The pelvic floor is a group of muscles at the base of the pelvis.
With pelvic floor dysfunction, a person cannot correctly use these muscles–needed to urinate and defecate.
Women with this condition can feel pain during intercourse; men sometimes have trouble getting or keeping an erection.
The pelvis is where the reproductive and excretory organs “live”; the pelvic floor muscles are the house’s foundation.
These muscles keep many organs (bladder and rectum, uterus and vagina for women, prostate for men) in place. They add support by wrapping around the pelvic bone. Some of them act as a sling around the rectum.
Normally, you’re able to use the bathroom without a care because your body tightens and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles properly. With pelvic floor dysfunction, you involuntarily keep tightening the muscles versus alternating between tightening and relaxing them as needed.
What are Some Causes of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Here are some of the causes:
- Serious injuries to the pelvic floor
- Overuse of the pelvic muscles
- Pelvic surgery
- Carrying too much weight for your frame
- Old age
What are the Symptoms?
- Frequent need to use the bathroom and difficulty/pain with urination and bowel movements
- Constipation: experts think up to half of the people who suffer long-term constipation also have pelvic floor dysfunction
- Lower back pain with no other cause
- Ongoing pain in your pelvic region, genitals or rectum
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Males
Because the pelvic floor muscles are part of both the excretory and reproductive systems, pelvic floor dysfunction can co-exist with many other conditions affecting men, including:
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Females
Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect the uterus and vagina. Women who get pelvic floor dysfunction may experience pain during sex.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is not the same as pelvic organ prolapse (where organs protrude from the vagina) but it is related to interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition that causes pain in your pelvis or bladder. Pain from the bladder can transfer pain to the pelvic floor and lead to loss of muscle function.
How is it Treated?
Your healthcare provider will usually start by asking about your symptoms and taking a careful medical history. They may do a physical exam to test your pelvic floor muscle control. You may also be given other tests.
Fortunately, pelvic floor dysfunction can be treated successfully with biofeedback, physical therapy, medications and/or relaxation techniques.