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What is the pelvic floor?

pelvic floor Jul 07, 2021

What is the Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and other connective tissues connecting your tailbone to your pubic bone, similar to a hammock at the bottom of the pelvis. It provides support to organs above including your rectum, bladder, the prostate in men and uterus in women. The pelvic floor is one important factor in sexual response. This muscle group helps to control the release of urine and stool to prevent accidental leakage and allow complete emptying, when we are ready. The pelvic floor, or Levator Ani muscles, work as part of our deep core and connect with nearby muscles of the hips. They work with the muscles of breathing to assist with pressure changes as our lungs expand and recoil. The pelvic floor muscles also contribute to force absorption during movement to prevent symptoms of pain, pelvic pressure and/or leakage.

Physical Therapists (PTs) are specifically trained in anatomy and physiology of the
musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiopulmonary and integumentary (skin) systems. They complete a Doctoral program, where they learn to evaluate and assess these systems in detail to help improve activities of daily living in their clients. PTs are trained in identifying medical red flags, or signs that a client needs further evaluation by their physician, or Medical Doctor.

Pelvic health has unique considerations involving connections with the reproductive, endocrine, urinary, gastrointestinal, psychological and immune systems to name a few. Therefore, PTs who wish to specialize in pelvic health should take continuing post graduate coursework, often involving travel and 2-3 day long classes with hands-on lab training. These continuing education courses allow PTs to study pelvic health conditions in detail and learn important signs to screen for in this population. During the lab portion, PTs are instructed in both internal and external vaginal and rectal assessment and treatment techniques. These techniques allow the PT to identify impairments in strength, endurance and coordination of the pelvic
floor muscles. The PT is also trained in using special tests to reproduce symptoms in order to identify contributing causes, which can be addressed with physical therapy.

Although Pelvic Health Physical Therapists often use manual techniques during their assessment and treatment, Pelvic Health PT often involves more traditional Physical Therapy techniques such as an individualized exercise program, body mechanics training and symptom management techniques. Pelvic Health PTs screen the low back, abdomen and hips, as each of these regions may affect the others and contribute to symptoms. Pelvic Health Physical Therapy is for both men and women and is used to treat conditions including, but not limited to, urinary/fecal incontinence, pelvic pain, obstetric or postpartum conditions, sexual dysfunction and pelvic organ prolapse.

The pelvic floor is important to overall health and quality of life. Pelvic conditions can be a result of interconnections between multiple body systems, changes over the lifespan, specific injury or ineffective movement strategies overtime. The Physical
Therapist can be especially equipped to help address pain, movement and pressure related symptoms to help clients get back to what they enjoy doing.

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