The pelvic floor is a is a set of muscular (20%) and conjunctival (80%) structures closing the pelvis in its lower region. It acts as a sort of hammock at the bottom of the pelvic cavity, supporting the pelvic organs: the bladder, the last portion of the large intestine (rectum) and the uterus (or prostate in men). The pelvic floor is involved in basic functions of the human body such as urination, defecation, sex and childbirth, among others. Its weakness or excessive tone might interfere on these vital functions, causing urinary or fecal incontinence, organ prolapse, sexual dysfunction and a myriad of other symptoms.
What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?
A list of possible causes would include pregnancy and labor -traumatic labors being a number one cause of pelvic floor dysfunction in case of forceps use or episiotomy-, excess of hyper pressive physical activity, or the hormonal changes that come with fertility treatments or menopause. However, most of these causes could only wreak havoc on a pelvic floor that was already not functioning properly due to incorrect body mechanics. If we add an extra weight (such as a baby) to a hammock that is not tensed at its optimal length, it will eventually collapse in one way or another. A lifestyle that involves too many hours sitting (or too much aggressive exercise) will result in a poor posture and walking pattern that affects the muscular and bony structures interconnected with the pelvic floor, altering what should be its normal shape and tension and making it prone to injury or malfunctioning.
How is pelvic floor dysfunction treated?
Pelvic manual therapy techniques, electrical stimulation and biofeedback, postural reeducation, hypopressive exercises or proprioceptive training are some of the strategies physical therapists use in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor physiotherapy is a safe and effective alternative to invasive procedures such as surgery.