What is the Pelvic Floor and why is it important?
The Pelvic Floor is a sling of muscles that act like a hammock of support at the base of the pelvis. They have 4 main functions:
- Support the Pelvic Organs – In men this includes the bladder and bowel while in women this includes the bladder, bowel and uterus. If the pelvic floor muscles fail to offer enough support to the pelvic organs either as a result of trauma such as vaginal birth, or due to weakness, prolapse of 1 or more of the pelvic organs can result. This is where the pelvic organs can drop and descend down into the vaginal canal and can feel like a heaviness, pressure, fullness or bulging.
- Bladder control – The pelvic floor supports and lifts the bladder and urethra and helps to pinch off the urethra to prevent the bladder from emptying or leaking. When we are sitting on the toilet, the pelvic floor relaxes which allows the bladder to contract and empty. If the pelvic floor is weak, it may be difficult to fully control the bladder and leaking may occur with things such as coughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting or running. This is known as Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI. If the pelvic floor has difficult fully relaxing, symptoms such as high frequency of needing to urinate or a sudden strong, hard to control urge to urinate might exist. It might also be difficult to start the flow when you are sitting on the toilet or it may feel like you are not able to fully empty your bladder.
- Core Support – The pelvic floor forms the base of the deep core stability muscle system. The pelvic floor works together with the deep Transvers Abdominus muscle, the deep segmental spinal muscles called the Multifidus and the Diaphragm. These muscles work in synergy with one another to help our bodies move with control. They support our movements and ensure we have sufficient strength, balance and power for the different demands, sports and activities we perform throughout our day. Without a proper performing pelvic floor and core, we can lack strength and control and it can put us at greater risk of injury.
- Sexual Function – When performing optimally, the pelvic floor muscles ensure we experience pleasure and orgasm with sexual intercourse. If the muscles are weak and lack good tone and ability to contract, sexual pleasure may be diminished. If the muscles are too tight and lack the ability to relax, sex can become very uncomfortable or painful and may again affect the ability to orgasm.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 women suffer from some kind of pelvic floor disorder. Often this can be successfully treated with the proper guidance and treatment from a pelvic floor physiotherapist. If you have any concerns around or suspect you may have pelvic floor dysfunction, you should book an appointment with a specially trained pelvic floor physiotherapist for a full assessment. At Trillium Integrative Health Centre, we have 2 specially trained pelvic floor physiotherapists, Hannah Barnes & Simone Beattie, who are able to fully assess and provide the appropriate treatment, education and guidance for your pelvic floor health and function.