What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Your pelvic floor is made of muscles below your abdomen supporting your bladder, bowels, and uterus. They are located between your pubic bone and the coccyx (tailbone) within the pelvis creating a hammock-like region of muscles at the bottom of your trunk. These muscles function to support bladder and bowel control and sexual function. Pelvic floor dysfunction is the inability to correctly relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles. We then can have various symptoms from this dysfunction. Accidentally leaking urine while exercising, laughing, coughing, or sneezing. Constantly needing to go to the bathroom or not making it in time. Finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowels. Pelvic area pain or pain during sex. A prolapse in women may be felt as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging, or dropping. In men, this may be felt as a bulge in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bladder or bowels but not actually needing to go. Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur when the pelvic floor is stretched, weakened, or too tight. Very commonly we see these during pregnancy and childbirth but men experience pelvic floor issues too. Some have a weak pelvic floor from trauma, long periods of sitting, heavy lifting, and surgery. 

(Dr. Copeland treating an expected mother experiencing pelvic pain)

So how do we correct this dysfunction? We often hear that we need to do a bunch of Kegels and that will fix the pelvic floor. But more often the pelvic floor is overactive and tight. The continuous contraction with a Kegels exercise will continue to keep these muscles tight perpetuating the problem. We actually need to be able to relax the pelvic floor and then activate it correctly to correct this dysfunction. One of the best ways to relax the pelvic floor is through the use of deep abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. Start by placing one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen. Take some deep breaths working to move the hand on your stomach and not the one on your chest. Continue to take deep belly breaths working to get the breath deep into the lower abdomen. Getting the breath down into the pelvic floor space will then relax the pelvic floor. Work on your breath work for 5-10 mins per day. Once you are able to fully relax this area you can go through different exercises to activate and strengthen the pelvic floor properly working to correct this dysfunction.