A common question I get as a pelvic physical therapist is, “what the heck is the pelvic floor and why is it important?!?”
I think the best way to answer this is bringing it back to the basics to discuss what is the pelvic floor, what are common (but not normal) dysfunctions, and ways specialized pelvic physical therapy can help… consider this Pelvic Floor 101!
Okay, so first things first, the pelvic floor is the most overlooked muscle group in the body! In fact everyone has it and it is responsible for some of our main primal functions; pooping, peeing, and procreating.
The “pelvic floor” is a name used to describe all the muscles, ligaments, nerves, vessels, and connective tissue that stretch across the bottom “floor” of the pelvis. The pelvic floor spans from the pubic bone to tailbone, and sit-bone to sit-bone making a supportive hammock. This area is super important because it is truly the floor of our core. It connects our upper and lower body, and is the only thing between your internal organs and the ground, so it’s a big deal!
The pelvic floor has 4 major functions which are essential for daily life (the 4 S’s):
Try picturing the pelvic floor as a hammock. The hammock should be at the perfect tension level where you can sit/swing in it but, this hammock can also be too taught or too droopy where it then makes it difficult to sit/swing. In pelvic floor physical therapy we use this analogy to describe the muscle tension within the pelvic floor when assessing an individual:
Hypertonic pelvic floor: Taught hammock. Often connected to painful intercourse (sex), constipation, and male pelvic pain (testicular/penile pain), frequent urination, and more.
Hypotonic pelvic floor: Droopy hammock. Often connected with pelvic organ prolapse (where organs descend through vaginal canal), urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and more.
An estimated 1 in 5 people will have pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives. It is important to be aware of signs/symptoms/risk factors of pelvic floor dysfunction. If left untreated, pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with depression, social isolation, anxiety and generally reduced quality of life.
Now this general description of the pelvic floor as a hammock is helpful but often over-simplifies what is causing the dysfunction. Just like all other areas of our bodies (the leg bone is connected to the hip bone…) the pelvic floor does not work in isolation. SO when dysfunction arises it is important to consider other factors that may be contributing to the hypertonic/hypotonic pelvic floor (taught/droopy hammock).
THIS is where the pelvic floor specialist comes into play!
Check out my previous blog on What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy for more details on how pelvic PT works for the above dysfunctions!
As always, if you have any questions or notice you have some of the above signs/symptoms please reach out to me or your local pelvic PT. I offer free 15 min consults and love helping you figure out a game plan if you resonate with anything stated above!
As for right now here are some of my favorite stretches/breathing patterns to practice for general pelvic health!
A few of my fav pelvic floor specific stretches include deep squat, child’s pose, and happy baby. Hold ea for 60 secs!
You can also try the below: