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Pelvic Floor Muscles: What are they?

The inside of the pelvis is lined with muscles referred to as the pelvic floor muscles, these muscles are made of the same types of muscle tissue as other parts of the body, like the neck or shoulder. Similarly, the pelvis is home to ligaments, nerves, fascia, and bones, just like other parts of the body.

Pelvic Floor Muscles: What do they do?

The pelvic floor muscles have a variety of jobs:

  • Support the organs in the pelvis and abdomen; keeping your organs inside you is a good thing! Otherwise issues such as organ prolapse may occur.
  • Stabilize the movement of the hips and pelvis- poor movement patterns can begin as dysfunctions in the pelvic floor and can often cause low back pain and hip pain.
  • Sphincter, or closure of the openings of the urethra, vagina, and anus- keeping you continent and dry.
  • Lymphatic drainage and circulation
  • Sexual Function- pelvic floor muscles aide in sexual function including orgasm and pain free sex.

What is Pelvic floor therapy?

When you are suffering from neck or shoulder pain, it is common to go see a physical or occupational therapist to help correct any issues with like alignment, movement, strength, and flexibility to reduce pain and improve function. Pelvic floor therapists are physical or occupational therapists with advanced training to help correct those same issues in the pelvis, lower extremities, spine, and abdomen.

What does pelvic floor therapy treat?

Dysfunctions in the pelvic floor can cause or contribute problems that greatly affect quality of life. Pelvic floor therapy can help with the following conditions:

Incontinence and Voiding Dysfunctions:

  • Leaking urine with sneezing, coughing, and laughing
  • Leaking urine when you are fumbling with your clothes, keys or washing the dishes
  • Light-heavy bladder leakage
  • Urinary urgency and frequency
  • Delayed or painful voiding
  • Interstitial cystitis (IC) and Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS)
  • Overactive bladder
  • Nocturia- night time urination
  • Enuresis (bedwetting)
  • Fecal / Bowel Incontinence ; Accidental Bowel Leakage
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Constipation

Painful Intercourse:

  • Vaginismus / Genito-Pelvic Penetration disorder
  • Vulvodynia
  • Vulvar vestibulitis
  • Vestibulodynia
  • Unprovoked and provoked vestibulodynia
  • Dyspareunia
  • Endometriosis
  • Levator Ani Syndrome

Pelvic Pain:

  • Stabbing, throbbing, or jabbing pain in the abdomen, low back, and/or pelvic area
  • Inability to tolerate gynecological exams or tampon use
  • Pain with sitting
  • Pain with cycling

Persistant Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) / Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (PSAS)

Painful Orgasm / Dysorgasmia

Anorgasmia (no orgasm) or Diminished or Less Intense Orgasms

Pudendal Neuralgia

Coccydynia (tailbone pain)

Painful Bladder Syndrome / Interstitial Cystitis

Deep hip pain / Piriformis Syndrome

What do you do in pelvic floor therapy?

Pelvic floor therapists help normalize dysfunction in the pelvic floor. Problems can be caused by a variety of things including spasms, muscle guarding, weakness, lymphatic drainage problems, connective tissue dysfunction, poor habits, chronic stress, and poor movement patterns.

The treatment modalities you will receive in pelvic floor therapy depend on your body and the issues present. Tight pelvic floor muscles, myofascial trigger points, and chronic stress and constipation, for example, could cause a flare up of pelvic pain. Your therapist would then help treat those underlying conditions to help bring your body back into balance and function.

Some of the modalities used in the clinic can include:

  • Therapeutic exercise to strengthen or lengthen the tissues in the body that may contributing to problems
  • Manual therapy to treat connective tissue dysfunction and myofascial trigger points
  • Visceral mobilization (gentle massage techniques that loosen internal adhesions and restore movement to the organs including the intestine, bladder, uterus, and ovaries)
  • Postural training and therapeutic exercise to treat dysfunctional movement
  • Internal pelvic manual therapy to treat sensitive tissues, muscle spasms, trigger points, and muscle guarding that can cause pain with activities like sex, tampon use, or bowel movements
  • Training in self treatment techniques including foam rolling, lymphatic massage, autonomic relaxation, and stress reduction
  • Neuromuscular re-education and autogenic relaxation to reduce chronic muscle over-activity, reduce pain, and improve sleep
  • Cold laser, ultrasound, and other physical agent modalities to aide in the reduction of inflammation, pain, and improve tissue healing.
  • Education regarding habits that could be contributing to the problem: diet, constipation management, stress management.

Patient Education and Empowerment

An important aspect of pelvic floor therapy is the collaboration and trust that is created between the therapist and client. The ultimate goal of pelvic floor therapy at Femina is educating you with the tools you need in your toolkit to help you heal yourself and to be able to deal with flare-ups and the occasional bumps in the road with confidence. As pelvic floor therapists, we are guides, support, and cheerleaders for you along the journey back to wellness and function! We only employ licensed Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists, all with a pelvic health speciality and advanced degrees and certifications to optimize your outcome. Make an appointment today and let’s get started.

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.**

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    • Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

      I can’t speak highly enough of Nancy, and how much she has helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my...

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    • Testimonial by J.H.

      My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs...

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