What is the Pelvic Floor?
Have you ever wondered what the pelvic floor actually is?
Have you been told by a doctor that you have an issue with your pelvic floor and thought, "What the hell is that?"
The pelvic floor is just a group of muscles!
I know that the “pelvic floor” can sound scary but guys, it’s just a group of muscles. They are definitely important muscles but they are just muscles, similar to any other muscle in your body. So if someone says you have an issue with your pelvic floor, you have a muscular issue.
The pelvic floor muscles create a sort of “sling”. This sling starts at your pubic bone and ends at your coccyx (tail bone). You can see an example of this location in the photo below.
What does the pelvic floor do?
1. The pelvic floor supports your organs.
One of the main function of this sling of muscles is to support your organs.
In women, the pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus, and rectum.
In men, the pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, prostate, and rectum. Yes men, you have a pelvic floor; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
2. The pelvic floor helps keep your spine and pelvis stable.
Another important function of these muscles is to help with stability of your spine and pelvis.
The pelvic floor muscles are part of your core muscles. The pelvic floor works together with your transverse abdominis, which is a deep abdominal muscle. Both of these muscles are super important for spinal and pelvic stability.
3. The pelvic floor is responsible for bladder, bowel, and sexual function.
The pelvic floor muscles are extremely important for bladder, bowel, and sexual function.
In relationship to the bladder, these muscles allow you to hold your urine until you get to the bathroom. They also play a role in urinating and emptying the bladder.
Similar to the bladder, these muscles also control bowel movements in regards to holding your stool in until you get to the bathroom. They also are important for eliminating stool.
And lastly, the pelvic floor muscles are also are important in regards to sexual function. In women, the pelvic floor muscles need to be able to relax to allow for penetrative sex. In men, these muscles play a role in erection and ejaculation.
What kind of issues can happen in the pelvic floor?
Since the pelvic floor is a group of muscles, they can experience issues just like any other muscle in your body. This means that the pelvic floor muscles can experience issues such as being too weak or too tight.
The difference is that based on the function of the pelvic floor muscles, when an issue occurs here, you may experience symptoms relating to urinary function, bowel function, or sexual function. You also may experience pain in the pelvic region.
A common symptom of the pelvic muscles being too weak could be incontinence (urinary or bowel). But just so you know, incontinence doesn’t always mean that the muscles are too weak. I go into more detail on this in another post which you can find by clicking here: Should everyone kegel?
When the muscles are too tight, common symptoms include pelvic pain, pain during sex, or urinary frequency/urgency.
Disclaimer: These examples are meant for educational purposes only, not for diagnosis. If you’re having symptoms such as pain or issues with bladder, bowel, or sexual function, you should always see your doctor so they can examine you and make sure nothing serious is going on.
"What should I do next after being diagnosed with an issue related to the pelvic floor muscles?"
Assuming nothing is going on medically and it is the muscles causing your symptoms, your next step should be to see a pelvic floor physical therapist. Yes, there are physical therapists that specialize in this stuff!
Your physical therapist will be able to determine what is going on with the muscles. I know I gave you the most common scenarios of weakness/tightness but remember, everyone is different. Pelvic floor physical therapists are experts at examining this group of muscles.
Your physical therapist will be able to treat your specific symptoms and will also be able to recommend things that you can do at home on your own!
I hope this post has answered your question so you have a general idea of what the pelvic floor is. Let’s keep those muscles healthy!