Know Your Pelvic Floor and the Role of a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
Reena Babu, MPT - Registered Physiotherapist, Pelvic Floor & Vestibular Rehabilitation Specialist
Do you know our human body has an important muscle group that most of us don’t think about or care for unless they hurt? Yes, pelvic floor muscles are the group of muscles which are very important to help us lead a happy and healthy life. Have you ever thought of strengthening your pelvic floor muscles? Just like strengthening our arm or legs or doing a cardio workout, it’s really important to stretch and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic Floor Overview and Function
The pelvic floor consists of nerves, fascia and three layers of muscles. These muscles start at the pubic bone in the front and go to the coccyx (tailbone).
The five key functions of the pelvic floor are:
1. Support - To support the abdominal and pelvic viscera
2. Stability - Strength and coordination for back, diaphragm and abdominal core muscles
3. Sphincter Control - To maintain the continence of urine and faeces
4. Sexual Function - Orgasm and erection of the clitoris/penis
5. Sump Pump - Helps to pump your blood and lymph back to the heart
Importance of Pelvic Floor Stretching and Strengthening
Pelvic floor muscles can get weak or tight and may go unnoticed. If someone complains of pain while inserting a tampon or pain with sexual intercourse, it might be due their pelvic floor muscles being tight. There are cases where the pelvic floor muscles get weak. One may notice that they leak when they cough, sneeze or jump. This is commonly noticed after postpartum and menopause. This is due to the pelvic floor muscles being weak. Some people experience both, tightness and weakness.
Pelvic Floor and the Role of Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
A Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist is a certified professional who assesses the patients to determine if the pelvic floor problems are due to tightness (e.g. urge incontinence), weakness (e.g. stress incontinence), pelvic girdle pain (e.g. vulvodynia, menstrual cramps), musculoskeletal (e.g. low back pain due to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction). Most people think Kegel’s exercise is the only solution for any pelvic problems. This is a common misconception. If your pelvic floor is tight, you need reverse Kegels and not Kegels. To find out what treatment is best for you, your Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist can assess, diagnose and treat you. If further investigation is needed, your Physiotherapist will refer you to your doctor.
What to expect when you see your Physiotherapist?
Your Physiotherapist will discuss your chief complaints and medical history with you. Then an objective assessment is performed. This may include observation and palpation of breathing, neck, back, abdomen, hips, pelvic girdle and pelvic floor. You will be assessed both internally and externally by the Physiotherapist with your consent. Based on your assessment results, you will be treated internally, externally and provided with an at home exercise program. A treatment plan and a follow-up will be discussed with you.
How long will it take to see an improvement?
The rate of improvement will vary among individuals. After 4 to 6 weeks, most people notice some improvement. It may take as long as >= 3 months to see a major change.
Reference: Pelvic Health Solutions