Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Symptoms
About 24% of women in the U.S. have experienced a pelvic floor disorder. The risk of pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms increases with age and happens when the connective tissues and muscles within the pelvis weaken or experience injury. Usually, the term pelvic floor dysfunction refers to issues with being able to correctly coordinate these muscles and tissues, leading to trouble urinating or difficulties with bowel movements.
In this article, we are going to go over what the pelvic floor consists of, the top symptoms indicating that you are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as the treatment options available. Let’s take a look!
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor consists of muscles that support the bladder, bowels and uterus (or prostate). Basically, these muscles help keep everything in place, as well as aid in the proper functioning of these organs.
When you use the bathroom, your body tightens and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles, allowing for urination or a bowel movement. Yet, when you experience pelvic floor dysfunction, your body doesn’t necessarily relax these muscles, leading to issues completing bowel movements or difficulty urinating. If left untreated, issues with your pelvic floor can lead to infection or even damage the colon.
Some factors that may contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Pelvic injuries.
- Going to the bathroom too often.
- Excess weight.
In fact, many people undergo pelvic floor therapy after giving birth to ensure complications or weaknesses don’t persist or develop.
5 Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
So, how do you know if you are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction? Watch out for these symptoms:
1. Trouble Urinating or Having a Bowel Movement
If you constantly feel constipated or like you have to urinate but can’t, you may be experiencing issues with your pelvic floor. Additionally, you may have a bowel movement, but it may feel incomplete or as though you haven’t fully emptied. You may also experience pain when urinating.
2. Urine or Feces Leakage
Incontinence, such as urinating when you cough, sneeze, or laugh, can prove embarrassing in many situations. However, if you have experienced this more often than not, it might be worthwhile to talk to your healthcare provider. This is a main symptom of a weak pelvic floor!
3. Lower Back Pain
Unexplained pain in your lower back, alongside other symptoms, can mean you have a pelvic floor dysfunction. Either way, lower back pain that persists should be a reason to seek out care and treatment, as your doctor or physical therapist will be able to get to the root of your problem.
4. Pain During Sex
This is specific for women. When you have a pelvic floor dysfunction, it is more than likely that you will have some discomfort during sexual intercourse. Additionally, you may feel pressure in your pelvic or rectum.
5. Muscle Spasms in the Pelvis
When muscles become weak or don’t function correctly, this can lead to compensation, eventually causing muscle spasms. If you notice spastic muscles down there, it might be a good idea to get it checked out by your healthcare provider.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Treatment
Luckily, there are various treatment options that can help you regain control back over your body. These include:
- Pelvic floor physical therapy. This usually involves biofeedback therapy, helping you determine how and if you are contracting these muscles. This can help retrain these muscles, increasing coordination and function. Your physical therapist will also provide other exercises, such as stretching and strengthening exercises, that you can perform at home to lengthen any other muscles affected and continue retraining the pelvic floor muscles.
- Medications. Your doctor may prescribe or recommend certain drugs to help encourage bowel movements. This may involve stool softeners, allowing the body to eliminate toxins and waste easier, or relaxants to prevent muscular contraction.
- Relaxation techniques. Your doctor or physical therapist may encourage you to perform regular relaxation techniques to decrease stress and tension in the body. These may include meditation, warm baths, yoga, deep breathing and more.
- Surgery. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is usually explored when pelvic floor dysfunction has resulted in rectal or uterine prolapse (where the rectal tissue falls through the anal opening and the uterus begins to drop down into the vagina).
It’s also important to note that most treatments take time. Be patient with the process (and consistent with any exercises prescribed). Depending on the severity of your situation, the timeframe in which your pelvic floor dysfunction resolves may vary.
While pelvic floor dysfunction may give way to embarrassing situations, it is vital that if you have any of the symptoms above that you book an appointment with your doctor. Overall, it is a very treatable condition, but it isn’t something you want to leave to get worse, especially if you aren’t able to relieve yourself via bowel movements or urination.