14 Apr

What is Pelvic Floor Therapy?

Too many individuals suffer in silence as they struggle with constipation, urinary leakage, sudden urges to rush to the bathroom, heaviness or pressure in their pelvis, or pain during their menstrual cycle and / or sex. These things can feel embarrassing to talk about, and as common as some of these symptoms are, they are not normal. The good news is that Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy can help!

The Basics

Many people have not heard of their pelvic floor muscles. Because we can’t see these muscles on ourselves like we can our biceps or quads, it’s easy to forget they exist or realize how important they actually are. Common misconception is that only females have pelvic floor muscles. Everyone has pelvic floor muscles and anyone can suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction.

As you can see in the picture, your pelvic floor is a hammock that runs from your pubic bone back towards your tailbone. There are three layers of muscles, some that are more superficial and others that are deep. In addition to muscles, there are also ligaments that attach to various bony landmarks around the pelvis to provide added support and stability. There are also a number of nerves that run through the pelvic region that provide innervation to the muscles in this area.

So What Do They Do?

Your pelvic floor muscles have five important functions. 

1) Provide support for your organs that rest in your abdomen and pelvis against gravity as well as any added downward pressure. During pregnancy, these muscles also provide support for the baby and need to be able to relax during the birthing process.

2) Stability. These muscles are an important part of your “core” muscles and should work in conjunction with your diaphragm to provide an environment for efficient automatic core engagement.

3) Acts as a sphincter. When you increase pressure in your abdomen through coughing, sneezing, or jumping, your pelvic floor muscles contract around your urethra and anus to prevent leakage. They also relax to allow for urination and comfortable bowel movements.

4) Sexual performance. During intercourse, your pelvic floor muscles help to achieve and sustain an erection and they’re also necessary for orgasm. Individuals experiencing painful intercourse oftentimes have some dysfunction present with their pelvic floor muscles.

5) Sump-pump / Circulation. These muscles act to pump blood and lymph from the pelvis to decrease swelling or pelvic congestion.

Remember, your pelvic floor muscles need to be able to appropriately contract AND relax in order for them to function efficiently! When these muscles aren’t functioning well, this is where pelvic floor physical therapy comes into play. Pelvic dysfunction can be associated with pain, tension, overactive, or underactive muscles. A pelvic floor physical therapist can work with you to address these issues by utilizing manual therapy techniques including soft tissue and joint mobilization, addressing neuromuscular function and motor control deficits, targeted exercise, and postural and body mechanic training so that you can live your life to the fullest potential without pelvic floor issues.

Here at IPA Physio, we take a holistic approach to treatment which means we won’t just focus on your pelvis. We take the time to assess you as a whole person to find potential drivers that may be furthering your pelvic dysfunction.

What Can Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Treat?

Urinary and Bowel Problems

  • Urinary Incontinence / Urgency / frequency
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Overactive Bladder
  • Constipation

Pain and Sexual Dysfunction

  • Sacroiliac / low back / hip pain
  • Pain with sex
  • Painful bladder / Interstitial Cystitis
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Painful menstrual cycles (dysmenorrhea)

Men’s Health

  • Pre and Post Prostatectomy Rehab
  • Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome / Chronic Prostatitis

Women’s Health

  • Pregnancy and Postpartum Rehab
  • Peri-Menopause / Menopause / Post-Menopause
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse
  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility

If you have any questions or would like to hear more about how a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you, please contact us at IPA Physio OC! We would love to walk with you on your journey to living a life free of pelvic floor dysfunction.

About the Author

Kat Wong

Kat Wong graduated from Westmont College with her B.S. in Kinesiology and then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Campbell University. She started her career working at an outpatient orthopedic clinic in Fairfax, Virginia where she developed her manual therapy skills while also specializing in women’s health and pelvic floor physical therapy. Kat has trained in pelvic floor rehabilitation through Herman & Wallace and will be sitting for the Certification in Functional Manual Therapy in August 2022, after which she will enter the Functional Manual Therapy Fellowship Program offered through IPA Physio Orange County. She enjoys working with all orthopedic conditions, and is particularly passionate about women’s health and helping individuals who struggle with bowel and bladder dysfunction, pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, and pregnancy and postpartum problems.