What is the Pelvic Floor?
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
What is the Pelvic Floor?
Most people have one thing come to mind when they hear me say the phrase "pelvic floor," and the first answer is almost always Kegels. Just about everyone knows what they are, so it's only natural to associate the two. While that's one of the functions of this muscle group, it certainly isn't the only role. The muscle group known as the pelvic floor muscles is a group of muscles that controls the release of of urine, feces, and gas, supports the pelvic organs, stabilizes the hip joint, helps with circulation in the body, and assists with sexual function. Kegels are a contraction of these muscles, a term coined by gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel. He invented an instrument to test pelvic strength called the perineometer. The term, Kegel, is now known as a strengthening exercise of the pelvic floor muscles. But Kegels aren't the only way to strengthen your pelvic floor.
How Your Pelvic Floor Functions When you picture the pelvic floor, try to imagine a sling that connects to your pelvic bones. It stretches across both sit bones, and connects front to back from the pubic bone to the tailbone. Although women tend to experience more PF issues, men also have these muscles as the pelvic floor functions applies to both males and females. Think of this muscle group like a trampoline or hammock that supports lower organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Instead of a single, large muscle, the pelvic floor is made up of different muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue. Along with your respiratory diaphragm, they both support your posture, breathing, and bodily functions throughout the day. Each muscle has an individual function and attaches to different parts of the pelvis, but they're also able to work together.
Why It's Important Even though you use them every day, you probably don't give the PF muscles a second thought. That makes them even more essential! So when they don't function how they should, it could start to affect your life negatively. These are some of the top functions of the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is in charge of starting and stopping the flow of urine, feces, and gas—the muscles contract to stop the flow and relax to begin the flow. Weak, tight, or uncoordinated muscles can cause leakage with sneezing, jumping, or exercise.
The muscles of your pelvic floor also affect sexual function in both men and women. In women, a tight pelvic floor can lead to painful intercourse.
Giving birth is hard on your body in so many ways, but having a coordination pelvic floor to where it can appropriately contract and relax can help. The muscles make labor go more smoothly and with less risk to you and your baby. Working on your strength and relaxation before and during pregnancy also reduces the risk of perineal tears during birth.
Causes for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
There's no single culprit for PF dysfunction. Some of the most common are included here, but they're certainly not the only causes. You may have experienced one or more of these factors, so pay attention to your body and don't hesitate to contact a pelvic floor therapist with your questions.
Pregnancy & Childbirth Your pelvic floors support your organs, and that's no exception during pregnancy. All the extra weight and strain on your muscles can cause them to become dysfunctional or weakened. Many pregnant women suffer from frequent urination, and that's not just because there's less room for the bladder. The PF muscles that control the flow of urine grow weak from being weighed down, making it even harder to hold it. Vaginal childbirth further weakens the muscles, and even those with C-Sections can be affected with pelvic floor dysfunction. That's right, a cesarean birth does not protect you from pelvic floor issues.
Obesity Excess body fat can cause extra pressure on the pelvic floor, weakening the muscles. The extra pressure means that the muscles can't function as they should, leading to stress incontinence and other issues.
Age As our bodies age, they stop working in the ways that we are used to. Shifts in hormones and activity levels can cause muscles to weaken or become too tight, affecting PF function. Older age can also cause vaginal tissue dryness during menopause making intercourse uncomfortable.
Strengthening Your Muscles with Pelvic Floor Therapy
If you've been experiencing any PF dysfunction, I'm here to help! I'm Anjelica Martinez-Yoder, a physical therapist focusing on women's health at Yoder Physical Therapy. Pelvic floor therapy can work for a wide range of situations and is always tailored to your specific body and concerns. My job is to give you the tools and knowledge you need, so you can accomplish your goals. After an initial assessment, we will develop a plan of care where I will specifically address your needs, modify your regimen as needed, and make sure we're working towards your goals. Nearly one in four women experience pelvic floor dysfunction, and many accept that fact. But they don't have to, and neither do you.
Interested in how I can help you strengthen your pelvic floor and improve your quality of life? Helping women regain confidence is my passion, and I can't wait to get started. Contact me for a free consultation, and follow me on Instagram for more PF facts.