Experts Reveal What You Don't Know About Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, But Should
There's no doubt about it: Chronic pelvic pain can be completely and utterly debilitating. There are many potential reasons as to why you're experiencing this frustrating kind of pain, and the first step would be consulting with a medical professional about your symptoms so you can pinpoint exactly what's going on and the proper treatment plan for it. If you discover the root of your issue is pelvic floor dysfunction, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy. We're here to tell you exactly what you need to know about pelvic floor dysfunction and what to expect from physical therapy.
You may be surprised to learn that this medical condition can affect children, men, and women—and not only postpartum women. Many people have never heard of pelvic floor dysfunction, but should know a lot more about it. The symptoms of this condition can negatively impact the quality of life for many pain patients and can even be difficult or uncomfortable for them to talk about. It's a condition that can cause some patients to suffer in silence—and they absolutely shouldn't.
We spoke with Corey S. Hazama PT, DTP, OCS, CFMT, PRPC, WCS, co-founder of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy in Manhattan, and Mary Bogle, DPT, PT to discuss the symptoms and treatment for this extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful medical condition. Read on to learn more, and next, check out The 6 Best Exercises for Strong and Toned Arms in 2022, Trainer Says.
What is pelvic floor dysfunction?
For some patients, pelvic floor dysfunction can take time to diagnose. The condition occurs when the muscles of your pelvic floor are weak and don't function properly. Hazama says it can present a myriad of symptoms, including incontinence of gas, stool, or urine. Pelvic floor dysfunction can be the culprit of sexual difficulties, pelvic pain, constipation, the urgency to urinate more frequently, and more.
In order to understand what happens to your body with pelvic floor dysfunction, think about the muscles in the pelvic floor. Hazama notes that they are "endurance muscles," some of the hardest working muscles in the entire human body. They work hard and for long stretches of time. "The pelvic floor muscles are circumferential, so they should all close and lift [equally] and simultaneously," Hazama explains. Sometimes, however, those muscles are stretched out and are too long, or they may be too short and don't have the strength to stretch out. When they aren't working properly, you have pelvic floor dysfunction.
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What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?
There can be several culprits that could cause pelvic floor dysfunction, but so much more research needs to be done. Several of the known contributors are pregnancy, overworking your pelvic muscles, pelvic injuries that are traumatic (perhaps from an accident), and getting older. Pelvic floor dysfunction can also be hereditary.
Why should I consult and work with a physical therapist?
Finding a physical therapist you connect with is an integral step to addressing pelvic floor dysfunction. A physical therapist, who is a musculoskeletal specialist, will confirm the diagnosis, explain what is actually happening to your body, and create a wellness plan to strengthen the compromised muscles through physical therapy sessions.
Bogle tells us, "Physical therapists are the go-to experts on muscle function. We strengthen, release, create space within the tissues, and make recommendations if medical assistance is needed." She says part of a treatment plan can include Kegel exercises, deep diaphragmatic breathing, and mild stretches of the quadricep and piriformis muscles, hamstrings, and adductors, with the goal of strengthening your pelvic floor.
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How can I stay informed?
Hopefully, after a certain amount of physical therapy treatment, you will be well on your way to feeling much better. There are many books, websites, and resources available if you'd like to learn more about the topic. Always be sure to reach out to your own healthcare professional to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.
"It is common for an issue in one part of the tissue to spread throughout the entire pelvic area. This is where a pelvic health physical therapist can make a big difference. We are looking at the bigger picture; how muscles, tissues, nerves, and bones all work together and how pain can upregulate the entire nervous system," Bogle says. "A strong pelvic floor is a healthy pelvic floor."