How Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Is Related to Back Pain, Hip Pain, and More!I
Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is when the pelvic floor muscles don’t work properly. The pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, bowels, uterus and bowel movement. PFD can lead to lower back pain and muscle strain in other parts of your body like hips and thighs.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is made of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that supports the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. It's responsible for continence (the ability to control your bowels) as well as sexual function. The pelvic floor and diaphragm work together to create healthy breathing patterns, and when this rhythm is disrupted it can contribute to other physical issues. Just like any muscle in the body, we can hold stress and trigger points in our pelvic floor muscles.
When pelvic floor therapy is mentioned, many people think of Kegel exercises, which would help strengthen a weak pelvic floor. However, it is also common to have a hypertonic pelvic floor, in which the muscles are tight and/or contracting too much. It’s important to have a pelvic floor physical therapist evaluate your specific issue.
What are the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction?
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can include:
Pain in the low back, hips, and pelvis
Tailbone pain – with sitting or getting up from a chair
Pain with sex (penetration and/or deeper in the vagina)
Pain with urination
Pain with bowel movements
Incontinence (peeing when laughing, coughing, running, jumping counts!)
If you have one or more of these symptoms, you may have a problem with your pelvic floor muscles--and it's important to get help! Too many people think this is simply a side effect of having kids that they just have to deal with.
How can I get help for pelvic floor dysfunction?
Getting help for pelvic floor dysfunction is important, especially if you're experiencing pain or discomfort. You can start by getting a physical exam from your doctor to make sure that there aren't any other underlying conditions causing your symptoms. After that, it's important to get a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT) who can do an evaluation and provide treatment recommendations based on what the problem may be.
A pelvic floor PT will assess your ability to control your muscles during different activities such as coughing, sneezing and laughing as well as during daily activities such as sitting down or standing up from a chair without using hands for support. They'll also ask about bowel habits like constipation or diarrhea along with urinary incontinence issues like leakage when coughing/sneezing/laughing etcetera...
Can Massage Help Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Yes! Pelvic floor dysfunction commonly affects the muscles of the lower back, hips, and thighs. Think of the domino effect – when the pelvic floor isn’t functioning properly, other muscles may be working overtime trying to help your body move and maintain stability. In the case of pelvic floor dysfunction, we commonly see trigger points and myofascial issues in the adductors (inner thigh muscles) the quadriceps, and pain in the front or back of the hips. Massage therapy is an excellent co-therapy during pelvic floor physical therapy. In some states, such as North Carolina, massage therapists are qualified and allowed to treat pelvic floor dysfunction. In North Carolina, patients must sign a consent form specifically for pelvic floor therapy – you should never receive this therapy without consenting prior to the start of your massage treatment. We also recommend asking your massage therapist for proof of their pelvic floor certification.
If you're experiencing any pelvic floor symptoms, it's important that you see a doctor right away. Pelvic floor dysfunction can be treated, but it's best if you catch it early before things get worse. Thankfully, pelvic floor therapy is becoming more common and it is easier to receive a referral for pelvic floor therapy than just 10 years ago. Women who had children pre-2010 may try to laugh off the fact that they leak when they laugh after kids, or they can’t “hold it” and it’s just something women have to deal with, but it’s simply not true. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – and men can also have pelvic floor dysfunction!
Here are some great local pelvic floor physical therapists:
Dr. Meghan Karol
Movement is Medicine PT – Norfolk
Urology of Virginia – Virginia Beach
Dr. Megan Jones
Reclaim Function – Chesapeake