What You Need to Know About the Pelvic Floor - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on May 01, 2013

What You Need to Know About the Pelvic Floor 

The pelvic floor may sound like some sort of dance move, but it’s actually a really important part of your body that helps control one of the most natural functions of the body: your ability to go to the bathroom with ease and, probably, without much thought. 

What It Is

Consisting of a group of muscles in your pelvic area, the pelvic floor acts as a sling that supports your pelvic organs (e.g., the bladder, intestines, rectum, uterus and prostate). When healthy individuals need to make a bowel movement, the pelvic floor muscles relax and allow the rectum (the place where solid waste is stored inside your body) to empty. 

What Can Go wrong: Pelvic Floor Dysfunction  

For those who aren’t able to control their muscles in the pelvic floor, they end up contracting instead of relaxing when passing a bowel movement, which is known as Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD). 

It’s obvious that the first symptom of PFD is difficulty going to the bathroom (aka: constipation), but this can also be the result of a variety of other gastrointestinal issues. Other signs of dysfunctional muscles include frequent urination or bowel movements, painful urination, and long-term pain in the pelvic region, genitals or rectum. Some might also experience a sensation of incomplete emptying of the rectum after a bowel movement, or the need to stop and start while urinating, which are also big indicators of PFD.  

After identifying your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will conduct a physical exam followed by procedures to identify muscle control. One exam involves electrodes that are placed on either the perineum or sacrum to test muscle control. Another is known as a defecating proctogram, which allows doctors to record the movement of the pelvic floor muscles and the rectum. 

There are many simple and effective ways to treat PFD. Since stress and physical tension can influence your ability to have healthy bowel movements, your doctor might prescribe a low-dose muscle relaxant, or recommend relaxation techniques such as yoga and exercise to relax your body physically and mentally. 

In many cases, doctors would also use a type of physical therapy known as biofeedback, which gives patients the opportunity to become more aware of how their body currently functions and how they can make it operate better. To help those with PFD, special sensors and videos are used to monitor the pelvic floor as a patient relaxes or contracts their muscles. As they watch the feedback together, your physical therapist would provide feedback on how to improve muscle coordination. 

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to fix other dysfunctions of the pelvic floor, such as rectal prolapse.  

How You can Keep the Pelvic Floor Strong 

Although the causes are unknown, the pelvic floor muscles may weaken as a result of traumatic injury, childbirth and even inactivity. To strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, there are exercises you can do to specifically target the pelvic floor, such as Kegels or Pilates. 

The Crozer-Keystone Center for Female Pelvic Medicine offers comprehensive care for the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic floor disorders. Led by Jose Maceda, M.D., CKHS urogynecologist, treatment options range from physical therapy, to medication management to surgery. Visit http://ckpelvicfloormedicine.crozerkeystone.org to learn more.

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