What is the Pelvic Floor?
Consider this your Pelvic Floor 101 lesson ;) If you are new to pelvic health talk, no worries, we will hold your hand through this process since for some individuals, it can be a bit daunting. If you are well versed on this topic, amazing!! We hope this acts as a refresher or confirmation of your knowledge about the pelvic floor. So here we go!
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, connective tissue and nerves that make up the bottom of the boney pelvis. It is key in helping provide support for the bladder, genitals, uterus and anus. When the pelvic floor is functioning optimally, then you are likely going about your day to day activities feeling great. When it’s not, it can present in a variety of ways. Some of which include:
- urinary incontinence (bladder leakage)
- frequency and urgency to urinate
- hip or back pain
- pelvic pain or painful intercourse
- pelvic girdle pain
- bowel concerns (constipation, hemorrhoids, fissures)
- decreased sensation and arousal around the genitals
- weak abdominal or core muscles
- heaviness or pressure felt around the pelvic/genital area
The Female Pelvic Floor:
Pelvic floor concerns are more prevalent in females due to the anatomy of the pelvic floor. Unlike the male anatomy, the female anatomy has a vaginal opening. This extra space requires a little more support from these surrounding pelvic floor structures. Especially after having a baby, the pelvic floor can become weak or compromised.
The pelvic floor can also become affected around menopause. The decline in estrogen can significantly affect one’s ability to maintain continence and pliability of the muscles and soft tissue in this area. This is a very important time to take note of what you are feeling and take action should you start to experience ‘not so normal’ sensations or functions of your pelvic and genital area.
This is why pelvic floor rehabilitation is all the more important for individuals after pregnancy, delivery and around menopause. I always recommend that these individuals see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. These specialized practitioners can help you sort out ongoing symptoms related to the pelvic floor and your overall pelvic health. In addition, products and tools can assist you in achieving all your goals.
The Male Pelvic Floor:
When we compare the female and male pelvic floor, in all honesty, there isn’t that much of a difference. Really, the biggest difference is that males have two openings or orifices vs females have three. The combination of males not having to give birth as well as inherently having more structural stability in the pelvic floor (two orifices) typically results in fewer symptoms.
Having said this, pelvic floor function may become compromised as men age and after prostate cancer surgery. Often, men will end up struggling with maintaining continence and sometimes also struggle with erectile dysfunction. Both of which may be helped with exercise and strengthening the pelvic floor. There are also some cases wherein males may experience urologic chronic pelvic pain symptoms, which can affect bladder, bowel and sexual function.
The conditions mentioned above are just some of the more common issues that arise in the male and female pelvic floor but this is by far not all encompassing when it comes to discussing concerns and diagnoses. But hopefully, you have gleaned some insight on what the pelvic floor is and how it can influence our overall health and wellness. Many of these symptoms and diagnoses are common but not necessarily normal so be sure not to ignore it! With help, your symptoms can improve.