The pelvic floor isn’t a part of the body most people often think about — if they even know what it is at all. But even if you aren’t aware of it, your pelvic floor muscles are involved in many of your body’s day-to-day functions, everything from urinary and bowel movements to sex. If you don’t have control over your pelvic floor, it can lead to a host of issues and discomfort. This condition is called pelvic floor dysfunction and can affect women of all ages.
Since the pelvic floor muscles need to be contracted and relaxed to perform various functions, pelvic floor dysfunction can cause incontinence, severe constipation, pain during sex and more. Fortunately, Pelvic Pain Doc can help you regain control of your pelvic pelvic floor with pelvic floor physical therapy. Ready to get your life back? Read on to find out how.
What Does the Pelvic Floor Do?
You’re probably wondering what the pelvic floor is for in the first place. When you have proper pelvic floor function, these muscles assist in urination and bowel movements, allowing you to have conscious control of your bladder and bowel. They also provide support for your pelvic organs, which includes the bowel and bladder for men, and the bowel, bladder and uterus for women.
The pelvic floor muscles play an important role in sexual health, too. In men, the pelvic floor allows men to achieve an erection and ejaculation, while for women, voluntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles can increase sexual sensation. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles also provide support to the baby, and understanding when to strengthen or relax the pelvic floor muscles is key to pregnancy and postpartum care.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you use to do Kegel exercises or to stop the flow of urine. When relaxed, they allow for normal urination and bowel movements — but if they’re too relaxed, you may experience incontinence. When taut, they support your internal organs — but if they get too tight, they can cause pelvic pain and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as chronic constipation. In fact, they can get so wound up that even inserting a tampon becomes impossible.
The latter is known as hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, and refers to a condition caused by tightness in the pelvic floor muscles, or the “levator ani complex.” This area of taut muscle bands can spasm, which decreases blood flow and oxygenation, and increases lactic acid, thereby causing intense pelvic pain. This condition is also sometimes known as vaginismus. Symptoms of hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction may include:
- Sensations of burning, rawness, throbbing, stabbing or aching in the vagina
- Urinary symptoms such as frequency, urgency and incomplete emptying of the bladder
- Pain during intercourse or inability to have penetrative sex
- Hemorrhoids or rectal fissures (tears in the anal area)
- Low back and/or hip pain
There is no one clear cause of pelvic floor dysfunction. Contributing factors for hypertonic pelvic floor dysfunction may include anxiety, stress, hip or low back injury, holding urine, excessive core-strengthening exercises, or physical or psychological trauma. Childbirth, straining during bowel movements, high intensity exercise, obesity and age may contribute to a weakened pelvic floor.
Age in particular can play a significant role in pelvic floor dysfunction. The older the patient, the higher the prevalence of the condition. An estimated 25% of women age 20 and over experience pelvic floor dysfunction, a number which rises to 40% for women between the ages of 40 and 50, and to 50% for women over 60. If you’re experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and you’re over 40, it may be time to speak to a pelvic pain specialist to find support.
Finding Relief from Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Unfortunately, we cannot treat pelvic floor dysfunction until symptoms are already present, but recovery is possible with early detection and intervention. Treatment for hypertonic pelvic floor muscle dysfunction aims to relax the involved muscles and may include a combination of techniques. Your pelvic pain specialist in New York may recommend:
- Pelvic floor physical therapy
- Muscle relaxants
- Warm baths
- Behavioral health approaches
- Trigger point injections
At Pelvic Pain Doc, we strive to be more than just your doctor — we’re your partner in health. We believe relief is possible for everyone who suffers from pelvic pain and we’re here to help you find your way back to yourself. With a combination of pelvic floor therapy, lifestyle changes and potential medications, we’re confident you can regain control of your pelvic floor in no time. Take the first step towards recovery and book a consultation with Dr. Sonia Bahlani today.