Have you noticed the now-common “Incontinence” section at grocery stores and pharmacies? Maybe you or a loved one have experienced an uncomfortable urgency to use the restroom or have not quite made it there in time. As the new focus on products to address bowel and bladder leaks suggests, this is a very common issue. Although it is a delicate topic, 1 in 4 people will benefit from taking action to improve their “pelvic health." In this post, we will discuss common symptoms of changes in pelvic function, why they may occur, and how specially trained physical therapists can help.
What is Pelvic Health?
Pelvic health refers to normal function of our pelvic organs including bowel, bladder, and sexual functions. Individuals with pelvic health dysfunction may experience leaking of urine, difficulty controlling passage of stools or pain with intercourse. Some people rush to the restroom frequently while leaking on the way and others struggle to start the flow of urine to empty their bladder. Other individuals may not be getting clear messages from their bodies about when they should excuse themselves to the restroom and get caught by surprise. Though these are common occurrences, this is NOT normal! Help is out there!
Causes and Risk Factors
We all have a sling of muscle that forms the floor of our pelvis. It spans between the sit bones from our pubic bone to the base of the tailbone and supports our organs. Strength and balance in these muscles is necessary to both prevent passage of materials from our body against our will and to allow full emptying when we decide the moment is right. That is right…you are in charge here! Many factors hinder pelvic floor muscle function and knowing who is at risk will help people identify the need and get help sooner.
Common risk factors that may lead to pelvic health dysfunction include:
- Prostate pathology
- Previous abdominal or pelvic surgery
- Older age
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a pelvic floor dysfunction may include:
- Leaking urine or stools
- Urinating more frequently than every 3-4 hours
- Avoiding leaving your house due to fear of not having access to a restroom
- Difficulty starting or maintaining the flow or urine
- Not having a bowel movement at least every 3 days
- Pain with urination of defecation and medication isn’t helping
- Experiencing pain with intercourse
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Pelvic health is critical for our most basic human functions. It is something most of us do not think about until we start to have symptoms that can quickly cause fear, embarrassment and anxiety. This is a common problem with simple solutions including behavioral changes, targeted soft tissue release and gentle strengthening that can significantly improve your quality of life. Pelvic floor physical therapy has been proven effective as a first line treatment and has the potential to give you your life back!
Don’t wait to start your journey to recovery! We have 2 specially trained Physical Therapists who are excited to hear your story and partner with you in managing your symptoms. Our goal is to produce long term change in strength as well as posture and tension in the abdomen and pelvis needed for restored bowel, bladder and sexual function. To learn more about our pelvic health services click here. We are also offering free screens where you will have the opportunity to discuss any of your questions or concerns with our specialists.
Wu et al. Prevalence and Trends of Symptomatic Pelvic Floor Disorders in U.S. Women. Obstet Gynecol. 2014 January; 123(1): 141–148. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970401/pdf/nihms542708.pdf
Vesentini G, El Dib R, Righesso LAR, et al. Pelvic floor and abdominal muscle cocontraction in women with and without pelvic floor dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2019;74:e1319.
Dumoulin C, Cacciari LP, Hay-Smith EJC. Pelvic floor muscle training versus no treatment, or inactive control treatments, for urinary incontinence in women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;10(10):CD005654.