This is one of the most common questions I hear as a pelvic trained physical therapist. Whether it’s from patients at their initial PT session, or it’s from random people at a social setting, I find myself answering this question over and over again whenever I tell someone about my unique area of study.
The short answer is: pelvic floor physical therapy is here to care for any condition affecting the bowel, bladder, pelvic pain, and sexual function of all genders at any age in development. Pelvic floor physical therapy (AKA “pelvic health physical therapy”) has been traditionally associated with pregnancy and postpartum concerns. However, anyone with a penis or vulva can experience pelvic floor conditions. After all, every human has a pelvic floor!
The pelvic floor is the series of muscles that line the inner portion of the pelvis. The role of these muscles is to support and stabilize everything that is above them, i.e. the organs of the abdomen, trunk, neck and head. Additionally, the pelvic floor helps to lift everything below, i.e. the lower extremities. Essentially, the pelvic floor is the junction between our upper body and lower body.
Thus, the pelvic floor needs to be under involuntary and voluntary control. We need the pelvic floor to be strong enough to support the body to hold in our organs, urine, and stool during our daily life. While we are upright, gravity is pulling everything down toward the feet. The pelvic floor helps to keep us upright. Simultaneously, we need to be able to connect the signals between the brain and the pelvic floor in order to relax the pelvic floor to allow for urination, child birth, bowel movements, and sexual activity.
Like impairments of the shoulder or ankles that are more commonly associated with physical therapy, the pelvic floor can be injured and not function as it should. We call this “pelvic floor dysfunction.” However, instead of a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder, pelvic floor problems can show up as pelvic, groin, hip or low back pain, pain during sexual activity, urinary or fecal incontinence.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can feel like sharp, radiating pelvic pain, pain at or inside the genitals. At times, it can feel like a dull ache or even just a lack of awareness of this area of your body. You may notice you leak urine when you sneeze or cough, can’t quite make it to the bathroom in time to void, or vaginal or penile pain leading up to, during, and/or following sexual activity.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur at any time during one’s life. Some common times include: during and after abdominal or pelvic surgery, long periods of constipation, car accidents, menopause, pregnancy, increases or decreases in physical activity, hormonal changes, changes to digestion or diet, cancer treatment, and the list goes on.
If any of this sounds like something you are experiencing in your life or would like more information on, please come visit us at Activcore. We offer one-on-one patient visits in a private setting to help each one of our clients accomplish their goals.
To learn more, check out our Pelvic Health page.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.