International Women’s Day: A Discussion on Pelvic Floor Health
In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate with a discussion of women’s health and the pelvic floor. With the goal of a healthier lifestyle, Spruce Health Group strives to provide knowledge to women, empowering them to make informed decisions about their health. Spruce Health Group offers a variety of treatments to improve mobility and is also here to educate women on addressing those pelvic floor issues that may have appeared normal, but are actually limiting day-to-day function.
Pelvic floor strength is no laughing matter
Are you afraid to laugh, sneeze or lift a toddler? Many women experience pelvic floor pain and dysfunction, but it is often not talked about. It affects women of all ages, and of all backgrounds, both pre and post-pregnancy. Common problems include incontinence or voiding issues, pelvic pain, prolapse, and/or sexual dysfunction. Do you have any of these symptoms? These issues can all be addressed with the aid of physical therapy.
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a non-surgical approach to the rehabilitation of dysfunctions in the pelvis that contribute to bowel, bladder, sexual health, and pain complaints. Urinary incontinence is also known as “loss of bladder control” or “urinary leakage”, and is twice as common in women as in men. It is most common in pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. But, both men and women can become incontinent as a result of brain injury, birth defects, strokes, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and physical changes associated with aging. Other causes of urinary incontinence that can affect women and men are constipation, medicines, caffeine and alcohol, infection, nerve damage, and excess weight.
It is time women talk openly
If you have concerns keeping you up at night, you are not alone. 1 in 7 American women aged 18-50 experience pelvic pain and 61% have no diagnosis. Chronic pelvic pain is often defined as pain in the abdomen or pelvis lasting greater than 3 months, not caused by diseases or conditions (dyspareunia, dysmenorrhea, or endometriosis).2 Common causes of pelvic muscle dysfunction that can lead to chronic pelvic pain include prior pelvic surgery, childbirth injury, low back pain, sexual trauma, pelvic infection, pelvic inflammation, poor posture, sacroiliac joint pain, tailbone injury, stress or tension, chronic holding, chronic straining, and muscle guarding patterns. Common physical and functional impairments that patients often complain of include limited prolonged posture in standing or sitting, difficulty sleeping, pain limiting sexual function, and difficulty wearing tight clothing.
There are options that can help
Approaches for physical therapy treatment may include behavioral strategies, breathing techniques, manual therapies, modalities, therapeutic exercises, education, and functional retraining. The majority of people hear the words “pelvic floor” and assume they will just be doing Kegels. However, a clinical concept in pelvic rehabilitation is determining whether the pelvic floor muscles need to be strengthened or lengthened. The most important part is to determine the actual function before implementing a strategy. This can assist in determining if the patient needs more strength or better coordination, or has shortened, tight muscles that need more relaxation.
In conclusion of International Women’s Day: A Discussion on Pelvic Floor Health, know that learning how your body works is crucial to your daily health as a woman. There are ways to address those less commonly discussed issues. You are your own best health care advocate. See your providers (MD, PA, NP) or physical therapist to learn more about behavioral treatments and address those less commonly talked about concerns.
- Urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence | Office on Women’s Health. (2021, February 22). Retrieved February 38, 2023, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/urinary-incontinence
- Patient education brochure: Chronic Pelvic Pain. The International Pelvic Pain Society. (2013, November). Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://hermanwallace.com/images/docs/FINAL_IPPS-patient-ed-broch-12-14.pdf