Pelvic floor health is an important topic that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves.
We hear about core strength, back problems, spine health, neck pain and foot care, yet the pelvic floor goes ignored. Like so many other things, it’s not something that people think about until there is a problem – and then it’s the only thing they think about.
The pelvic floor muscles have an important function to perform: They support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles, and both can experience pelvic floor dysfunction.
For women, problems often occur as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, but there are many other times problems can occur. Symptoms of dysfunction can include incontinence to varying degrees, difficulty with bowel movements and constipation, pain and difficulty with urination, lower-back pain and painful intercourse. For many women, problems such as leaking from coughing, sneezing, running or other normal activities can cause a great deal of distress. In severe cases, prolapse occurs, which can ultimately require surgery if left untreated.
Unfortunately, these problems are often thought to be facts of life that you can’t change. People think that leaks, pain with intercourse and digestive problems are an inevitable part of life, so there isn’t much to be done about them. Fortunately, that’s a myth.
Following is what you should know about pelvic floor dysfunction and treatment.
• Pelvic floor problems can be treated. Many women believe there isn’t anything they can do about their problems. In addition, medical professionals sometimes dismiss their concerns, thinking that their patients will just have to live with the pain unless they opt for surgery. Such practitioners may not know or appreciate the various ways pelvic floor physical therapy can help.
• It’s not all about your pelvic floor. It may surprise you to know that other factors contribute to the problem, including poor posture, tight hip flexors and weak hips. All of these surrounding areas have work to do, and if they are compromised, your pelvic floor muscles will attempt to pick up the slack, which can result in problems.
• You may need to relax those muscles. If you are constantly trying to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you might be doing more harm than good. So much of the problem is the inability to relax them. While exercise is certainly good, too much is overkill.
• There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. There is a persistent belief that there is one treatment or strategy, and if it doesn’t work for you, then nothing will. Not true. If one treatment doesn’t work for you, then something else will. You may have to tweak things, try new treatments or get a second opinion. Don’t believe anyone who tells you there is one right way.
• Leaks can be treated. Busy professionals often don’t take leaks seriously because they aren’t life-threatening or painful. The response is to wear protection and just deal with it. Don’t buy into this myth. Find a solution before it becomes a more significant problem that is much harder to treat.
• Prolapse is treatable. Pelvic floor prolapse may heal, depending on the individual. It may not always be the case, but it is a possibility that should be given full attention. If you are being told that surgery is the only treatment, seek a second opinion.
• Educate yourself and keep asking questions. The more you know, the better. If the professionals you consult seem dismissive or give up too easily, find someone new to work with. Talk with other people who have experienced healing and relief. Arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible, and find a good physical therapist who offers pelvic floor therapy.
At my practice, PhysioFit, specialized therapists offer a variety of unique and effective treatment options for women and men with pelvic floor dysfunction. Each treatment plan is tailored to meet individual needs and may include pelvic girdle stabilization, internal manual therapy, biofeedback and/or exercise.
Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness in Los Altos. For more information, visit physiofitpt.com.
Pelvic floor dysfunction: Problems may be treated with exercisesTown Crier File Photo There is hope for men and women who suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, according to physical therapist Kim Gladfelter. While many people believe there is no cure, and medical professionals may dismiss their concerns, Gladfelter emphasized that pelvic floor problems can be treated with pelvic girdle stabilization, internal manual therapy, biofeedback and/or exercise.