders?
A: Pelvic floor disorders occur when you are unable to relax and coordinate the muscles located on your pelvic floor. This can result in symptoms such as constipation, experiencing a frequent need to pee, and having urine or stool leakage. The three main types of pelvic floor disorders are:
-Lack of bowel control.
-Pelvic organ prolapse.
Symptoms affect about 10% of women ages 20 to 39, 27% of women ages 40 to 59, 37% of women ages 60 to 79 and nearly 50% of women age 80 or older.
Q: What are the symptoms of pelvic floor disorders?
A: People with symptoms may experience:
- Constipation, straining or pain during bowel movements.
- A frequent need to urinate.
- A heavy feeling in the pelvis or a bulge in the rectum.
- Painful intercourse for women.
Q: What causes pelvic floor disorders?
A: Common causes of a weakened pelvic floor include childbirth, obesity, heavy lifting and the associated straining of chronic constipation. Experts do not know for sure what causes pelvic floor dysfunction; luckily, Pelvic Floor Therapy--a physical therapy program designed to support the pelvic organs, assist in bowel and bladder control, and contribute to sexual arousal and orgasm-- can help manage these symptoms.
Pelvic floor physical therapy exercises the pelvic floor muscle group, which is responsible for a variety of functions. These muscles support the pelvic organs, assist in bowel and bladder control, and contribute to sexual arousal and orgasm.
Q: How is pelvic floor dysfunction treated?
A: Pelvic Floor Therapy can dramatically strengthen a weak pelvic floor. For most people, this involves:
- Behavior changes, such as avoiding pushing or straining when urinating and having a bowel movement. This also might include learning how to relax the muscles in the pelvic floor area. For example, warm baths and yoga can help relax these muscles.
- Medicines, such as low doses of muscle relaxants like diazepam.
- Physical therapy and biofeedback, which can help you learn how to relax and coordinate the movement of your pelvic floor muscles.
Q: Who needs Pelvic Floor Therapy?
A: Pelvic Floor Therapy is recommended as a first-line remedy for many disorders of the pelvic region. Both men and women with weak pelvic floor muscles symptoms can perform exercises to strengthen the floor and enhance bladder and bowel control. Specifically, a physician will refer a patient for Pelvic Floor Therapy if pelvic floor dysfunction is suspected to have a neuromuscular cause. The dysfunction may result from aging, illness, childbirth, surgery or other conditions and may coexist with other genitourinary problems, such as urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, bladder-emptying problems, and constipation.
Q: How does pelvic floor therapy work?
A: Pelvic floor therapy treatment plans may include:
-Stretching or strengthening exercises of the legs, trunk or pelvic muscles.
-Relaxation exercises for weak pelvic floor muscles symptoms.
-Education in self-management and prevention.
-Biofeedback for either relaxation or strengthening of pelvic muscles.
-Modalities such as ice, heat or electrical stimulation.
Q: How can I use pelvic floor therapy to strengthen my muscles?
A: Pelvic floor therapy exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home, often equipment-free. For example, kegels are exercises where you squeeze your pelvic floor (the muscles surrounding the bladder and rectum). To perform a kegel, you contract these muscles in isolation (without also contracting your abdominal muscles or buttocks), holding for about 5 seconds. It is recommended to do 10 squeezes in a row, 3 times a day. Pelvic floor therapy takes many different forms, and there are other options aside from kegels, squats, and other exercises. Ben wa balls, which are inserted into the vaginal canal, can also strengthen the pelvic floor in conjunction with pelvic floor therapy, but you should consult a doctor before using them on your own.
Q: Will pelvic floor therapy cure me?
A: Sustained pelvic floor muscle strengthening will reduce the likelihood of incontinence. Incontinence products can be helpful in managing the symptoms of UI and making sure you can lead an active life; period pads alone simply won’t do it (check out 5 Reasons Period Pads Don't Work for Bladder Leaks).
Q: When should I seek pelvic floor therapy from a professional?
A: If your pelvic weakness persists and your symptoms interfere with your day-to-day life, it might be time to seek out pelvic floor rehabilitation from a professional specialist. Professional, holistic pelvic floor therapy allows you to access the tissues and muscles at the root cause of your health issues, allowing long-term healing through physical, neurological, and biological methods. This directory of specialists can help you find a practitioner offering pelvic floor therapy near you. Additionally, especially if you are experiencing urinary incontinence, this resource library can help you identify incontinence products to manage your bladder leaks and continue an active lifestyle. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help - holistic pelvic care practitioners are here to serve you and offer pelvic floor therapy to help you manage your symptoms. Pelvic weakness is a very treatable condition with multiple resources available to you.
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