Introduction: What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that sits inside the pelvis. Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles and their anatomical make-up is very similar. Pelvic floor physios can assist to build strength and fitness in this area as well as recovery from injury.
The pelvic floor muscles are made up of superficial or ‘entrance’ muscles, as well as a deeper layer called the levator ani. They run from the front of the pelvis at the pubic bone, right back to the coccycx and sacrum at the back of the pelvis. Many people think of the pelvic floor muscles as behaving similar to a hammock, in that they are acting as a support system within the pelvic region. In this article, we will discuss ways that a physio can help build strength in this area as well as the general function of the pelvic floor.
What is the function of the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor muscles have many important functions that help both men and women to live a comfortable life. They function to:
- Provide bladder and bowel control
- Aid in sexual function
- Support the pelvic organs - bladder, rectum (and the uterus in women)
- Provide stability to the pelvic joints
The pelvic floor muscles behave just like any other skeletal muscle in the body. This means that these muscles are able to tighten and relax voluntarily. They can also be trained to be stronger, faster or more coordinated. On top of that, they may sometimes be injured or cause unwanted discomfort.
How can a pelvic floor physiotherapist help?
A pelvic floor physiotherapist is highly skilled in the assessment, diagnosis and management of all pelvic floor related concerns. This is often looked after as part of women's health physio. Four Physio are a team in Christchurch that assist with this. They can assist you with guidance on pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor.
Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
Strengthening the pelvic floor, especially after childbirth, is one of the most important and best things you can do for your ongoing health and wellbeing. Your physio can guide you with safe ways to perform these exercises. It’s important to note that you must be at least 6 weeks postpartum and have the ok from your doctor to proceed.
Physiotherapists can also help you with postpartum issues such as diastasis recti, which is where the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy.
Building the abdominal strength back up takes time and again, you must have the approval of your doctor before starting any postpartum exercise program.
Common Concerns Addressed for pelvic floor physio
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are well-equipped to address a wide range of common issues, including:
Bladder Leakage: If you experience involuntary urine leakage, a pelvic floor physio can assist in identifying the underlying causes and designing a personalized treatment plan to improve bladder control.
Bowel Concerns: Whether it's constipation or other bowel-related issues, these experts can provide strategies to alleviate discomfort and enhance bowel function.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when pelvic organs like the bladder, uterus, or rectum descend into the vaginal area. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can offer valuable support in managing this condition.
Pain with Intercourse: Discomfort during sexual intercourse can be emotionally distressing. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can help identify the reasons behind this pain and develop interventions to improve sexual well-being.
Menopause-Related Symptoms: Menopause can bring about a variety of pelvic health changes, including urinary issues and discomfort. Pelvic floor physiotherapy can be a valuable resource for managing these symptoms.
Is there anything women should take into consideration during their treatment plan?
Pelvic floor health is not openly spoken about, so some people may have additional concerns. Some of the most common questions your physio can help you assess include:
What lifestyle changes can I make to support pelvic health?
As with any fitness or physio plan, your specialist will guide you with ways you can supplement the work they do with you. This will include regular exercises at home and in some cases, avoiding certain types of exercise, especially while in the beginning stages of a program.
How long will it take to see improvements in my symptoms?
Early Awareness of Changes: Some clients may notice initial improvements within a few weeks of starting pelvic floor exercises and therapy. These changes might include better bladder or bowel control, reduced discomfort, or increased strength in the pelvic floor muscles.
Short-Term Progress: Many clients experience noticeable progress within the first three to six months of consistent physiotherapy and exercise. For instance, they may see a reduction in urinary incontinence episodes or less pain during intercourse.
Long-Term Benefits: Long-term improvements often become more evident after six months to a year of dedicated effort. This might include a significant reduction in symptoms, increased muscle tone, and better overall pelvic health.
What if I'm uncomfortable discussing my symptoms or concerns?
Some clients may feel embarrassed or hesitant to discuss sensitive issues, so it's essential to create a comfortable and open environment for communication.
Can I still engage in sexual activity while undergoing pelvic floor physiotherapy?
Yes, you can typically continue to engage in sexual activity while undergoing pelvic floor physiotherapy. In fact, maintaining a healthy and satisfying sexual life is an important aspect of overall well-being, and pelvic floor physiotherapy aims to enhance your pelvic health to support this.
In conclusion, a pelvic floor physiotherapist, such as the skilled team at Four Physio in Christchurch, plays a pivotal role in enhancing pelvic health. They provide personalized guidance and exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and address a range of common concerns, ultimately improving the quality of life for individuals facing these challenges
Written by Grace Coombs
Owner of Four Physio Christchurch