What is the pelvic floor and why do I need to worry about it?
The pelvic floor has generated a lot of buzz lately. You hear instructors in Pilates and yoga classes instructing you to use it. Some people go to physical therapy for it. But what is it exactly?
The pelvic floor is the name for the area of muscles between your legs. These muscles have 3 functions. 1.) Sexual, 2.) Sphincteric , and 3.) Structural. It’s a pretty big job, for such a small area of the body, thanks pelvic floor!
The sexual function of the pelvic floor is performed by muscles in the outermost layer. These muscles engorge with blood when one is aroused, contract to provide help with erection in both clitoral and penile tissue, they also provide pleasurable sensations during orgasm. The sphincteric function helps to maintain continence. It controls urination, defecation, and flatulence. This is the portion one uses to suppress gas and hold urine and feces until an opportune moment.
The final function is structural and is the deepest layer of muscle in the pelvic floor. It helps to maintain the alignment of not only the pelvis but provides support to the low back during both intense and everyday activities. If the pelvic floor is not functioning well, you may notice that one of the above three functions will start to decline. You may experience sexual pain, difficulty with erection, difficulty holding gas, feces, or urine. You may experience pain in your low back or sacroiliac joint. When these symptoms pop up, it is time to take a close look at the pelvic floor.
So what can go wrong with the pelvic floor to cause symptoms?
From a musculoskeletal standpoint, it can be one of two issues. Either the pelvic floor is too loose to generate a strong enough contraction to fulfill its duties, or it can be too tight or have trigger points, which prevent it from being able to generate enough force to do its job. Patients with pelvic floors at are entirely too loose, without any trigger points, are the unicorns of my practice. They are mythical creatures that I hardly ever see, (they do exist). In the case of too loose pelvic floors, we typically start a strengthening program and send them on their way while incorporating changes in posture and daily habits to help facilitate their progress.
The far more common scenario are patients with muscles that are too tight or have trigger points (taut areas of muscle spasms) that prevent the muscle of the pelvic floor from generating enough force when it contracts to have the appropriate effect. These patients need a little more hands on work. Patients with trigger points or pelvic floors that are too tight do not get better and often get worse from strengthening alone. Physical Therapists work to manually release and stretch the muscles to help restore their full function. Often times, once the muscle is released, we find a great increase in strength without actually doing any formal strengthening.
One of the frustrating parts of releasing the pelvic floor is it sometimes can require a lot of work and for the busy clientele who come to our Manhattan based clinic, it is not always possible to come in the amount of times required a week to affect change in the muscle.
That’s where Pelvic Myofascial Wand comes in! I use it to help augment the work I do on the muscles of the pelvic floor in between sessions. It allows my patients the ability to access all the areas of the pelvic floor that need attention and can help expedite their progress to help them get out of the clinic and back to their everyday lives.