Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when you lose the ability to control the muscles of your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor area of your body consists of a group of ligaments and muscles. These muscles and ligaments act as a sling to support the organs located in the pelvic area. The organs include your prostate, uterus, rectum, and bladder.
Women and men both have pelvic floors. The pelvic floor in a woman consists of ligaments, muscles, connective tissues, and nerves that support the vagina, uterus, rectum, and bladder and help these organs properly function. In men, the pelvic floor consists of tissues, muscles, and nerves which support the rectum, pelvic organs, and bladder.
Relaxing and contracting the muscles in your pelvic floor is what allows you to control your urination, bowel movements, and for women, their sexual intercourse. When pelvic floor dysfunction occurs, you are only able to contract the muscles and not relax them. When you cannot relax the muscles, it results in making it difficult to have a bowel movement.
If pelvic floor dysfunction is not treated, it can lead to long-term colon damage or a severe infection. Contact the doctors at All Women’s Care if you are suffering any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
There are three different types of pelvic floor dysfunction:
- Lack of bladder control or urinary incontinence
- Lack of bowel control or fecal incontinence
- Pelvic organ prolapse where the bladder, bowels, or uterus drop within the vagina and bulge through the vaginal canal
If you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction, there are several symptoms you may be experiencing:
- Pain in your lower back
- Your lower back acts as a stabilizing and support system for your entire body. This area of your back is vulnerable to strain and injury. It is not uncommon to feel lower back pain if you are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction as this condition strains your bowels and pelvic area.
- A sensation of pressure in your rectum or pelvic region
- Problems urinating such as the constant urge to urinate or a painful urination
- Frequent urination is described as the need to urinate more often than is normal for you. Deciding if you are experiencing issues with frequent urination is determining if this need is causing a disruption or challenge to your everyday living.
Frequent urination is often described as an overwhelming need to find and get to a restroom quickly. This need may also be accompanied by discomfort or pain in your urinary tract or bladder.
- Painful or uncomfortable sexual activity
- Pain experienced while having sex is known as dyspareunia, and occurs in the pelvic area. The pain is described as intense or sharp and is more common in women than in men. Suffering this type of pain is generally an indication of a physical condition such as pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Bowel strains or constipation
- Bowel straining or constipation happens if you have difficulty having a bowel movement less than three times a week, or have to strain each time you attempt a bowel movement. It can also occur if you get a sensation of not having emptied yourself after a bowel movement.
Constipation or bowel straining can also be accompanied by abdominal pain, fever, and sometimes vomiting. Leakage of feces can also be an additional symptom.
- Muscles spasms in your pelvic area
- Muscle spasms can happen for a number of reasons, such as overexertion, fatigue, or not using the muscles enough. They can also occur if you are low on potassium or magnesium. When these spasms occur in your pelvic floor, they are generally a result of decreased strength in the muscles of your pelvic organs, including your uterus, large intestine, or bladder.
- Pain in the rectum, genitals, or pelvic area
- The brain controls the muscles of the pelvic floor through nerves. There are a number of health conditions and injuries that can affect these nerves. Back injuries or events, such as strokes, spinal stenosis, Parkinson’s disease, and childbirth can affect these nerves and weaken the muscles in the pelvic floor.
One out of four women who are twenty years old or older suffers from pelvic floor dysfunction. Often these women struggle with one or more of the three forms- urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, or pelvic organ prolapse.
How Does Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Happen, and are You at Risk?
Research is still being conducted on all the reasons pelvic floor dysfunction occurs. Some experts relate the condition to events that enable the pelvic muscles to weaken or a tear in the connective tissues of those muscles. Some of the events that cause such damage or conditions that make you a candidate for pelvic floor dysfunction, include:
A traumatic injury to the pelvic area
Pelvic trauma sustained during a traffic or other type of accident is a serious clinical issue. Immediate surgical stabilization is required, or there is a serious risk of mortality. Pelvic fractures happen in more than ten percent of all patients suffering blunt force trauma.
Following a pelvic trauma, there can be direct pelvic floor disruption. This occurrence would be the result of indirect damage to the muscle, connective tissue, blood supply, and nerves in the pelvic region.
Surgery performed in the pelvic region
Surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy that attend to POP (pelvic organ prolapse) can sometimes increase or further the prolapse. If you have had a hysterectomy, you are at an increased risk for pelvic floor dysfunction.
Damage to nerves
Parkinson’s disease, back surgeries, spinal stenosis, and strokes can all result in a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. If you have suffered any of these events or diseases, you have an increased risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction.
One of the most common diseases in women after giving birth is pelvic-perineal dysfunction. While delivering a child, it will pass through the urogenital hiatus, which will cause pressure on the tissues and result in the stretching of the pelvic floor. This stretching can cause possible muscle damage and damage to the connective tissues.
Childbirth can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. During this time, there is an excessive amount of strain placed on your pelvic floor, especially during delivery. Vaginal births double the risk rate as compared to Cesarean deliveries or in women who never give birth.
Pelvic floor dysfunction does become more common as a woman ages, but this disorder is not considered an acceptable or normal part of aging. Pelvic floor dysfunction has a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, but this disorder can be reversed or improved with proper medical attention.
During menopause, the muscles of the pelvic floor often weaken. This weakening of the muscles can lead to pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Women going through the menopause stage of life are at a higher risk for pelvic floor dysfunction.
Caucasian women have a higher risk of developing prolapse and urine leakage related to sneezing, coughing, and performing other activities. African American women tend to be more at risk for suffering from urinary leakage associated with urgency.
Some women are born with weak pelvic floor muscles. Weak pelvic muscles put them at a higher risk for pelvic floor dysfunction. If a mother or sister has pelvic floor dysfunction, then you are at a higher risk of developing this condition.
Mexican American women are more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence than Hispanic or Latino women. This difference is not well documented as these women tend to be reluctant to seek medical care.
If you do not have sufficient fiber in your diet, bowel movements are more likely to be irregular or hard. Processed foods are also a cause of constipation. Some foods irritate the bladder and can make you feel as though you have to urinate. Irritants of the bladder include alcohol and caffeine. When you suffer from irregular bowel movements or suffer from urinary irritants, it increases your risk for pelvic floor dysfunction.
Obesity influences a number of urinary incontinence and lower urinary tract symptoms. One of the most probable effects among women who are obese is the increased pressure of the intra-abdominal area that weakens the pelvic floor muscles. The more obese a woman is, the more pressure and stress will be applied, along with a higher prevalence of stress and urge of incontinence.
Obese or excess weight increases the pressure on the bladder, which often affects the strength in the pelvic muscles. Women who are obese or severely overweight are at an increased risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.
Women smokers increase their risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Smoking is also a health risk for the bladder and can damage the connective tissue in the body, including the tissue in your pelvic area.
Certain job duties such as those that require exertion or heavy lifting can increase the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction. When the responsibilities are repetitive, it increases the risk.
When a person becomes constipated and strain to have a bowel movement, it puts significant pressure on the weak vaginal wall and can cause it to become thinner. This thinning increases the risk of prolapse.
Chronic coughing/lung conditions
Chronic respiratory conditions are often responsible for increased pressure in the abdomen and pelvic area. This condition increases the risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
Emotional stress can cause a woman to feel anxious, along with the sensation of having to urinate. Stress can also be linked to loose stools.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is significantly linked to reduced interest in sex, infrequent orgasm, and pain during intercourse.
How does a Doctor Diagnosis Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
If you suspect you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction, it is important you contact your doctor at All Women’s Care to discuss your symptoms. A self-diagnosis should never be attempted for this condition. Your doctor will need to assess your medical records and discuss your symptoms with you. After the consultation, they will need to perform a physical exam and determine if there are knots or muscle spasms present. Your muscles will also be checked for signs of weakness.
Muscles and bones of your hips, sacroiliac joint, and lower back sometimes stress the pelvic floor muscles. Your doctor at All Women’s Care will check externally and internally to determine if there are any conditions present, such as sacroiliac misalignment or weakness, spasms, or knots.
- Sacroiliac joint
The sacroiliac joints are the connection formed at the sacrum and left and right iliac bones. Your sacrum is the triangle-shaped bone in your lower area of the spine, located under the lumbar spine. The sacroiliac joints connect the pelvis to the spine.
An internal exam may be necessary using a perineometer, which will check for pelvic muscle contractions and pelvic muscle control. This small sensing device is inserted through the vagina or rectum and allows your doctor to detect any abnormalities in your muscle's control.
A less invasive test is also used by placing electrodes on your perineum. The perineum on women is located between your vagina and anus. This test will check for whether or not you are able to relax and contract your pelvic muscles.
How to Treat Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
The treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction is to help you regain muscle control of your pelvic floor. These treatments are designed to make it easier for you to have a bowel movement and give you more control over your bowels.
Your physician at All Women's Care may prescribe muscle relaxants to help with the symptoms caused by pelvic floor dysfunction. Relaxants are able to prevent your muscles in this area from contracting.
There are techniques to use to reduce the strain on your pelvic floor muscles. These techniques will help you to avoid straining or pushing when using the restroom. Techniques to relax, such as stretching or yoga, can also help to relax your pelvic floor muscles. Warm baths are another form of self-care to improve your blood circulation and help to relax muscles.
If you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction as a result of rectal prolapse, surgery may be the only option. Talk with your doctor at All Women's Care to determine the cause and whether or not surgery will be required to treat your condition.
- Rectal prolapse
Rectal prolapse is a condition where your rectum begins to push through the anus. The rectum is the last part of your large intestine, and the anus is the opening through which feces exits your body. Women are at a higher risk of developing this condition than men, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Internal and External Manual Therapies for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Manual therapy or massage, either internally or externally, may help to stabilize your pelvis. These treatments take patience and time and can often require more than one session a week, depending on the technique your doctor chooses to treat your condition. Improvement through this treatment is normally noticed within six to eight weeks.
The manual massage consists of a physical therapist inserting a finger into your vagina or rectum to massage the connective tissue and muscles directly. The technique, Thiele Stripping, is frequently used as an internal technique where the doctor finds a trigger point by feeling a twitch in the muscles. They will then exercise it with a circular motion and apply pressure on the muscle to help relax it. This process is repeated until the muscle begins to release. This form of internal massage can also help with release nerves. Anesthetics are sometimes injected into the trigger points.
If internal techniques are uncomfortable, there are external techniques which may help to relax your muscles:
- Rolling your skin
- Myofascial release or deep tissue massage
- Release of tight spots or knots with trigger-point therapy
- Nerve release
- Joint mobilization
There are several devices and other therapies that can help you to learn how to relax pelvic floor dysfunction:
- Biofeedback is a common form of treatment. This technique allows your doctor to monitor your contractions and relaxing motions of your pelvic muscles. With the use of electrodes placed either on your body, in the vagina, or inside the rectum, the degree of tenseness in your pelvic floor muscles can be measured.
The results of the measurement are displayed on a computer screen. By viewing the results, you can learn how to relax your muscles. Using these relaxation techniques can find you relief after six to eight weeks of therapy. There are biofeedback devices that can be purchased or rented for use at home.
- Electrical stimulation is applied with the use of a small probe inserted into the rectum or vagina, which is intended to stimulate your pelvic floor muscles. This stimulation will help to desensitize nerves and allow muscles to relax and contract. Using electrodes to apply stimulation to your body can calm spasms and pain. Electrical stimulation devices are available for home use. Talk to your doctor at All Women's Care after your diagnosis and discuss your options for using this treatment.
- Cold laser is a low-intensity laser light applied to the tissue and helps with inflammation, pain, and wound healing. These devices have received FDA approval for temporary relief of joint stiffness and pain, minor muscle aches, and to help relax muscle spasms. Cold laser devices are also able to increase local blood flow.
- Interferential therapy is an electrical stimulation that will deliver stimulation through electrodes placed on your skin. The impulses sent through the device will ‘interfere’ with one another at the location of pain located deep in tissues. It is able to replace and relieve the sensations caused by spasms.
- Ultrasound is the use of high-frequency sound waves and is applied through a probe or wand directly to the skin. This device produces an internal image or can be used to help treat pain. With the use of real-time ultrasound, your pelvic floor muscles can be observed by your doctor, and it allows them to see how they are functioning. By learning how they are performing, your doctor can help you learn how to relax them.
Therapeutic ultrasounds use sound waves and will produce deep warmth to reduce spasms and increase your blood flow. When the device is used in a non-thermal setting, it can provide a reduction of inflammation and help with healing.
When you suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, your goal is to learn how to control and relax your pelvic floor. With the use of at-home techniques, taught how to perform by your doctor, you can find relief from your symptoms within six to eight weeks.
Who Can Treat Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
If you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction, your first step is to talk with your doctor at All Women's Care to have the condition properly diagnosed. Gynecologists/obstetricians do specialize in the care of women with pelvic floor dysfunction. In most cases, your treatment plan can be scheduled and carried out at the clinic. Depending on your symptoms and conditions you may be referred to a number of other experts:
- A urologist who specializes in treating urinary disorders in men and women
- Colorectal surgeons who can provide surgical treatment of the digestive system
- Reconstructive and plastic surgeons who implement reconstructive techniques to rebuild damaged tissue in the pelvic area
- The gastroenterologist who is able to treat digestive system issues
- Radiologists who will perform advanced studies if your pelvic floor dysfunction is difficult to diagnosis
- Physical therapists to help you learn exercises to improve your symptoms
When to Seek Help for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a topic most people are not comfortable discussing. With symptoms such as incontinence, it is often embarrassing to talk about this condition. The problem with people trying to ignore the condition or not talk to their healthcare professionals about their symptoms is that this condition is a common medical problem that can be treated successfully. Not diagnosing and treating pelvic floor dysfunction compromises a person’s quality of life.
You should not hesitate to talk to the doctors at All Women’s Care to learn about treatment options.
Find Help for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Near Me
If you have any of the listed symptoms for pelvic floor dysfunction, call All Women's Care at 213-250-9461 today. We are ready to discuss your treatment options for this controllable condition and improve your quality of life. At All Women's Care, we make it our priority to empower and serve the women of our community using up-to-date procedures with the latest technology.