What is it and what can you do for it?
Do you experience pelvic pain, low back, or hip pain? Do you leak urine or stool? Do you have pain with intercourse? Did you know all of these issues can be caused by problems with the pelvic floor muscles? The pelvic floor muscles, or the “kegel” muscles, are muscles in the pelvis that assist in sexual appreciation, urinary and bowel function, and provide support to pelvic structures. When these muscles are not working properly, it is called pelvic floor dysfunction.
Pelvic floor dysfunction affects both males and females and can cause a variety of symptoms related to bladder, bowel, and sexual function as well as pain in the pelvis, low back, and hips. Patients with pelvic floor dysfunction may experience urinary urgency and frequency, pain with urination, difficulty emptying their bladder, and leakage of urine or stool. Symptoms might also include constipation, straining, or pain with bowel movements. Pain may also be present during and after intercourse. In addition to these symptoms, patients with pelvic floor dysfunction sometimes have medical diagnoses such as prolapse, interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, prostatitis, vulvodynia, and pudendal neuralgia. Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms, all of which can be difficult to discuss and significantly impact quality of life.
Fortunately, there is effective treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction. Physical therapists with special training can perform internal vaginal or rectal examination of the pelvic floor muscles in addition to a traditional assessment of the low back and hips. Many people assume symptoms such as urinary leakage are caused by “loose” muscles. While the pelvic floor muscles can become lengthened, they can also become too tight (or shortened). It is important to determine whether the muscles are shortened or lengthened because treatment for each is very different. Based on examination findings, a physical therapist can develop a treatment program that is specific for each patient. Treatment might include pelvic floor muscle relaxation exercises, internal and external muscle release, education on ways to manage your bladder and bowel habits, and strengthening exercises for the pelvic floor, hip, and core muscles.
If you experience urinary symptoms, bowel symptoms, pain with intercourse, and/or low back, pelvic or hip pain, you might have pelvic floor dysfunction. Do not be afraid to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare providers. If you have any questions or if you would like to make a physical therapy appointment, please contact Mauro-Bertolo Therapy Services at (315) 699-1009 and any of our four specially trained physical therapists would be happy to talk with you.