While you may have heard of something called pelvic floor disorder, you might not be familiar with what the pelvic floor is; where it is; or if you even have a pelvic floor. Pelvic floor disorder is a common condition, however, as everyone, regardless of age or gender, has a pelvic floor. And certain circumstances cause stresses on the body that lead to wear and tear on that floor, requiring treatment to rectify the situation and restore things to their rightful place.
Q: What is a pelvic floor?
Dr. Coyle: The pelvic floor is the system of muscles, ligaments, connective tissues, and nerves that support the bladder, rectum, and other pelvic organs and helps them function properly. In women, the uterus and vagina are also part of the pelvic organs supported by the pelvic floor.
Q: What is a pelvic floor disorder?
Dr. Coyle: A pelvic floor disorder refers to the failure of the sling-like structure of the pelvic floor to provide proper support for the pelvic organs. There are three main types, which include:
- Fecal incontinence– lack of bowel control
- Urinary incontinence– lack of bladder control
- Pelvic organ prolapse– protrusion of the uterus, bladder, and bowel through the vaginal canal, which occurs when these organs drop onto the vagina
Q: Is it a normal part of aging?
Dr. Coyle: As with most parts of the body, the pelvic floor weakens with age, which means that the risk of developing pelvic floor disorders becomes more common as women get older. In fact, as a woman’s age increases, so, too, does the likelihood that she will suffer from a pelvic floor disorder. There are, however, certain preventative measures that can be taken and treatment can often reverse the issue.
Q: What are the most common pelvic floor disorders symptoms?
Dr. Coyle: Women suffering from a pelvic floor disorder may experience symptoms including:
- Bowel-related issues such as constipation, straining during bowel movements, or painful bowel movements
- Bulging in the vagina or rectum
- Feelings of heaviness in the pelvis
- Pain during intercourse
- Pelvic muscle spasms
- Pelvic pain
- Rectal pressure or pain
- Unexplained pain in the lower back
- Urinary problems such as pain during urination, the inability to fully empty the bladder, and increased urgency to urinate
- Vaginal pain or pressure
Q: What causes pelvic pain?
A: Pelvic pain occurs in the lower abdomen, below the navel. While pelvic pain can be related to pelvic floor disorders, some women experiencing pelvic pain may find that their pain is caused by serious health conditions including:
- Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease
- Digestive diseases
- Interstitial cystitis
- Uterine fibroids
Q: What role do pelvic floor muscles play in bowel problems?
Dr. Coyle: Pelvic floor muscles are crucial to the process of having a bowel movement, as the elimination of stool from the bowels requires that the muscles of the pelvis work together to relax and contract. In cases of pelvic floor disorder, these muscles cannot be properly controlled, leading to bowel issues.
Q: Who treats pelvic floor disorders?
Dr. Coyle: Healthcare should always be discussed with a medical professional, but many physicians do not specialize in the treatment of pelvic floor disorders. Proper treatment may require consultation with a urologist or urogynecology specialist who will be able to provide the most effective solutions.
Q: When should I seek help for pelvic floor disorders?
Dr. Coyle: Treatment should be explored when the symptoms occur, as many of these issues decrease functional living and affect the quality of life.
Q: What are some treatments?
Dr. Coyle: Treatment will depend on the severity of each case, but the most effective non-surgical methods include:
- Behavioral changes, such as avoiding pushing or straining when urinating or having a bowel movement
- Use of pelvic floor muscle exercises to strengthen the muscles
- Warm baths or practicing yoga, which can help relax pelvic floor muscles
- Medications including muscle relaxants
- Biofeedback to learn proper coordination of pelvic floor muscle movement
At Coyle Institute, we provide the women in our care with the very best treatments to offer them relief from pelvic floor disorders and other urogynecology issues that may be affecting their quality of life.
Get in on the ground floor of great health! Consult with the caring staff at Coyle Institute to learn more about pelvic floor disorders and find the support you need today!