Nothing is more disruptive to your life than having a weak pelvic floor. You may find yourself planning out your bathroom strategy before you leave the house or choosing to skip the gym because certain movements may result in a slight urine accident.
Listen, no one likes to talk about these things, but they are really entirely common. A recent study by UCLA Health showed that roughly 30% of women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction. But this condition is not limited to women. Roughly 16% of men have pelvic floor dysfunction (or at least have been diagnosed with it; this number doesn’t include those who have it but haven’t sought treatment).
The point is, you’re not alone in these symptoms. And the good news is that you don’t have to continue to struggle through them. There are many treatments available for pelvic floor dysfunction, and we’re going to walk you through each of them. But before we do, let’s look at what causes this condition, how to diagnose it, and then what treatments work best depending on your severity and sex.
Symptoms That Indicate You Need Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation
Have you ever heard that expression about laughing so hard that you pee? Well, for people with pelvic floor dysfunction, that may actually be a reality and one of the first things to notice when reviewing your symptoms.
The most common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Frequent urination
- Inability to hold bladder during certain movements (sneezing, jumping, running, etc.)
- Bowel or bladder leaks
- For women, pain during intercourse
- For men, erectile dysfunction
- Pain in the lower back or groin, with no other cause/reason
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you? Experts are not sure why pelvic floor dysfunction occurs, but there are some specific events and risk factors that can contribute to someone experiencing these symptoms.
Risk Factors and Events That May Cause Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Pelvic floor dysfunction can be linked back to several factors, such as:
- Pregnancy — This is the main cause of women needing pelvic floor rehabilitation. The pressure of pregnancy on the pelvic floor, coupled with the trauma of birth on that area, can lead to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Some studies have even found that at least 50% of women who have given birth have experienced pelvic floor dysfunction at some point during their postpartum journey.
- Injury — In some cases, traumatic injuries to the pelvic area (such as a car accident or sporting accident) can lead to weakened muscles in the pelvic region.
- Pelvic muscle strain — Going to the bathroom too frequently or straining too hard consistently can cause your pelvic floor to become fatigued and weak.
- Excessive weight — Being overweight, particularly in your stomach, can cause undue pressure on your pelvic floor, thereby weakening your muscles.
- Age — Just like aging causes muscle loss and weakness in other areas of the body, advanced age may cause weakness in your pelvic floor muscles.
While these factors may have contributed to your pelvic floor dysfunction, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be reversed. Pelvic floor rehabilitation is a proven way to help relieve these symptoms, so you can get back to your normal lifestyle without worry.
Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation
Physical therapy is a direct access treatment option, which means that you do not have to have a referral from a doctor’s office before scheduling with a local PT clinic. PT for pelvic floor dysfunction is known as pelvic floor rehabilitation. To begin, your physical therapist will run through a series of diagnostic tests, which may include a physical exam, a series of questions and in some cases a uroflow test to measure the function of your bladder.
Once pelvic floor dysfunction is diagnosed, your physical therapist will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to the specific cause of your condition and your lifestyle goals. Common pelvic floor rehabilitation treatments include:
- Biofeedback — A biofeedback machine helps to retrain your muscles and improve muscle strength and coordination. About 75% of people who use biofeedback as their main treatment method find relief from pelvic floor dysfunction, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When coupled with other PT methods, this type of treatment is shown to help drastically improve pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Therapeutic exercises — Certain exercises have been proven to help tighten the pelvic floor muscles, as well as improve core muscles to help relieve pressure on the pelvic floor. These are commonly known as diastasis recti exercises for women after they have given birth, but men can benefit from these types of exercises, as well.
There are a series of additional physical therapy treatments that can be coupled with these two techniques to help improve pelvic floor function; however, these are the two most common treatment options because they are often the two most effective.
If you’re ready to seek treatment for your pelvic floor dysfunction, contact our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy today or visit our locations page to find a clinic near you. We are ready to help you find relief from these pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, so you can get back to a worry-free lifestyle (at least, worry-free about pelvic floor issues).