Contributions by Gabi Goffman and Kirsten Floyd, PT, DPT, Clinic Director - Yukon
What is Pelvic Floor Therapy and How Can it Help?
Pelvic floor therapy is a type of physical therapy that is specifically designed to help strengthen and/or relax the muscles of the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to a variety of pelvic health issues, including urinary and fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapses, and pelvic pain.
What is Pelvic Floor Therapy?
Pelvic floor therapy is a specialized treatment used to address problems related to the pelvic floor. This form of therapy is specifically designed to relieve symptoms of pain and discomfort in the pelvic floor region, which can cause disruptions to a patient's daily life.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
The pelvic floor is made up of a compilation of muscles that are used to support the urinary and reproductive tracts. This amalgamation of muscles, known as the pelvic floor, is present in everyone. When these muscles are not properly functioning, it can be referred to as pelvic floor dysfunction. The dysfunction of these muscles can be marked by the lacking ability of the muscles to relax or properly function. While the weakening or lack of proper functioning of these muscles can be seen in both men and women alike, it is more commonly seen in women. One in three women will experience a pelvic floor disorder (PFD) in her lifetime.
Common Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition where one's muscles are unable to properly coordinate or relax properly, which affects their functionality. Organs associated with the pelvic floor include the bladder, uterus, vagina, prostate, and rectum. Because of this, pelvic floor dysfunction can affect individuals in a variety of ways which can be seen through a multitude of symptoms that are individualistic to each patient. However, while symptoms may not be the same across the board, there are common indications that may point to pelvic floor dysfunction. Some of these symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual pain or dysfunction
- Trouble passing a bowel movement
- An incomplete bowel movement
- Leaking urine or stool
What causes Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
The full causes of pelvic floor dysfunction are unknown. However, some factors have been determined to predispose an individual to pelvic floor dysfunction. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Advanced Age
- Overuse of Pelvic Muscles
- Pelvic Surgery
Techniques Used in Pelvic Floor Therapy
Pelvic Floor therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy intended to relieve the symptoms associated with pelvic floor dysfunction. The goal of pelvic floor therapy is not only to relieve pain but to strengthen the muscles as a whole to reverse the dysfunction as a whole. To do so, several forms of exercises are implemented to strengthen the muscles that make up the pelvic floor. Some of these exercises include, but are not limited to:
Manual therapy is one of the tools used when treating the pelvic floor. Manual therapy is used to describe hands-on pressure applied by a physical therapist, either externally or internally, that massages the muscles at hand. This not only improves blood flow but allows for the stretching and relaxation of the muscles that are not properly functioning.
Exercises and Stretches
Exercises and stretches can be used as a means of treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction. Physical therapists will implement exercises and stretches that target the particular muscles that are not properly functioning. The exercises and stretches can be performed by the patient out of the office to continue the strengthening of the muscles at hand.
Biofeedback utilizes technological devices to check the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. This is an important tool for getting an accurate baseline of the functionality of the pelvic floor muscles. Additionally, it allows tracking progress and adjusting the exercises implemented depending on the development of strength of each muscle. There are various means by which these measurements can be collected, and the means of collection depends on your physical therapist. Once collected, results can be digitally viewed and analyzed between the patient and their physical therapist.
Electrical stimulation is a technique that targets muscle spasms that can result from pelvic floor dysfunction. This technique helps reduce the pain associated with these spasms through the use of targeted electrical stimulation. Electrical stimulation can offer a patient instantaneous in addition to long-term relief. While this is often done in the office under the care of a physical therapist, at-home electrical stimulation can also be conducted with specialized equipment and under the PT's suggestion.
Relaxation techniques allow for the relation of the muscles not properly functioning within the pelvic floor. This can help relieve pain or discomfort associated with dysfunction while promoting the strengthening and loosing of those muscles.
What to expect at your first Physical Therapy session?
At your first appointment with your physical therapist, you can expect to thoroughly discuss your history with and symptoms of pelvic floor disorder. Based on your history and symptoms, an exam will be performed to determine which muscles are causing the pain or discomfort at hand. After the assessment is complete, your physical therapist will discuss their findings and develop a plan of action to best treat each patient's individual needs.
Find A Pelvic Floor Therapist Near You
If you feel like you may be experiencing any symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction, schedule an appointment with a trusted physical therapist today.