Updated: Aug 19
Did you know that you use your pelvic floor in almost everything you do, whether you are going to the bathroom, picking up your toddler, or even standing up straight? Since the pelvic floor plays an integral role in our daily activities, how do we know if it is functioning properly? Although there could be many signs, here are some symptoms we frequently see in the clinic along with causes of dysfunction and common myths associated with the pelvic floor.
Common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction:
-fecal/urine leakage (whether activity-provoked like coughing/jumping/running or at rest)
-pain in pelvis, hips, abdomen, or low back (common referral pain sites from the pelvic floor)
-straining with bowel/bladder movement
-difficulty starting/stopping urine stream
Potential causes of pelvic floor dysfunction:
-trauma injury to pelvis (i.e. birth trauma, car accident, etc.)
-decreased flexibility in legs or trunk
Top 5 common myths about the pelvic floor:
1. Only women suffer from pelvic floor issues.
2. Leaking when you cough/sneeze is normal after child birth or as you age.
3. Frequent urination (>6-8 times in a 24-hour period) is normal.
4. Painful sex is normal.
5. If you have leakage, you should just do a bunch of Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
If you have any of the above symptoms, you might be suffering from a pelvic floor impairment. Luckily, there is help available! Physical therapists (PTs) who are specialized in pelvic floor rehabilitation are trained to evaluate and assess pelvic floor strength, flexibility, and motor coordination. We work together with you to design an individualized exercise program and educate you on easy ways to optimize your pelvic floor function with daily activities. Let’s take a look at breaking down those common myths and see how physical therapy plays a role:
Myth 1: Only women suffer from pelvic floor issues.
FACT: Both women and men can struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction. PTs who are specialized in pelvic floor rehabilitation can treat any gender and help them achieve their goals.
Myth 2: Leaking when you cough/sneeze is normal after child birth or as you age.
FACT: Leaking is common but NOT normal after child birth/with aging. Your PT can help you identify the cause(s) of your leaking and develop appropriate treatment strategies to decrease leakage and improve your quality of life.
Myth 3: Frequent urination (>6-8 times in a 24-hour period) is normal.
FACT: As mentioned above, frequent urination is a common symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. Your PT will look into the WHY behind the increased frequency and educate you on ways to decrease how often you need to go so you can spend more time doing the activities you love.
Myth 4: Painful sex is normal.
FACT: Painful sex is NEVER normal and often can become a terrible cycle that worsens over time. There are many reasons why sex can be painful, and your PT will work with you to help identify your specific causes and help you overcome them based on your individual needs.
Myth 5: If you have leakage, you should just do a bunch of Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
FACT: Although leakage COULD be a sign of weak pelvic floor muscles, this is NOT always the case. Performing Kegels could help your leakage, but they could also exacerbate the problem if the cause is not weakness. Therefore, it is imperative you work with a PT who will perform a thorough evaluation to assess your impairments and create the perfect home exercise plan for you.
Research shows that your body is never too old to adapt and become healthier. So, no matter where you are in life’s continuum, whether you are 25 and just had your first child or you are 80 and have been struggling with urinary incontinence for years, physical therapy can help you reach your goals!