The muscles of the pelvic floor play a key role in core stability, breathing and posture, as well as in the support of the pelvic organs. Pelvic floor muscles work alongside other key muscles to enable proper support of the lower back, pelvis, bladder and bowel.
Pelvic floor muscles play a critical role in health conditions, such as:
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
- Uterine, bladder and rectal prolapse
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pelvic pain
- Post-prostatectomy incontinence
- Overactive bladder
- Urinary hesitancy
Urinary incontinence can range from leaking urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze or run to having a sudden need to urinate that is so overwhelming that you don’t always make it to the bathroom in time. Some people find that they dribble urine, while others feel like they never really empty their bladder.
Factors that contribute to incontinence:
- Weak pelvic floor muscles after childbirth
- Intensive abdominal muscle exercise
- Chronic constipation
- Straining during urination or bowel movements
- Coughing associated with chronic bronchitis or asthma
- Heavy lifting
- Nerve or internal sphincter damage caused by prostate surgery
- Low estrogens due to hysterectomy or menopause
Physical therapy is a potential, non-pharmaceutical intervention that can be part of a customized program designed to help address weakness and spasm, regular bladder and bowel emptying, as well as a program of exercise to prevent further injury.
- Exercises – many people simply need to strengthen and re-educate their pelvic floor muscles to improve their symptoms. Rigid contractions of both the abdominal and the pelvic floor muscles can actually make leaking or pain worse. Gaining greater control over the muscles deep in your lower abdominals can also help improve pelvic floor muscle function.
- Biofeedback – can be used in combination wtih an exercise program to help make sure you are targeting the proper muscle groups. Biofeedback provides informatio via a computer screen while you are contracting the correct muscles to show if you are able to contract and relax them completely, and it leads to a personal training program.
- Muscle Stimulation – sometimes pelvic floor muscles are so weak that exercising (even with biofeedback) is not enough. The muscles need to be physically reminded how to work properly. Pelvic floor muscle electrical stimulation can assist your muscles to remember how to contract. It is not painful, it helps to strengthen them and makes it possible to do the exercises properly.
- Bladder Training – sometimes pelvic floor muscles are so weak that exercising (even with biofeedback) is not enough. The muscles need to be physically reminded how to work properly. Pelvic floor muscle electrical stimulation can assist your muscles to remember how to contract. It is not painful, it helps to strengthen them and makes it possible to do the exercises properly.
- Relaxing Techniques – stress, anxiety and tension only make bladder problems worse. Breathing, postural and relaxation techniques can help to put you back in control.