We mention pelvic floor dysfunction often and it’s kind of a blanket term that has a list of diagnoses beneath it.
- Diastasis Recti
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse
- Low Back Pain
- Hip Pain
But what is the cause of pelvic floor dysfunction? Oftentimes it is caused by trauma, so pregnancy and birth can cause trauma to the pelvic floor, but so can car accidents and injuries. More subtle causes might be straining going to the bathroom, joint instability, constant clenching of the pelvic floor muscles and high-intensity workouts like running, crossfit and gymnastics.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is usually due to a lack of blood flow to the pelvic floor muscles which can be caused by scar tissue or hypertonicity, extreme tightness of the muscle. That is why the number one thing we do in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is address this issue with manual therapy both externally and internally.
Another common cause of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is lack of coordination of these muscles. This does not mean just Kegel’s! The Diaphragm is an essential muscle in the core; it is beneath our lungs and when your pelvic floor is coordinated it moves with the pelvic floor muscles. On an inhale your diaphragm goes down and your pelvic floor relaxes on the exhale the diaphragm goes up and the pelvic floor contracts. This is why we are big advocates for not straining during a bowel movement by holding our breath and pushing we are using our internal force to push the stool out vs. taking big diaphragmatic breaths that facilitate the peristalsis in the colon and naturally move the stool out of the body with the internal rhythm of these muscles. Straining applies pressure to all of your internal organs not just the stool so this can cause a descent of the pelvic organs also known as a pelvic organ prolapse.
Common issues that people usually attribute to motherhood or aging include:
- Hip and back pain
- Discomfort with intercourse
But really our bodies will compensate for pelvic floor dysfunction by putting strain on our joints and muscles. Our pelvic floor will continue to atrophy with a lack of blood flow and that leads to more leaking because that muscle is weak and can no longer control our bathroom functions. We always say just because it is common doesn’t mean it is normal. Addressing the issue holistically with an expert will eliminate the need for surgeries and medications down the road.