Pelvic Health 101: the basics

Pelvic health physiotherapy has been around for a while, but only recently has it started to become well known.   You may be asking yourself, “What on earth does a pelvic health physiotherapist do?!” “Are pelvic floor exercises just exercises for your pelvis done on the floor?” “Do men have pelvic floors?” “Is this only for women after they have had babies?”

The answers to those questions are “keep reading” “no” “yes” “no!”

Let me give you some basic information about pelvic health physiotherapy, so you or someone you know can benefit from this great treatment option.

The basics:

What is the pelvic floor?

A sling of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue at the bottom of your torso, in the pelvis.  There are 3 layers of muscles that run from the pubic bone to tailbone (front to back) and to the sit bones and up inside the pelvis and hips (side to side). Imagine a diamond shape of attachments, and then a “sling” or bowl shape of muscles in your pelvis.  Here are some pictures to help visualize:

 

*Photos from the book “Heal Pelvic Pain” by Amy Stein

What are they there for?

The pelvic floor muscles have 5 main functions (more than any other muscle in your body – they are important!!)

  1. Support of the organs – the pelvic floor muscles help to support the organs, such as the bladder, rectum, and uterus.
  2. Movement and stability – these muscles help us with stability during movement, such as walking, running, biking and skiing. They are part of the deep core system, so if you want a well-functioning core, you must address your pelvic floor (and your breathing)!
  3. Bladder and bowel function – the pelvic floor plays an integral part in bowel and bladder function. Both holding it in and letting it go – these muscles are involved!
  4. Sexual function – arousal, pleasure, and reproductive functions are what we commonly think of when talking about the pelvic floor.
  5. Fluid pump – these muscles help in the return of lymph and blood flow. Pelvic congestion, varicose veins, and heaviness or aching in the pelvis can be from lack of efficient muscle use and restricted blood flow.

So what can a pelvic health physiotherapist help with?

Anything involving the functions listed above!

To be more specific:

  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Weak core
  • Alignment of the pelvis
  • Muscle weakness, tightness, or tenderness (trigger points/muscle “knots”)
  • Pain in hips, low back, pelvis
  • Tailbone dysfunction – especially after a hard fall on the bum
  • Leaking urine
  • Urinary frequency or urgency (have to go to the bathroom often or RIGHT NOW)
  • Difficulty with emptying bladder or bowel
  • Constipation
  • Lifestyle and habits – diet and water intake, proper exercise, bathroom habits, hygiene to prevent infection, etc
  • Abdominal pain
  • Post abdominal surgery recovery (c-section or others) – scar release as well as rebuilding the core muscles
  • Painful sex
  • Difficulty with arousal
  • Pelvic congestion
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Prenatal care – perineal massage to prepare for birth, pelvic floor muscle relaxation and strengthening
  • Postpartum care – scar massage, strengthening, addressing any of the above concerns
  • Breathing dysfunction
  • Stress – this is a big one!

Keep in mind pelvic health physiotherapists are regular physiotherapists first, so we can also help you with any other musculoskeletal issues like posture, back pain, headaches, knee problems etc.  Sometimes these conditions are more related than you realize!

If you are curious about pelvic health, feel free to call the clinic at 344-6654 or email kristie@elementtherapeutics.ca and I would be happy to talk to you more.

Written by Kristie Norquay, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist