We all need to be thinking about our pelvic floors. That statement might raise a couple of questions:
- What exactly is a pelvic floor?
- Why would I need to think about it?
When most of us think of pelvic health and associated issues like incontinence, we consider them inevitable and unavoidable. Many women, for example, see leakage as a natural consequence of getting older. But it doesn’t have to be. Strengthening your pelvic floor can improve, minimize, or completely solve this and other conditions.
What is a pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is the muscular base of your abdomen and it supports the pelvic organs. For women: the bladder, bowels, and uterus. For men: the bladder, bowels, and prostate.
The pelvic floor plays an important role in your ability to control your bladder and bowels (continence). When those functions become compromised, it is called incontinence. Often, incontinence is caused by a weak pelvic floor, as the muscles aren’t able to remain contracted. Contraction moves the pelvic organs up so that our sphincters can tighten, keeping bodily fluids inside until we are ready to release them.
In some cases, the pelvic floor is so weak that it cannot hold up the pelvic organs. This is called uterus prolapse, bowel prolapse, or bladder prolapse.
Issues with the pelvic floor don’t just affect continence. In women, the muscles of the pelvic floor can become too tight, which makes relaxing during intercourse extremely difficult. It’s also involved in overall core strength, affecting the safety of weight lifting or other weight bearing activities.
While pelvic health is often categorized as a women’s issue, it also affects men, particularly those with medical conditions affecting their prostate. At Summit Physiotherapy, our pelvic floor physiotherapist specializes in women’s pelvic health but can provide recommendations for men’s pelvic health physiotherapists.
What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?
There are a number of reasons why a pelvic floor might stop functioning properly, including:
- Complicated childbirth
- Heavy lifting
- Straining during bowel movements due to constipation
What is pelvic floor physiotherapy?
Pelvic health physiotherapy treats and prevents pelvic floor dysfunction through a set of specialized exercises and treatments. It can be used to prevent surgery, which comes with risks, long wait times, and a healing period. Pelvic floor physiotherapy is administered by a registered physiotherapist, who begins with an assessment of your current pelvic floor strength.
Pelvic floor physiotherapy treatments include:
- Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, sometimes with insertable devices or weights
- Electrical stimulation to train the muscles to contract
- Behavioural changes (for example, not letting the bladder fill too much or regulating how often you go the bathroom)
- Biofeedback devices to help you target the right muscle groups during exercises
- Using insertable devices to stretch the muscles or break up scar tissue
What makes someone a good candidate for pelvic floor physiotherapy?
Anyone can and should consider pelvic floor physiotherapy. It can be both a proactive treatment and a response to uncomfortable or painful conditions.
You should consider pelvic floor physiotherapy if you:
- Are experiencing fecal or urinary incontinence (unintentionally leaking feces or urine)
- Experience pain with sexual intercourse
- Experience chronic lower-back pain, hip pain, or groin pain
- Are currently pregnant and are experiencing symptoms
- Recently had a child
- Do high impact or weight bearing recreation activities or sport
Can’t I just do kegels at home?
While kegels can be beneficial, they need to be done correctly to be effective. Most of us squeeze without knowing whether we’re even targeting the pelvic floor. Usually we’re just contracting our larger muscle groups like the abdominals or glutes.
Working with a physiotherapist, you can learn to distinguish between contracting your pelvic floor and other muscles in your core. Manual therapy, electric muscle stimulation devices, biofeedback devices or other at-home self-management tools can help you to isolate the group of muscles that make up the pelvic floor.
How much does pelvic floor physiotherapy cost?
At Summit, our pelvic floor physiotherapy sessions are $150 for your first session, plus $90 for any follow-up sessions. Usually, we would recommend an average of six sessions. The cost is usually covered or off-set by employee benefit health plans. A referral from a doctor isn’t needed, but may be necessary for claiming on your benefits. Check with your benefits provider to find out.
Take control of your pelvic health with pelvic floor physiotherapy
At Summit Physiotherapy & Massage Therapy in St. Albert, we offer free consultations at any time with one of our qualified physiotherapists. Book your appointment today to learn about how pelvic health physiotherapy can improve your quality of life.