In general, there is not a good public understanding of what the pelvic floor is and what it does. To some degree, it’s a phrase like “rotator cuff” or “hip flexors” that is used often but without a good appreciation of what’s being talked about.
… what exactly is it?
Put simply, the muscles that make up the pelvic floor are those muscles that attach to the underside of your bony pelvis. If you imagine the space between your tailbone, your “sit bones” and the bony part at the front of your pelvis (just above your genitals) your have the space that is occupied by your pelvic floor muscles – it is literally the floor of pelvis.
These muscles have many functions, it’s their job to:
- prevent organs in the abdomen from protruding outside the pelvis;
- assist with bowel and bladder control by resisting the urgency you feel when need to go to the bathroom; and
- help the bones of the pelvis stay congruous and therefore stable when your legs or back move or are loaded up (with heavy shopping, for example, or moving a couch or gardening etc.)
Some signs of pelvic floor problems
These functions also give you an indication of the sort of signs and symptoms to watch out for. The following might indicate a need to consider treating your pelvic floor:
- urinary stress incontinence – slight incontinence when sneezing, laughing, lifting a heavy item. Occasionally, the opposite might be the issue – a hesitant flow or the feeling of a really full bladder due to the inability to begin the flow.
- pelvic prolapse – a condition where sections of the organs low down in the pelvis slip through the muscles and create a hernia or outpouching of an organ under the skin
- pelvic pain – this is often described as “groin pain” or pain at the pubic bone. Pelvic instability can increase the load on the sacro-iliac joint (where the pelvic joins your spine) and therefore can sometimes feel like really low back pain at the very base of the spine or back of the hips or even pain in the buttocks.
Effective treatment aims for better control
Many of these conditions often respond well to exercise of the pelvic floor muscles with the aim of improving the control of these muscles – rather than tightening or strengthening them. The aim is for your pelvic floor muscles to respond better to unexpected events, such as sneezing, or the variable load of activities like lifting or gardening rather than training these muscles to remain constantly tense or rigid.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to difficulty with a whole range of daily activities but simple strategies can often provide relief. To find out more about how to better treat and manage your specific pelvic floor issue, call 03 8370 3044 or book online to see one of our Osteopaths.
For more information, ideas and exercises check out our Health Tips blog.